Networked individualism

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the internet has emerged as the perfect 'material support for networked individualism' (Castells 2001: 129).

From the book, Networked ( :

In incorporating the internet and mobile phones into their lives, people have changed the ways they interact with each other. They have become increasingly networked as individuals, rather than embedded in groups. In the world of networked individuals, it is the person who is the focus: more than the family, the work unit, the neighborhood, and the social group.

This new world of networked individualism is oriented around looser, more fragmented networks that provide on-demand succor. Such networks had already formed before the coming of the internet. Still, the revolutionary social change from small groups to broader personal networks has been powerfully advanced by the widespread use of the internet and mobile phones.

The networked individualism operating system creates new efficiencies and affordances in the ways people solve problems and meet their social needs. Whereas in the past, it was not easy for people to get real-time information to help navigate a place, now it could hardly be easier with instantly available maps, augmented reality mobile apps that give people helpful information about their surroundings, and crowdsourced input about the environs.

At the same time, the networked individualism operating system requires that people gain new social skills to operate within it. They need to develop new strategies for handling challenges as they arise. They must devote more time and energy to practicing the art of networking than their ancestors did in order to get their needs met. They can no longer passively let the village take care of them and protect them. They must actively network to leverage the human resources they need, and they must actively manage the boundaries of their self-presentation in these networks.

Wellman has contributed to the theory of social network analysis with an emphasis on individualized networks, also known as "networked individualism".[2] In his studies, Wellman focuses on three main points of the network society: community, work and organizations.

Wellman's book Networked :

Daily life is connected life, its rhythms driven by endless email pings and responses, the chimes and beeps of continually arriving text messages, tweets and retweets, Facebook updates, pictures and videos to post and discuss. Our perpetual connectedness gives us endless opportunities to be part of the give-and-take of networking.

Some worry that this new environment makes us isolated and lonely. But in Networked, Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman show how the large, loosely knit social circles of networked individuals expand opportunities for learning, problem solving, decision making, and personal interaction. The new social operating system of “networked individualism” liberates us from the restrictions of tightly knit groups; it also requires us to develop networking skills and strategies, work on maintaining ties, and balance multiple overlapping networks.

Rainie and Wellman outline the “triple revolution” that has brought on this transformation: the rise of social networking, the capacity of the Internet to empower individuals, and the always-on connectivity of mobile devices. Drawing on extensive evidence, they examine how the move to networked individualism has expanded personal relationships beyond households and neighborhoods; transformed work into less hierarchical, more team-driven enterprises; encouraged individuals to create and share content; and changed the way people obtain information. Rainie and Wellman guide us through the challenges and opportunities of living in the evolving world of networked individuals.

The Social Affordances of the Internet for Networked Individualism (paper by Wellman et al.)

THe networked society is also important to think about networked individualism (

Castells said "...the definition, if you wish, in concrete terms of a network society is a society where the key social structures and activities are organized around electronically processed information networks. So it's not just about networks or social networks, because social networks have been very old forms of social organization. It's about social networks which process and manage information and are using micro-electronic based technologies."[5]

Castells referring to Wellman,

He refers to Wellman’s definition, that “Communities are networks of interpersonal ties that provide sociability, support, information, a sense of belonging, and social identity.” According to Castells (and Giddens, Putnam, Wellman, Beck, etc.) there is an emerging system of social relationships focused on the individual, which Castells refers to as networked individualism.

Network individualism, he adds, results from the individualization of the relationship between capital and labor, between workers and the work process; induced by the disintegration of the nuclear family; and sustained by new patterns of urbanization.

The Internet works to facilitate weak ties and under certain conditions can create new weak ties in one’s social network. Online communities are ephemeral, more like “networks of sociability,” according to Castells. The Internet can also help maintain strong ties at a distance. Overall, the Internet provides a good tool for the diffusion of networked individualism as the dominant form of sociability.