You are on page 1of 45



Barry Wellman
Director, NetLab Department of Sociology
University of Toronto Toronto, Canada M5S 1A1

Anabel Quan-Haase
Faculty of Information & Media Studies; Dept of Sociology
University of Western Ontario London, Ontario Canada
5/26/2005 1
Barry Wellman

Thirty Years On
„ 1976: Amaze people with HC-CH communication

„ 1986: Early adopters had PCs and email

„ 1991: “Do you have an Internet address”?

„ 1996: “Do you have a website?

„ 2001: “Google me”

„ 2005: “Do you have WiFi access?

Barry Wellman

The End of The

Simple Digital Divide

„ Most North Americans Online – At Home, Work

„ People Routinely Log On
„ Internet No Longer Limited to Far-Flung
„ Most Email and IM Conversations are Local

Barry Wellman

David Sipress. The New Yorker May 28, 2001

Three Models of
Computerization Effects
„ Work Relations Becoming Inauthentic
„ Without Face-to-Face
„ Traditional Communities of Work Persist
„ Sociability, Support, Tacit Knowledge
„ The Force – Xerox repair persons
„ Networked Communities
„ Less Densely Knit, More Heterogeneous
„ Switching Among Work Partners as Needed
„ Higher Use of Computer Mediated Communication
„ Knowledge Management -- Friends of Friends
• Nosh Contractor
Barry Wellman

Computerization Movement at Work

„ Increased Trust
„ Better Collaboration; More Community
„ Online Life Dominates
„ Space Becomes Irrelevant
„ Organizations Become Social Networks

Barry Wellman

Typical Hierarchical Tree

Source: CEDEX (Japan)

(Seabed core research)
Barry Wellman

Is the Internet
Transforming Work Organization?
„ Characteristics of a Networked Organization
„ Traditional Hierarchical Bureaucracies Short-Circuited
„ Peer-to-Peer Rather than Tree-Structure
„ Napster vs. iPod
„ Multiple Reports – Management by Network
„ Flexibility and Openness
„ Computer Mediated Communication
„ Used Widely
„ Used Locally as Well as Globally
Barry Wellman

The KME Study

„ High Tech Organization of 80
„ Studied Two Key Departments (N =27) in 2002
„ Software Programming
„ Virtual Community Applications
„ Client Services
„ Managed Virtual Communities
„ Multiple Media Users
„ Look at CMC In Context of:
„ All Media Used
„ Work & Socializing Relationships
„ Social Structure of Organization
„ Anabel Quan-Haase’s Dissertation
Barry Wellman

Hyperconnected Local Virtuality

„ Hyperconnected
„ All can reach all instantly
„ Local Virtuality:
„ High use of CMC, even though physically proximate
„ Less disturbing

„ Attachments – files

„ Compare with CM Ideal of Virtual Locality

„ GloCalization
„ Extensive Global and Extensive Local
Barry Wellman

Research Questions
„ How Does CMC Fit in a
Routinized, Normalized Media Ecology ?
„ How Does CMC Affect Work Practices?
„ What are Social Networks Like?
„ Within Group and Beyond Group
„ Work and Socializing

„ How Do CMC & Nets Affect:

„ Community, Trust (and Productivity)?
„ Is There a Networked Organization?
„ Or Networks within Hierarchical Bureaucracy?
Barry Wellman

Case Study Methods

„ 27 employees, high-tech firm
„ 11 software developers
„ 16 virtual community maintainers

„ Online network survey:

„ 3 distances: workgroup, organization, outside org.
„ 3 media: face-to-face, instant messaging, email
„ 2-Hour Interviews of 10 employees
„ Full-Day Observations of the same 10

Software Development Client Services
-Time-to-marketpressures -Cost pressures
Industry -Success measures: profit, market -Success measures: satisfaction,
share acceptance

-Staff assigned to specific tasks -Staffassigned to specific projects

-User is distant and less involved -User is involved and provides input
Tasks -Process is immature -Process is more mature
-Coordinated software development -Task accomplishment independent
-More bureaucratic
Cultural -Individualistic -Less individualistic
Milieu -Long work hours -More set working hours

