«NETWORKING IN EVERYDAY LIFE by Bernard J. Hogan A thesis submitted in conformity with the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy ...»
moment, he may be accessible through other means. I know my friend uses email regularly, so I can send him an email asking when he is available for a chat. Thus, email becomes a perceptual cue for him. If I carbon copy this email to a mutual friend, Jeff may also perceive that I wanted this conversation to be between the three of us (perhaps the mutual friend also wants to learn how to cite the paper). However, there is no obvious affordance for illustrating the time difference. I do not know when Jeff wakes up or goes to bed. Given that there is a difference of eleven hours between clock time in Japan and clock time in Toronto this can be a serious scheduling concern. However, if Jeff emails me and says he is available at 10pm, this speciﬁc information can compensate for a lack of a generic perceptual cue.
Now imagine that my friend does not live in Japan, but ten minutes walk from my ofﬁce. But also imagine it is thirty years ago, so neither of us have cell phones or the Internet. It is getting close to 10pm and I still want to chat. It is a work matter, and probably a trivial one, but I am pushing a deadline and would like to have this citation on hand. As such, he would probably forgive a telephone call. However, I am reluctant to call him as I might wake him (or his new baby) up. By walking to his house I am inconvenienced, but I could then tell if he is up by whether or not the lights are on.12 However, if I know a mutual friend who is also at the ofﬁce near 10pm, I could ask her either if she knows Jeff’s whereabouts, or at least if it is okay to call him at this hour. Finally, if I know that Jeff routinely goes for a drink with his buddies on Wednesday nights at the neighbourhood bar, I could also try there.
The example from thirty years ago highlights many of the conventional assumptions about social accessibility from Zerubavel’s work on public and private time (1982). Namely, that accessibility is tied to time, that there is public and private time As an aside, Marshall McLuhan noted in Understanding Media (1963) that if one could understand the lightbulb as a medium, one could understand the rest of the media in his book. Similarly, if one an understand the social affordance of the lightbulb (as it is presented here), then I suspect one can understand the rest of the examples of affordances as perceptual cues for action.
CHAPTER 2. A 47
SOCIAL AFFORDANCES THEORY OF SOCIAL NETWORKINGand that there are public and private spaces. It highlights how in a world of imperfect information individuals rely on existing social norms to navigate social accessibility in light of these broad norms (like public and private). By contrast, the example from today highlights how time and space become mere parameters for social affordances.
It is not important that I know when my friend wakes up or even where he is. What is important is that I can perceive his accessibility, or he can perceive my need. Over the past few decades, media have been encoding ever more sophisticated perceptual cues into their systems to help facilitate increasing accessibility. This has led to concepts such as “always on” accessibility (Baron, 2008), the softening of time (Ling, 2004), and email overﬂow (Hogan and Fisher, 2006).
But as I suggested in the introduction, having new affordances for social interaction does not necessarily lead to anarchic life or social fragmentation. However, it certainly can lead to novel forms of networking as well as increased complexity in how individuals manage these novel forms. One thing that technology represents among others is increased capability for abstraction in everyday affairs. Many affordances are a result of this abstraction, such as a shift from sending a letter to sending data that represents a letter. The following work demonstrates this abstraction in everyday life.
It demonstrates how individuals are shifting from a focus on “being at the right place at the right time” to “accessing the right people in the right way”—a shift found in the earlier notions of networking from the introduction of this chapter. Networking in everyday life is now about access rather than context. Perhaps it always was, but the superimposition of new technologies into everyday communication has given this claim newfound clarity.
The theoretical framework above leads to numerous possible research questions about the relationship between social affordances, social accessibility and social networks. Given all the potential affordances of new media, how are these affordances
ing? Are there speciﬁc bundles of features that work well in combination? Do certain features work best with speciﬁc kinds of people, or speciﬁc kinds of relationships?
Since affordances are perceptual, are certain kinds of people most likely to notice these affordances and take advantage of them? And most broadly, how does the wholesale introduction of new media affect our notions of shared places and spaces? This last question leads this work into the well worn territory of modernity theorists who perennially seek a shift from pre-modern notions to modern or postmodern. Whether
and Harris, 2001), mechanical to organic solidarity (Durkheim, 1933), networked individualism (Wellman, 2002), Bell’s post-industrialism (Bell, 1973), or Castell’s network society (Castells, 2000), certain technology-oriented themes persist. These social theorists walk a thin line between deterministic structural forces ‘causing’ social transformations in work or social life, and the careful but accidental march of history. Each one includes a nod to how technology in some form or another (be it the automobile, automation, computers, technologies of warfare, etc...) is coupled with broad social changes. Granted, this is a far less ambitious task than many of the theories just mentioned. Here I am merely looking at how a social affordances model of social accessibility (as manifested through the use of multiple media) is associated with one’s social network. This, of course, is only one small part of how technology is unfolding around us and inﬂuencing everyday life.
The following chapter spells out some of the research questions that emerge from this framework, and how they can be answered using empirical data.
