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Publications - Abstracts:

Persistent and Pervasive Community: New Communication Technologies and the Future of Community


Two affordances of digital communication technologies, persistent contact and pervasive awareness, are ushering in fundamental change to the structure of community. These affordances break from the mobility narrative that has described community since the rise of urban-industrialism, including accounts of networked individualism and a post-industrial or a network society. In contrast to images of late-modernity, which suggest that mobility will be maximized to the point where people are nearly free from the constraints of time, space, and social bonds, persistent-pervasive community renews the constraints and opportunities of pre-modern community structure. As a result of persistence - a counterforce to mobility - relationships and the social contexts where they are formed are less transitory than at any time in modern history. Through the ambient, lean, asynchronous nature of social media, awareness supplements surveillance with the informal watchfulness typified in pre-industrial community. It provides for closeness and information exchange unlike what can be communicated through other channels. Social media and the algorithms behind them generate not only context collapse but an audience problem that, when managed through a dynamic balance between broadcasting and monitoring content, enhances indicators of awareness and availability of social ties. Persistent-pervasive community represents a period of meta-modernity. It is a hybrid of pre-industrial and urban-industrial community structures that will affect the availability of social capital, the success of collective action, the cost of caring, deliberation around important issues, and how lives are linked over the life course and across generations.

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