New paper released today with my long time friend and collaborator Alexandra Marin. Network Instability in Times of Stability, the alternative title might have been, “All Your Networks be Unstable: Studying Instability Has Given us a False Sense of Stability”. Perhaps predictable, but notable insights, personal characteristics (of you and your close friends) do not predict tie dormancy, or frequency or medium of communication, it’s all about the network (geographic and emotionally closeness, role, highly supportive, homophily, and embeddedness).
Personal networks undergo change in response to major life course events. Individual, relational, and network characteristics that influence network instability in the absence of a significant life transition/crisis are less understood. We focus on those ties that transition from active to dormant. Because the shift to dormancy is often interpreted as a reduction in support or social capital, it is considered problematic. This study is based on longitudinal survey data of middle‐class adults who did not undergo life changes. Even in this context of relative stability, support networks experience rates of dormancy similar to those observed during periods of major upheaval. Tie dormancy is unrelated to individual characteristics, network size and density, or homophily along dimensions other than sex. Frequency and medium of communication are particularly notable as factors that were not related to tie dormancy. Ties were less likely to become dormant if they were geographically or emotionally close, immediate kin or neighbors, highly supportive, the same sex, or more embedded in the network. These findings provide context for how support networks operate when not buffeted by exogenous forces. They provide a baseline for understanding the impact on networks of transitions, trauma, new media, and difficult life circumstances.
Nineteen years ago Barry and I published our first, of what would become many papers together. “Living Networked On and Offline,” published in Contemporary Sociology, set much of the foundation for our work over the following two decades. We talked about a paradigm shift in how the Internet was shaping community, we explored the fallacy of separating ties into the dichotomy of online/offline relations, glocalization, and the groundwork for the concept of networked individualism.
We are back with a new installment in the latest issue of Contemporary Sociology. “Lost and Saved… Again: The Moral Panic about the Loss of Community Takes Hold of Social Media.” Again, we talk about how new technologies are (and this time, are not) responsible for a paradigm shift in how we think about community. We take on the hype about how social media is destroying community, and recent commentary critical of the impact we have had on the study and conceptualization of community. In the 15 years since Barry and I last published together, our thoughts on community branched in different ways. This is also our attempt at unifying our view of community in an age of social media and digital mobility, including recognizing that as community is increasingly subject to ‘relational persistence’ and ‘pervasive awareness’ it has characteristics of both traditional community and networked individualism.
You can find an open access copy here.
This paper provided a unique opportunity to say a lot of things that otherwise would never have found the right forum. It is a rare opportunity to publish something this long and deep. What other venue let’s you get away with having 175 citations! Enjoyed writing about and reliving the history of qualitative and quantitative digital research, engaging with the work of so many scholars that I respect (including those I don’t always agree with). You can find an open access copy here.
The methodological tool chest available to those who study digital technologies ranges from those that are uniquely digital methods to approaches that are well established in the social sciences. This domain of work includes the application of methods to answer questions about the relationship between digital technologies and the social world, as well as the use of digital methods to answer questions about the offline world. New or old, quantitative or qualitative, the methods used to study the digital have strengths and weaknesses unique to this area of research. These issues include questions about the scope of cyberethnography, the validity of trace data, and the analytical division between on- and offline interaction. This review focuses on an overview of different methods, their history, and their strengths and weaknesses as applied to the study of digital technologies, including ethnographic approaches, interviews, surveys, time and media diaries, trace data, and online experiments.