-Less likely to have matrix structure -Matrix managed and project focused
-Involved in entire development cycle -People assigned to multiple projects
Group -More cohesive, motivated, jelled -Work-together as needed
-Opportunities for large financial -Salary-based
rewards -Rely on formal specifications
-Large discrepancies in income -Larger, somewhat dispersed
-Small, co-located
Barry Wellman

„ Visually: People Look Isolated
„ Hi Level of Email and IM Connectivity
„ Complemented by:
„ Informal Encounters – Walk-Overs, Lunches
„ Formal Meetings
„ Peer-to-Peer among Programmers
„ Maintainers more Hierarchical
„ Logged-In Morning to Night
„ Availability Indicator
„ Tradeoff between Interdependency & Overload
„ Multitasking
„ Computerization and Pedestrianization
Barry Wellman

Networked but Hierarchical

C lien t S ervic es M an ag ers an d S u p ervis ors

S oftw a re D ev elop m en t F acilitators an d P ro gra m m ers

F igu re 1 . In form ation N etw ork – W eek ly E xch an g es

Socializing Network – Weekly Exchanges

Software Development Client Services

Barry Wellman

Information Brokering
„ Information brokers are central in
information network
„ Measured as information network centrality

Social Network


Barry Wellman

Sources of Information
„ Rely on both human & documentary sources
„ Both human and documentary sources
predominantly accessed online

Barry Wellman

Intermingling Email, Phone (& F2F)

“I looked at some of what we had in place,
but I wasn’t sure what to do.
So I emailed Jerry about an area
that he is very knowledgeable about.
And he responded within 20 minutes.
I had to go back & forth a couple of times over email,
and I ended up calling him over the phone
just to clarify things.
And then I implemented what he recommended,
and it worked!”
Barry Wellman

Phone-IM Tradeoff
If there is any complexity to it, I use the phone
sometimes too.
The phone and face-to-face, it is kind of similar in
that if it is at all complex, I want it that way, just
to have it back and forth.
Last night I started communicating with Roger with
IM and pretty quickly I just wanted to call him on
the phone. It would just take too long to explain
everything on IM. You can do a fair amount of back
and forth.
[Phone] is better than email: there is some back
and forth. So I talk on the phone because it is too
complex to try and sort out over IM.
(James, programmer)
Barry Wellman

Community & Collaboration

„ Interpersonal, Departmental & Organizational
„ Frequent CMC Breeds Awareness, Understanding,
„ FTF Assesses Tone, Body Language, Smell,
Presentation of Self

Barry Wellman

I investigated the product by trying various things
and to do that.
I IM’d some people that it had impact: Brian and
Sally they were experts.
And then, it happened to be in this case Steve
and Denise who were emailing and Brian. They
were in this email thread that was going back
and forth. It is very specific to what the problem
is, though. John, Software Developer

Barry Wellman

“Local Virtuality”
„ DEF: Use of CMC for local communication
„ CMC is the majority of communication encounters
„ However, IMs short, emails longer, F2F longest

Barry Wellman

Communication Within Departments, Elsewhere in Organization, and Outside Organization


Outside Organization

Elsewhere in Organization


Within Department

0 50 100 150 200 250 300

Barry Wellman

Media Use by Distance

* Email

Workgroup Organization Outside

Barry Wellman

Communication at KME (Days per Year)

Email IM

Within 240 306 306

Department (28%) (36%) (36%)

Elsewhere in 99 213 215

Organization (19%) (40%) (41%)

Outside 21 103 72
Organization (11%) (53%) (37%)

Barry Wellman

Instant Messaging
„ Priority over email, F2F, phone
„ Speed, Synchronicity, Compellingness
„ Logging-in creates awareness of availability
„ IM can’t be saved or archived
„ Sometimes this is an advantage
„ Used extensively for bonding: social exchanges

Barry Wellman

Instant Messaging
I use IM a lot. IM is great if you have one
question that you just need an answer to.
When you need to explain something in detail – an
outline, kind of a business case for doing
something, or for getting somebody to take
action – email is the best.
I just know that if you call or send an IM, you will
get a faster response than email.
Software developer Linda
Barry Wellman

