Networked: The New Social Operating System by Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman. Raine works at the Pew Research Center in Washington, DC as Director of the Internet & American Life Project. Wellman comes from the University of Toronto where he directs the NetLab at the Faculty of Information. Previously, Raine was the managing editor of the U.S. News and World Report and Wellman founded the International Network for Social Network Analysis–a professional association for researchers who are interested in social network analysis. The book is aimed towards “intelligent general readers” while “still keeping the specialists happy” (Networked X). The book addresses how to live and operate in the ever-changing digital world. It picks apart the way that the digital world was formed, how it has evolved, and Networked projects how the digital world might continue evolve, studying how technology has impacted our connections.
The book is divided into three sections. The first section analyses what the authors call the “Triple Revolution”: the ways in which the social, online and mobile connections came to form. The social network revolution provided a shift from tight-knit families and communities to wider groups. Suddenly people were not just defined by those with whom they were in close proximity. Social relationships are build on flexible connectivity. While this has allowed for a larger friend base, it adds the stress of not having a single home base. Suddenly the relationships are “sparsely knit networks of diverse associates rather than…tight connections to a relatively small number of core associates” (Networked 12). The second revolution, the internet revolution, unpacks how as the internet has become more integrated into our society, it has changed the role of the individual. It is a tool for an individual to gather information and promote personal agendas to a larger audience. Different types of people have emerged from use of the internet such as the entrepreneurs, communitarians, and participators. The internet revolution has allowed for an expression of the individual self in ways which previously weren’t possible. When the mobile revolution came around, it blurred the lines between the public and private spaces. There was less of a separation between work and home life and personal conversations were able to be taken anywhere. The mobile revolution has allowed people to be absently present or presently absent. This means that they can be a great distance away but still “there” via technology or they can be physically there, but absent via technology.
Establishing these three “revolutions”, Networked analyses how networked individualism works. It looks 5 angles: relationship, family, work, creators, and information. The remainder of the book focuses on how to operate in a networked world both now and in the years to come as technology continues to become more prominent. It identifies some flaws with networked information such as there being too much information and much less privacy. Lastly, it looks at how we can thrive within our networked communities now and how we may continue to grow as a networked people.
I appreciated the insight this book had to offer. I found that much of what I was reading resonated with what I observe in my life–especially when it came to the “triple revolution”. I think it is very reflective of our society, with communities growing wider, individual selves becoming more networked, and technology altering the way that we view distance and being “present”. However I think that overall, Networked had a pretty positive outlook. “The foreseeable future holds the prospect that individuals will be able to act more independently with greater power to shape their lives if they choose to do so” (Networked 302). Networked is able to stage these changes in a way there they seem like an opportunity for growth.
I also appreciated how in the last segment “Thriving as a Networked Individual”, the authors are able to bring full circle these thoughts of how to not just coexist with technology, but to use it to our advantage. I think that oftentimes when it comes to technology there is an unspoken idea that it must be tolerated, especially from those who haven’t grown up with it. It was refreshing that, though the authors of Networked acknowledged the flaws of an increasingly networked world, they realized that it was going to be far more effective to teach people how to thrive in it than it would be to try to teach them just to live in it. “The underlying theme of this book is that it is a networked world, and that being networked is not scary. Rather, it provides opportunities for people to thrive if they know how to maneuver it…technology continues to spread through populations, so the emerging need is for people to learn how to cultivate their networks–and to get out from the cocoon of their bonded groups” (Networked 255). Technology is the future, we are going to become more and more dependent on it. If we cannot grow with it, it will hold us back.