Networked Book Review
The book Networked was written by Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman. Networked defends social networking and promotes the statistics that cast it in a good light. Rainie works with Pew Research Center, which is a center that collects facts on the various political and social issues. Wellman works at the Faculty of Information, University of Toronto, which specializes in information studies. The facts presented in the book represent both of the authors’ backgrounds in statistics analysis. This book is written in a style that the general public can understand, and is especially focused towards people interested in technology and current affairs.
Using statistics, Rainie and Wellman work to prove their thesis that “People are not hooked on gadgets – they are hooked on each other” (6). There are many people who believe that the internet is killing people’s ability to socialize and is isolating people. Rainie and Wellman are not a part of that group. Through looking at three revolutions, the social network revolution, the internet revolution, and the mobile revolution, it can be seen that people are more connected than ever, just in a different way. This is what they call a networked individual.
The networked individual is different from the older methods of connection. Those methods used to be door to door ( in reference to your network being with in the neighborhood) and place to place ( more industrial of a setting). The networked individual networks person to person and focuses more on the individual rather than a family unit or group. While it is highly criticized for being isolating Rainie and Wellman argue against that notion. The networked individual is loosely connected to many groups of people, with each group providing a unique service to the individual. The authors have an overall optimistic outlook on the increasing use of technology, but they do include some precautions.
With the increase in social networking comes an influx in information. People can access too much information and can share too much information very easily over the internet. This leads into another problem area, which is the feeling of zero privacy. Putting information on the internet can be risky because of the amount of people that can access that information. This also includes advertisers receiving data on the searches a person does, which means that advertisements can continue to become more specialized. The last problem area addresses surveillance, coveillance, and sousveillance. People have more power to watch what others do on the internet.
Overall, this shift in networking that was caused by the three revolutions is leading to a more connected society. People can create and interact with a multitude of groups and can easily grow their social circle. This shift in networking has also led people to develop new literacies which allow them to easily and efficiently navigate the new connections technology is providing. This means that people are becoming more connected and less isolated.
Rainie and Wellman use many statistics to work to prove their points. This is a much more convincing way to build an argument than a case study. A case study looks into one situation in depth, while statistics get the broad picture of the situation. However, even though the author’s build a good argument, some of their points are slightly too optimistic. It is good to see two sides to an argument, which in this case is the argument whether social technology is connecting or isolating. Both sides have good points, which leads to the conclusion that this is still a gray area. While the statistics point to technology creating a more networked populous, statistics cannot show the mentality of people. Another problem with getting a wide, sweeping view of an issue is that it becomes very easy to neglect the groups of people that are actually suffering mentally from the increase in social networking. This is why it is good to temper one side of an argument with the other and explore into the gray areas more.
Networked and its optimistic view of social networking is an interesting view to explore. Looking at the different revolutions and their effects is very interesting, but knowing that there are positives and negatives to them is very important. This book mostly skims over the negatives to show that the positives are present. While reading this book, it is important to keep the optimism in check, but not to smother it.