Networked: The New Social Operating System

Daily life is connected life, its rhythms driven by endless email pings and responses, the chimes and beeps of continually arriving text messages, tweets and retweets, Facebook updates, pictures and videos to post and discuss. Our perpetual connectedness gives us endless opportunities to be part of the give-and-take of networking.

Some worry that this new environment makes us isolated and lonely. But in Networked, Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman show how the large, loosely knit social circles of networked individuals expand opportunities for learning, problem solving, decision making, and personal interaction. The new social operating system of “networked individualism” liberates us from the restrictions of tightly knit groups; it also requires us to develop networking skills and strategies, work on maintaining ties, and balance multiple overlapping networks. Rainie and Wellman outline the “triple revolution” that has brought on this transformation: the rise of social networking, the capacity of the Internet to empower individuals, and the always-on connectivity of mobile devices. Drawing on extensive evidence, they examine how the move to networked individualism has expanded personal relationships beyond households and neighborhoods; transformed work into less hierarchical, more team-driven enterprises; encouraged individuals to create and share content; and changed the way people obtain information. Rainie and Wellman guide us through the challenges and opportunities of living in the evolving world of networked individuals.

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3 Responses to Networked: The New Social Operating System

  1. Networked Rainie and Wellman, using scores of data, argue that we live in a networked operating system characterized by networked individualism. They describe the triple revolution (networked revolution, internet revolution, and mobile revolution) that got us here, and discuss the repercussions of this triple revolution within various arenas of social life (e.g. the family, relationships, work, information spread). They conclude with an empirically informed guess at the future of the new social operating system of networked individualism, indulging augmented fantasies and dystopic potentials. Importantly, much of the book is set up as a larger argument against technologically deterministic claims about the deleterious effects of new information communication technologies (ICTs).The book has several strengths, but I want to highlight two.1)First, the theoretical contribution of networked individualism cannot be understated. This gives us a language with which to discuss a shift away from the group, without devolving into a narrative of rugged individualism. It breaks the false dichotomy between individual and group, and eloquently describes the complex reality in which we live.2)The second strength lies in the data. The authors combine extensive statistical analyses of large random and non-random samples, with in-depth qualitative anecdotes, and poignant personal accounts. This elegant mixed methods approach is the standard of rigor that social scientists ubiquitously herald, but so rarely achieve. This work is a literal reference guide to the empirical realities a networked era.Overall, Rainie and Wellman produce a timely and important piece of work. It offers a significant contribution to the social sciences, an indispensable tool for policy makers, and a vital contribution to the knowledge base of the networked individuals who make up present day publics.See full review @ [...]

  2. Very Satisfied College Prof.

    Students ADORE it and so do I For anyone looking for a timely new media read, this is it. For anyone looking for an excellent teaching text look no further. I’m using “Networked” in two classes. Students ADORE it–the lively style, vivid examples, and lucid arguments make for some of the best class discussions one can hope to have. FIVE STARS!

  3. Ben Shneiderman

    Towering intellects, Fresh perspectives These two towering intellects collaborate to give readers a fresh perspective on what is happening all around us. Rainie and Wellman have been studying human communication for decades, so they have the context to perceive change better than most researchers. Their characterization of the Triple Revolutions of social networks, the Internet, and mobile connectedness reveals that networked individualism is the trend to watch. The central message is the increasing capacity of individuals to act independently with great impact. The potent anecdotes and solid data make for a convincing presentation, but in the final chapter on “The Future of Networked Individualism” the authors unleash their imagination by suggesting compelling possibilities and troubling dangers.

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