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Personal Connections in the Digital Age 1st Edition

16 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0745643328
ISBN-10: 0745643329
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Editorial Reviews


"Combining in-depth knowledge of the topic based on decades of Baym's own and others' research with a clear, concise and straightforward writing style that makes it a joy to read, this is the kind of accessible book that many academics would love to have written."
Times Higher Education

"Lively and thought-provoking throughout, this book challenges the myth that ‘cyberspace' dramatically transforms personal connections by revealing, instead, the complex and subtle ways in which people manage social interaction online and offline in response to the affordances of the various modes of communication available."
Sonia Livingstone, London School of Economics and author of Children and the Internet

"Something is happening. Do you know what it is? Nancy Baym does, with a book bristling with ideas and authority. Filled with clear, lively writing, she both surveys and advances the field. I learned so much."
Barry Wellman, University of Toronto

"Baym provides us a clear, concise, and thought-provoking discussion of the role of new digital media our interpersonal and societal relationships. She creates a welcome blend of her own and others' research, the affordances and capabilities of new media, historical and technical contexts of the telegraph through the Internet, stable as well as changing societal norms, and her own Internet experiences."
Ronald E. Rice, University of California, Santa Barbara

From the Back Cover

The internet and the mobile phone have disrupted many of our conventional understandings of ourselves and our relationships, raising anxieties and hopes about their effects on our lives. This timely and vibrant book provides frameworks for thinking critically about the roles of digital media in personal relationships. Rather than providing exuberant accounts or cautionary tales, it offers a data-grounded primer on how to make sense of these important changes in relational life.

The book identifies the core relational issues these media disturb and shows how our talk about them echo historical discussions about earlier communication technologies. Chapters explore how we use mediated language and nonverbal behavior to develop and maintain communities, social networks, and new relationships, and to maintain existing relationships in our everyday lives. The book combines research findings with lively examples to address questions such as: Can mediated interaction can be warm and personal? Are people honest about themselves online? Can relationships that start online work? Do digital media damage the other relationships in our lives? Throughout, the book argues that these questions must be answered with firm understandings of media qualities and the social and personal contexts in which they are developed and used.

Personal Connections in the Digital Age will be required reading for all students and scholars of media, communication studies, and sociology, as well as all those who want a richer understanding of digital media and everyday life.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 196 pages
  • Publisher: Polity; 1 edition (June 21, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0745643329
  • ISBN-13: 978-0745643328
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.6 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #153,475 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Nancy K. Baym is a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and Visiting Professor of Comparative Media Studies/Writing at MIT.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By CMC Professor on December 13, 2010
Format: Hardcover
At this point, the textbooks that cover technology-mediated communication are sparse, despite having quite a robust research presence. This book, which I just used for my course in technology and communication, is excellent. Baym conceptualizes the work in technology-mediated communication in a clear, easy to read fashion. I feel in no way this text is "over the heads" of undergraduates. At this point, I believe this text is the only viable undergraduate text in the subject area (although I am going to try my hand at it too). I feel this book would help advanced learners, such as practitioners and graduate students, as well. Really an exceptional work that fills a HUGE gap. Highly recommended.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on June 28, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
While Baym's work is highly academic, strongly grounded in theory, and chockfull of references to important works from a broad range of cultures (Finnish cell phone use? Politics of friending on Korean social networks?), above all, it's readable. I literally couldn't put it down, and I'll definitely want to use it as a text for undergraduates and graduate students alike.

Baym is ever-reasonable, balanced, personable, striking that fine balance of authorial presence between a phony and stilted objectivity and "TMI." Every concept she introduces is fairly, clearly presented, whether she agrees with it or not.

If you're looking for a good scholarly introduction to new media, or an STS work in media studies, or just an example of academic writing at its best, this is the book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Alicia Crumpton on January 4, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you like Sherry Turkle, you will like Baym's contribution to the conversation about identity, connections, and technology. This is an excellent addition to this conversation! Six chapters cover the following:

* New forms of personal connection - Baym organizes her discussion into seven key concepts to compare "different media to one another as well as to face to face communication. . . interactivity, temporal structure, social cues, social cues, storage, replicability, reach, and mobility" (p. 7).

* Making new media make sense - A continuum of perspectives are explored: Technological determinism (machines change us), social construction of technology (people have the power), and social shaping (middle ground - "the social capabilities technological qualities enable - and the unexpected and emergent ways that people make use of those affordances" (p. 44).

* Communication in digital spaces - "Mediated interaction should be seen as a new and eclectic mixed modality that combines elements of f2f communication with elements of writing, rather than as a diminished form of embodied interaction" (p. 51).

* Communities and networks - Baym explored how people organize into groups online, meanings of 'community' and social networks.

* New Relationships - Baym asked, "what forces shape people's online self-presentations and whether they are more likely to be honest or deceptive. . . authenticity. . . " (p. 100).

* Digital media in relational development and Maintenance - Where does digital media fit into communication and relationships?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Colo Karen on March 7, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is required reading for my Communications course, and I highly recommend it. This is a thorough and completely enjoyable read for anyone trying to come to terms with the ups and downs of computer-mediated relationships. However, isn't it ironic that a book that focuses on "the Digital Age," isn't available in digital format? For older students like me, squinting at the eensy-weensy text in the paperback version is an absolutely horrible experience.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By janedoe4797990 on April 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Baym does a great job of writing an academic paper (citing a myriad of studies) without being overly wordy or convoluting the issues. It's well organized, easy to follow, and highly relevent for anyone studying the dynamics of digital communication, social media, etc.
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I often hear adults say that teens and people my age don’t know how to talk to each other anymore – that cell phones and the Internet have ended our ability to have relationships with people. I chose Nancy Baym’s book on the role of digital media on personal connections not only because she’s a well-renowned scholar of communication and professor from University of Kansas, but because I wanted to know what the effects of digital media has on personal relationships: is it negative or positive?
Baym looks at claims that suggest that digital media is a detriment to our society and discredits those claims, saying that whenever innovation arrives there will always be skeptics. There are many people that criticize the Internet and digital communication because it truly challenges the traditional framework of communication that has been in existence for millennia.
New technology is affecting the way that society functions. This social constructivist view is one point of view that Baym explores in her book. Baym also discusses the idea that technology and society shape each other and are integrated – one cannot make change without the other.
Baym also focuses on forming relationships online both in groups and one-on-one. When Baym starts talking about digital relationships, she begins with the idea that online communication is not worse than face-to-face communication, it is just a new adaptation of communication that mixes face-to-face and written techniques. Our real world emotions have become easily interpreted via emojis, caps lock to express joy or anger, abbreviations, acronyms, etc. These examples make online communication meaningful and just as valuable as connections in the real world. Along with photographs, videos, etc.
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