The Social Affordances of the Internet for Networked Individualism

Authors

  • Barry Wellman,

    Corresponding author
    1. In 1965, moved from his Bronx High School of Science slide rule to IBM cards and an 029 keypunch in the bowels of Harvard University. Since then, he's been primarily interested in the interplay between large-scale social processes and how people use technology to be connected at work and in the community. His NetLab research network is trying to get a handle on how the Internet fits into everyday life. Wellman founded the International Network for Social Network Analysis in 1976. He is a recent Chair of the Community section of the American Sociological Association, has been nominated for the Chair of the Communication and Information Technology section of the ASA, the Virtual Community focus area leader for SIGGROUP/ACM, and a Executive Cmmittee member of the Association for Internet Researchers. Wellman's (co)edited books are: Social Structures: A Network Approach (2d ed, CSPI 2003); Networks in the Global Village (Westview Press, 1999), and The Internet in Everyday Life (Blackwell Publishers, 2002).
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Anabel Quan-Haase,

    Corresponding author
    1. Doctoral student at the Faculty of Information Studies, University of Toronto. She has been a Fellow of the Knowledge Media Design Institute and the McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology. Her articles address the nature of Internet-related social change for social integration and information flow. Her articles have examined the implications of these changes for communities and her thesis focuses on organizations.
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Jeffrey Boase,

    Corresponding author
    1. University of Toronto doctoral student has been examining the interaction between new technology and social networks. He has co-authored four published papers, and he has been a principal designer of the National Geographic Survey 2001 Technology and Community sections. In summer 2002, he completed a two month internship at Nara in the R&D department of NTT, Japan's largest communication company. At present, he is collaborating with Barry Wellman and the Pew Internet and American Life project to examine how the Internet may be affecting weak ties.
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Wenhong Chen,

    Corresponding author
    1. Doctoral student in the Department of Sociology and NetLab member at the University of Toronto. She received her BA in economics from the University of International Business and International Economics, Beijing, and studied sociology at the University of Munich. She has published four refereed articles and presented a number of talks on Internet use, entrepreneurship, and social network at scholarly conferences in North America and Europe. Her research interests include social networks, economic sociology, and the interaction of technology and society. She is currently doing comparative studies on entrepreneurships in the new economy.
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Keith Hampton,

    Corresponding author
    1. Ph.D, University of Toronto, Assistant Professor of Technology, Urban and Community Sociology in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, M.I.T. His research interests focus on the relationship between information and communication technologies, social relationships, and the urban environment. Recent projects include “E-neighbors,” a longitudinal study of how new communication technologies can be used to build social capital in a neighborhood setting; “Netville,” an ethnographic and survey-based study of how living in a highly wired broadband suburban neighborhood affects individual, community, and family life; and “Survey 2000/2001,” a collaborative study with the National Geographic Society surveying people worldwide on how technology affects community.
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Isabel Díaz,

    Corresponding author
    1. de Isla Gómez was born in Barcelona in 1972. She received her degree in English Philology at the University of Barcelona. She is currently enrolled in a Ph.D. program at the Open University of Catalonia on Information and Knowledge Society. She is focusing her research on the impact of the Internet and other information and communication technologies on health systems. She is a participant in the Internet Catalonia Project in addition to her e-health research activity. She is a co-author of the research report The Network Society in Catalonia with Manuel Castells, Imma Tubella, Teresa Sancho and Barry Wellman, published in July, 2002.
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Kakuko Miyata

    Corresponding author
    1. Received her graduate training in social psychology at the University of Tokyo. She is a former chair of the Dept of Sociology at Meiji Gakuin University in Tokyo. She is also on some committees of the Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications, and the Cabinet office in Japanese Government. Dr. Miyata has done several studies of Internet use in Japan. She is the author of two books and more than fifty articles, principally in Japanese. Among her English-language articles is one about how Japanese mothers find support online which just appeared in The Internet in Everyday Life, edited by Barry Wellman and Caroline Haythornthwaite (Oxford: Blackwell, 2002).
    Search for more papers by this author

Address: Centre for Urban & Community Studies, University of Toronto 455 Spadina Avenue, Toronto, Canada M5S 2G8. Fax: +1-416-978-7162

Address: Centre for Urban & Community Studies, University of Toronto, 455 Spadina Avenue, Toronto M5S 2G8, Canada.

Address: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 77 Mass. Ave., Room 9-522 Cambridge, MA, 02139.

Address: IN3, Av. Tibidabo 47, 08035 Barcelona, Spain. Phone: +34932535735  Fax: +34932110126.

Address: Department of Sociology, Meiji Gakuin University, 1-2-37 Shirokanedai, Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-8636 JAPAN. Phone: +81-3-5421-5565  Fax: +81-3-5421-5697.

Abstract

We review the evidence from a number of surveys in which our NetLab has been involved about the extent to which the Internet is transforming or enhancing community. The studies show that the Internet is used for connectivity locally as well as globally, although the nature of its use varies in different countries. Internet use is adding on to other forms of communication, rather than replacing them. Internet use is reinforcing the pre-existing turn to societies in the developed world that are organized around networked individualism rather than group or local solidarities. The result has important implications for civic involvement.

Ancillary