Chapter 3 A theory and agenda for networking
3.1 Introduction short chapter brieﬂy introduces the research questions that will be addressed
throughout this dissertation. As mentioned in the introduction, this thesis takes a single question (How can we characterize the strategies of multiple media use so that it makes obvious (1) how individuals think about their network, and (2) how they act on that network?) and approaches it from three levels of analysis. The ﬁrst level is that of the individual, the second is the full personal network (i.e. both the alters known by an individual and the ties between these alters), and the third is the relationships with speciﬁc network members. At all three levels I focus on how media use can lead to differences in social accessibility through the use of different affordances. However, beyond that, each level has its own speciﬁc demands, and thus, its own distinct questions and corresponding analytical techniques. After addressing each question in turn, I conclude by harmonizing the ﬁndings and concepts into a social affordances model of social accessibility, and discuss how this model can simultaneously facilitate greater networking opportunities as well as burden individuals with more complex options.
As a ﬁrst step in a theory of networking, I start with the premise that individuals have relatively stable strategies for networking. These strategies may vary from person to person, but for each individual the strategies are both rhythmic and habitual. These strategies represent a “networking repertoire”. There are numerous precedents for this assertion. They include the work of Swidler (1986), who offers a cultural toolbox model, Burt (1992) who refers to a model of networking as information brokering, Spencer and Pahl (2006), who articulate a series of friendship repertoires and Wellman (2001b), who suggests a broad social shift from door-to-door to place-to-place and ﬁnally person-to-person networking.
The suggestioin that networking is a stable repertoire can be contrasted with a socially determined view that networking is merely an adaptation to social conditions.
Granted, this is probably true to a point. However, for the most part what stands out is how individuals themselves harmonize their social structural conditions with their networking repertoire, rather than have their repertoire determined by it.
Research question 1: How can we characterize strategies for maintaining contact with others? Based on the theoretical framework espoused in Chapter 2, I can suggest that strategies for action refer in large measure to habits. In this case, “frequency of activity” is a reasonable if not ideal measure of how rare or habitual an activity is. If one does something daily, it is clearly a part of a routine and habit, while the same can be said, to a lesser extent, for weekly activities. Thus, I can use frequency of activity as a way of clustering the sample into different activity proﬁles. Given only a small number of variables it is possible to come up with many combinations of activities such that no two people have exactly the same strategy. However, it is
cluster analysis, I discover these similarities. I ﬁrst show why a particular clustering solution is considered optimal and then what this cluster can tell us about differences in networking. In terms of affordances, one can say that certain affordances work well together. For example, planning by email to meet at a speciﬁc location works well, but since many people do not have mobile email, this media may be well supplemented by cell phone contact.
Maintaining contact is not entirely mediated, of course. As such, I examine both proﬁles of media and proﬁles of social activities. The speciﬁc activities as well as the speciﬁc media are discussed in Chapter 5.
Research question 2: To what extent can social locations account for variations in networking? As mentioned above, it is only an assumption that repertoires are a personal preference rather than socially determined. I try to give weight to this claim by showing the relationship between a series of selected social location variables that can plausibly inform or shape how people network. For example, it is plausible that couples would network differently than single people, or that recent immigrants might network differently than Canadian-born (or longtime residents).
In the language of the theory chapter, these social contexts provide external conditions that may lead to affordances for organizing social relationships in particular ways. For example, being a parent is an objective external condition. This leads to certain perceivable affordances—it may routinize one’s perception of time, make individuals sensitive to where their house is (near a park, has a backyard, etc...), or make individuals sensitive to speciﬁc form of homophily, such as emphasizing friendships with other parents or renewing social bonds with other caregiving family members.
To the extent that child rearing is well-deﬁned and salient external condition it leads to networking in different ways (or rather nudge individuals towards a sort of style that accentuates their speciﬁc needs). The same can be said for many other external
Research Question 3: While people may have social activity styles and media use styles, do these complement each other or work independently? Media are not mere dumb conduits for our will to connect with others. They facilitate socializing by affording speciﬁc relationships to social structure. Email affords a particular relationship to time and mobile phones afford a particular relationship to space. And even if these technologies only offer partial coverage of our network, using the two together might offer greater access to more network members. Thus if one has a style that weighs heavily on these media, they are not merely “technology aﬁcionados”, they are afforded a different perspective on how and when to contact others. This opens up different opportunities for interaction, or allows individuals greater choice in selecting the sorts of interactions they can successfully put in place. A relationship between social activities and media use styles deﬁnitely reinforces a social affordances theory of networking. Such a relationship suggests individuals successfully employ media as a means to interfacing with a particular kind of social structure, not because they like the media, but because they like the results. These results are then fed back into the decision loop of how individuals decide what media to use and when.
This research question draws on pre-existing concepts from environmental sociology and studies of everyday life. For example, Howard contends that individuals employ media in such a way that it “ﬁts” in with existing activities and demands. It may modify them over time, but it will not be used if it does not ﬁt. In a more classical sociological sense, Michelson has introduced the idea of congruence. For example, individuals with children wish to move into the suburbs because it coheres with their notion of how to raise a child (i.e., they need a backyard to play in). He also mentions that individuals do not randomly assign themselves to particular areas of the city or into houses versus apartments, but look for a place with a speciﬁc notion of how they
congruence, or ﬁt. But how?
3.3 The network level: Exceptions to general strategies based on variations in how people conceive of net