IM Rather than F2F

Internally, I use IM a fair amount because there are
times where I want to know something, but I don’t
want the other person to know how I am reacting
or responding.
Like I know he is going to tell me to do X and I
don’t think that is the right way to go, but I have
to ask him and he is going to tell me that and then
he doesn’t see my face going Ah!
And then I can have a moment to think …and
composing myself and figuring out how to respond.
(Andy, Community Maintainer)
Barry Wellman

Email vs F2F
I don’t want to be loud because there all these
people right there.
The phone is ok, but I feel I am invading other
people’s privacy, if I am loud on the phone.
The best way for me is email plus I like to keep
a written record of everything that is going on.
(Lori, Community Maintainer)
Barry Wellman

Email vs IM
I use email … because I can develop a well
thought-through message, and the other person
can respond to it at a different time.

Instant messaging exists for immediate things,

for quick exchanges, where you don’t care about

To me, I think that email should not substitute

for face-to-face relationships.
Software developer Linda
Barry Wellman

Glocalization – Local Virtuality

„ Local Virtuality
„ Computer Mediated Neighboring
„ Most messages within same dept, floor
„ Dept’l structure & layout affects communication
• Programmers are Peer-to-Peer – Communicate Laterally
• Community Facilitators Work Alone – Communicate Up
„ GloCalization
„ Dispersed, but Local Stays Important
„ Proportionately Greater Reliance on CMC at Greater
Social & Physical Distances
„ Differences in Work Function & Tasks Drive Differences in
Barry Wellman

A Networked Hierarchy
„ Classic Management Hierarchy Persists
„ Professionals Accomplish Goals
„ Independently
„ Interdependently – especially Software Developers

„ Rules about Work & Dept’l Structure

Coexist with Hi Levels of Trust, Community
„ Too Complex for Close Supervision

Barry Wellman

For the Computerization Movement
„ Computerization > Hyperconnectivity >
Trust, Community, Cooperation
„ Organic Solidarity: Interdependent Interdependencies
„ Structured by Type of Work & Department
„ Spatial Propinquity Still Matters
„ Enabling Bureaucracy –
Not a Networked Organization
„ Technology Affords; It Does Not Transform
Barry Wellman

Changing Structures
„ Densely Knit > Sparsely-Knit
„ Impermeable (Bounded) > Permeable
„ Broadly-Based Solidarity >
Specialized Multiple Foci
„ To Find Networks, We Don’t Assume Structure
„ But Ask/Observe About Relationships
„ Discover Who is Central, Bridges, Brokers
„ Where are Subgroups
„ Where are Equivalent People
Unit To Unit (Place To Place)
(Phones, Networked PCs, Airplanes, Expressways, RR, Transit)
Home, Office Important Contexts,
„ Not Intervening Space
„ Ramified & Sparsely Knit: Not Local Solidarities
„ Not neighborhood-based
„ Not densely-knit with a group feeling
„ Partial Membership in Multiple Workgroups/ Communities
„ Often Based on Shared Interest
„ Connectivity Beyond Neighborhood, Work Site
Work Group to Work Group
„ Domestication, Feminization of Community (& Work?)
„ Shift from Manipulating Atoms (Things) to Manipulating Bits (Words)
„ Deal with Multiple Groups
„ Knowledge Comes From Internal & External Sources
„ “Glocalization”: Globally Connected, Locally Invested
Person-to-Person: Networked Individualism

„ Little Awareness of Context

„ Private Desires Replace Public Civility
„ Multiple Specialized Relationships
„ Partial Membership in Multiple Networks
„ Long-Distance Relationships
ƒ More Transitory Relationships
„ Online Interactions Linked with Offline
„ More Uncertainty, More Maneuverability
„ Less Palpable than Traditional Solidarities: Alienation?
„ Sparsely-Knit: Fewer Direct Connections Than Door-To-Door
„ Possibly Less Caring for Strangers
„ More Weak Ties
„ Need for Institutional Memory & Knowledge Management
Bounded Groups Glocalization
(Door-to-Door) (Place-to-Place)

