I, You, We

By Bernholz, Lucy | Stanford Social Innovation Review, Fall 2012 | Go to article overview

I, You, We


Bernholz, Lucy, Stanford Social Innovation Review


I, You, We Networked: The New Social Operating System Lee Rainie & Barry Wellman 376 pages, MIT Press, 2012.

By the end of 2012 there will be more mobile devices than people On the planet. This data point from Cisco Systems about our changing world is not mentioned in Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman's excellent new book. There are two reasons for the omission: First, the statistic about cell phones is global, and Rainie and Wellman's research focuses on North America Second, the stat doesn't come from either of their institutions, Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project (Rainie) and NetLab at the University of Toronto (Wellman).

Just about every other fart - both quantitative and qualitative - about how the Internet (particularly broadband), mobile phones, and social networking are changing our lives can be found in Networked. The book provides analysis of the mounds of data they have collected over the years and weaves an argument that should have a long tablet life.

Rainie and Wellman do this by firmly anchoring the vast amount of survey data that Pew collects and the ethnographic research conducted by NetLab in a long view of institutional change. Social networking does not begin with Facebook, they argue. Facebook is merely this moment's representation of a much longer set of behaviors.

Now, Rainie and Wellman argue, we are experiencing a "triple revolution" wrought by the advent of broadband Internet access, social networks, and mobile technologies. The mutually reinforcing and accelerating nature of these technologies is shifting the center of gravity in how we organize as a society Institutions - both formal, such as schools, and informal, such as families - were once at the center of our societies. Now we are. Each of us, with our mobile phones, is connecting across and within institutional boundaries. The result, which the authors call "networked individualism," is profound. Where we once organized our communities, work, family, educational, and governance systems around institutions, we are increasingly navigating the world as connected individuals. The authors support this assertion with data and ethnographic research on device usage, information navigation, workplace changes, and economic influence.

One change that Rainie and Wellman point to is the loss of the family telephone. …

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