Networked individualism of urban residents: discovering the communicative ecology in inner-city apartment buildings
Foth, Marcus & Hearn, Gregory N. (2007) Networked individualism of urban residents: discovering the communicative ecology in inner-city apartment buildings. Information, Communication & Society, 10(5), pp. 749-772.
Certain patterns of interaction between people point to networks as an adequate conceptual model to characterise some aspects of social relationships mediated or facilitated by information and communication technology. Wellman proposes a shift from groups to networks and describes the ambivalent nature inherent in an ego-centric yet still well-connected portfolio of sociability with the term ‘networked individualism’. In this paper we use qualitative data from an action research study of social networks of residents in three inner-city apartment buildings in Australia to provide empirical grounding for the theoretical concept of networked individualism. However, this model focuses on network interaction rather than collective interaction. We propose ‘communicative ecology’ as a concept which integrates the three dimensions of "online and offline", "global and local" as well as "collective and networked". We present our research on three layers of interpretation (technical, social and discursive) to deliver a rich description of the communicative ecology we found, that is, the way residents negotiate membership, trust, privacy, reciprocity, permeability and social roles in person-to-person mediated and direct relationships. We find that residents seamlessly traverse between online and offline communication; local communication and interaction maintains a more prominent position than global or geographically dispersed communication; and residents follow a dual approach which allows them to switch between collective and networked interaction depending on purpose and context.
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