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Notes on B. Wellman "Networked Individualism"

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Little Boxes, Glocalization, and Networked Individualism
Barry Wellman,  Centre for Urban & Community Studies, University of Toronto

This paper traces how communities have changed from densely-knit “Little Boxes” to “Glocalized” networks (sparsely-knit but with clusters, linking households both locally and globally) to “Networked Individualism” (sparsely-knit, linking individuals with little regard to space).

Introduction: from little boxes to social networks

These groups often have boundaries for inclusion and structured, hierarchical, organization.
Work,community and domesticity have moved from hierarchically arranged, densely knit,bounded groups (“little boxes”) to social networks.

Rather than fitting into the same group as those around them, each person has her own personal network.
Most people operate in multiple, partial communities: This is a time for individuals and their networks, and not for groups.

The proliferation of computer-supported social networks fosters changes in “network capital”.
When computer-mediated communication networks link people, institutions and knowledge, they are computer -supported social networks.
The technological development of computer-communications networks and the societal flourish of social networks are now affording the rise of “networked individualism” in a positive feedback loop.

Little Boxes

One transition was the twentieth century move from group to glocalized relationships at work and in the community.(“Glocalization” is a neologism meaning the combination of intense local and extensive global interaction.) This transition was driven by revolutionary developments in both transportation and communication.
Neighborhoods became less important.

Glocalized Networks

It is clear that contemporary communities rarely are limited to neighborhoods. They are communities of shared interest rather than communities of shared kinship or locality.

People maintain these ties through phoning, emailing, writing, driving, railroading, transiting, and flying households. It is place-to-place connectivity, and not door-to-door.

Singles or couples, but rarely as communal groups. Relationships are more selective. Networks now contain high proportions of people who enjoy one other. They contain low proportions of people who are forced to interact with each other because they are influential. No more are people identified as members of a single group; they can switch among multiple networks.

From Place -To-Place to Person-To-Person

From Little Boxes to Networked Individualism
From Little Boxes to Networked Individualism


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PhD, Lecturer at City Uni, London.
New Media, Sociology of Media, Information Society and more.
Researching organizational implications of Web-native collective action, Sociology of technology and social change, open data, E-Democracy, IT and Organizations.
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