Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman are both authors and experts in the field of technology and future technological advancements, and how those relate to our culture and society. Lee Rainie is the director of internet and technology research at Pew Research Center, and and is an advocate for the ever-changing media ecosystem, giving several dozen speeches a year to scholars and students, media leaders, technology executives, government officials, librarians, and nonprofit groups. Barry Wellman, a sociologist and co-director of the Toronto-based international NetLab Network, studies the areas of community sociology, the Internet, human-computer interaction and social structure in social networks in communities and organizations. Together, these two recognized authors wrote Networked: The New Social Operating System, a book which discusses how social networks, the Internet, and mobile connectivity are transforming and expanding social life in society today. The book’s goal is to encourage networked users to use technology in a positive way in order to network themselves and form communities.
The book is centered around a concept presented by the authors as “networked individualism”, which is a term for describing someone who is networked to other individuals through a large and diverse network. This concept being extremely new to society as of the past decade has asked the question: what does the networked individual look like? And how can we respond, in social aspects, to this advancement of technology in our culture? The book tackles these questions by first breaking down the most recent technological advancements in history, starting with the industrial revolution, then the internet revolution, and then the mobile revolution. Today’s’ networked culture has been formed from crucial components from each of these movements- from machinery to the world-wide-web to user connecting. This building-up of technologies had led us to where we are today: a culture with laptops and smartphones, being able to access internet and countless users from handheld devices. Rainie and Wellman argue that this has brought about a significant amount of change in our culture. One of those changes is our change in how people associate with one another. Relationships are typically determined by the physical groups we are a part of, for instance family, churches, teams, etc. The internet and mobile revolution, however, have brought about changes in how we approach those relationships. We are not in groups as much as we are networked individuals. “It is the person who is the focus, not the family, not the work unit, not the neighborhood, not the social group” (Rainie and Wellman, 6).
I believe that this cultural change can certainly be used in a positive way. However, as we gain more and more access to information online and people in the networked world, there is also more opportunities for unwanted information to make it onto our screens. It is crucial in this day and age to be careful and to have a “filter” when online. Taking advantage of account settings and ad blockers can safen and enhance one’s experience in the networked world, specifically online and on social media. Once precautions are taken, I believe that individuals and communities can make positive impacts on those around them online. As said in the book, “networked creators can truly use the internet for good. It can be used in self expression, an opportunity to learn, space for collaboration, and connecting with community. I very much agree with Rainie and Wellman on this argument, and enjoyed the positive outlook Networked had on our culture and technology.