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Networked: The New Social Operating System (The MIT Press) Hardcover – April 27, 2012
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It's easy to find rigorous science, and it's easy to find topical stuff, but it's not easy to find both at the same time!―Shankar Vedantam, NPR Science Published On: 2012-01-01
Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman write a remarkably approachable, nuanced, and clear-written treatise on how social networks, the Internet, and mobile technology are changing the way we live our daily lives.―Ate Poorthuis, Journal of Regional Science
Networked provides an engaging and accessible overview of the ways in which social networks, the Internet, and mobile technologies have converged to affect everyday lives.―Vanessa P. Dennen, Educational Technology
From their rich history of research on the interconnected evolution of social networks, the internet, and mobile phones, Rainie and Wellman have assembled a cornucopia of facts and implications about work, family, and life in the new era of 'networked individualism.' When the next person asks me to talk about the network implications of social media, this is the book to which I will send them.―Ronald S. Burt, Professor of Sociology and Strategy, School of Business, University of Chicago; author of Structural Holes: The Social Structure of Competition
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About the book, I love it. Easy to digest language. They also have stories to illustrate different concepts/phenomenon so it is very enjoyable to read. A good starting point to understand networked society, its history and development.
The authors explore how the shift in the structure of society from groups toward networks has been affecting how people form and maintain relationships, and how the rise of modern technologies (internet, mobile devices) comes into play.
In the first part of the book, you'll find a short analysis of each of the "revolutions", as the authors call them - the network revolution, the internet revolution, and the mobile revolution. Each chapter of the second part then elaborates in more detail on how these factors influence a specific area of our everyday life (family life, work, contact with friends, etc.). In the last part, the authors imagine two rather sci-fi scenarios of possible future development, an optimistic one and a dystopian one, and analyze which way we might be heading.
Most of the text refers to various surveys conducted by Pew Internet and several other similar groups, and the authors present quite a lot of data to support their analysis. The research data are generally from the US and Canada, but the conclusions are often applicable to similarly developed countries. I would personally prefer slightly less statistics in favor of a little more analytical commentary, as I sometimes found the text a little too descriptive, but the amount of research is digestible and if you're a fact-oriented reader, you may actually find it to be one of the book's strong points.
Although the writing style is a little academic, and may not suit everybody, the book reads very well and anyone with a slightly serious interest in the subject should find the book pretty informative. I think it could serve as a good starting point for anyone trying to get oriented in this area.
I find worth mentioning that the text is well balanced and does not tend to be overly enthusiastic about the current trends, nor is the commentary on them unnecessarily pessimistic or negative.
Despite my general praise, not everyone will find Rainie and Wellman's work so enlightening, as you might actually be looking for something different. It's not a how-to guide on social networking and use of social media (although some general hints are given), neither is it a business book about social media and their dynamics (although the use of social networking sites is definitely not ignored).
Finally, this book is not "modern ICTs and society for dummies". Although it is well written and generally accessible, without a certain level of general education, ability to read academic text, and a tiny bit of background knowledge of modern ICTs, you'd better look elsewhere for a simpler introductory text. If, however, you do meet the mentioned prerequisites and you are a little curious, this may be a really good book to start with.
One small critique would be that at some point it feels like it does plow the same field over and again - thus failing to follow its own warnings about too much information. They make their point then make it again, both times with lots of evidence and solid theories.
Top international reviews
If you are interested in sociology, political science and technology - this is a worthwhile read. Whether you are a student, researcher or just a general reader, Rainie and Wellman present an articulate argument. I imagine that this will be useful to future historians who are looking to analyse how social media technologies became so successful, through an environment of social, economic and cultural change which enabled people to live 'individually networked' lives.
I really appreciate the examples that fill the text. They are a lucid illustration of the rigorous theories and ideas presented in the book, yet also hold their own as colorful vignettes reflecting our own reality back to us. See "Interlude: A Day in a Connected Life" and you'll see what I mean.
For the sociologists, there's plenty of data and charts and quantitative stats.
For the cultural studies folk, there's plenty of discourse surrounding our usage of Internet-enabled technologies and the how's and why's of that use.
I am a PhD student in Communication Studies, and have used "Networked" in a variety of my papers and also for conference presentations. I have also recommended this to many of my students. Specifically, the comprehensive and detailed discussion of "networked individualism" provides an important lens with which to look at society today.