the internet has emerged as the perfect 'material support for networked individualism' (Castells 2001: 129).
From the book, Networked (http://networked.pewinternet.org/2012/05/24/networked-individualism-what-in-the-world-is-that-2/) :
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.
Wellman has contributed to the theory of social network analysis with an emphasis on individualized networks, also known as "networked individualism". In his studies, Wellman focuses on three main points of the network society: community, work and organizations.
THe networked society is also important to think about networked individualism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Network_society
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."
Castells referring to Wellman, http://www.newinfluencer.com/mediapedia/manuel-castells
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.