Networked: The New Social Operating System

May 30, 2012

Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, has written a book with sociologist Barry Wellman showing how the large, loosely knit social circles of networked individuals expand opportunities for learning, problem solving, decision making and personal interaction.

Social relationships are changing and technology is at the center of the story.
Our work at the Pew Internet Project and the University of Toronto’s NetLab (especially research for the Connected Lives Project) does not support the fear that the digital technologies are killing society. Our evidence is that these technologies are not isolated — or isolating — systems. They are being incorporated into people’s social lives much like their predecessors were.

People are not hooked on gadgets—they are hooked on each other.
But things are different now. In incorporating the internet and mobile phones into their lives, people have changed the ways they interact with each other. They have become increasingly networked as individuals, rather than embedded in groups. In the world of networked individuals, it is the person who is the focus: more than the family, the work unit, the neighborhood, and the social group.

That’s what our book is about.
It describes the rise of “networked individualism,” which stands in contrast to the longstanding social arrangements formed around large hierarchical bureaucracies and small, densely knit groups such as households, communities, and workgroups.

Read the full summary, Networked Individualism: What in the World Is That?, on the Pew Internet & American Life Project website.

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