Networked Individualism
Barry Wellman

Networked – And Hierarchical

„ Ties Neither Random or Even
„ Most Within Dept – and Different Patterns Between Depts
„ Differences Between Managers and Employees
„ Individualized Networking
„ Each Switches among
Multiple, Specialized Partial Networks
„ Interact with Diverse Partners
„ Simultaneously, Sequentially
„ Rather than Full-Blown Networked Organization
„ Direct Ties Rule
„ Indirect Ties At Most One Step
Barry Wellman

Findings & Speculations

„ Away from Individual Choice, Congruency
„ Social Affordances Only Create Possibilities
„ Email Used for All Roles:
„ Work, Knowledge, Sociability and Support
„ Roles Remain Specialized on Email
„ Email Lowers Status Distances
„ Email Network Not a Unique Social Network
„ Intermixed with Face-to-Face (low use of phone, video, fax)
„ Reduces Temporal as well as Spatial Distances
„ Need for Social (Network) Software to Foster:
„ Awareness, Reachability, Knowledge Transfer
Barry Wellman

How a Network Society Looks

„ Moving from a hierarchical society bound up in
groups to a network – and networking – society
„ Shifting, Fluid Structures
„ Personal Logons vs Family Visits, Household Phones
„ Multiple Communities / Work Networks
„ Multiplicity of Specialized Relations
„ Management by Networks
„ More Uncertainty, More Maneuverability
„ Find Resources in Specialized Tie Boutiques –
Not in General Relationship Stores
„ Networks Less Palpable than Traditional Solidarities
Need Navigation Tools: Spoke, IKNOW
Implications for a Networked Society
„ GloCalization: Global & Local Involvements
„ Local Becomes Just another Interest
„ Social & Spatial Peripheries Closer to the Center
„ Social Linkages: Higher Velocity & Add-On Volume
„ Social Capital: Specialized Relationships
„ Online & Offline Intersect > Intangible & Tangible Aid
„ Social Cohesion: Shift among multiple memberships
„ Specialized Roles; CMC Affords Interconnections
„ Social Mobilization: Shared Interests Find Each Other
„ Social Control: Less Group Control
„ Burden on Dyadic Reciprocity + Formal Surveillance Controls
„ Social Exclusion: Digital Divides: National & Global
Barry Wellman

Individual as Portal
„ Individual is the Primary Unit of Connectivity
„ Not the Household, Workgroup, Tribe
„ Each Person Operates a Personal Network
„ Each Person is the Portal of Communication
„ Mobile Phone, Email Address, Instant Messaging
• Versus Letter, Landline Phone, Home Address
„ Each Person is the Portal of Resource Mobilization
„ Specialized Ties; Divisions of Labor
„ Control of Property & Control of Networks
„ Bridges Important
„ Connect Individuals; Connect Clusters; Integrate Societies
Bounded Groups Î Networked Individualism
** Each in its Place Î Mobility of People and Goods **
„ “Our Town” Î “Friends”
„ Met at Malt Shop Î Met on
„ Dating > Engagement Î Hanging Out > Seeing Each Other
„ Love> Sex> Marriage> Baby Î Sex > Love > Partnering
„ Marriage Î Civil Union
„ HH as Reproductive Unit Î HH as Consummatory Duet
„ “Love and Marriage” Î “Sex and the City”
„ Mom & Dad, Dick & Jane Î Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, & Miranda
„ United Family Î Serial Marriage, Mixed Custody
„ 1-2 Person Household Î 3-4 Person Household
„ Shared Community Î Multiple, Partial Personal Nets
„ Densely-Knit Î Sparsely-Knit
„ Neighborhoods Î Dispersed Networks
„ Voluntary Organizations Î Informal Leisure
„ Face-to-Face Contact Î Computer-Mediated Communication
„ Public Spaces Î Private Spaces
„ Similar Attributes Î Similar Interests
„ Social Control Î Dyadic Exchanges
„ Conserves Resources Î Gathers New Resources, Failures
„ Routinized Stability Î Stable Instability
Thank You –
Barry Wellman & Anabel Quan-Haase

… and Max