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Everyday sociability, social networks and ICTs

Thesis

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KeywordsTriple Keywords
Communication
Mass communication
Communication, Primitive
Behavioral sciences
Social studies
Social science
Social sciences
Human sciences
Sciences, Social
Annals
History
Individuality
Individuation (Philosophy)
Individuals (Philosophy)
Particulars (Philosophy)
Individuation
Number concept
Interpersonal communication
Media, The
Media, Mass
Mass media
Economics
Political economy
Economic theory
Political power
Empowerment (Social sciences)
Power (Social sciences)
Risk

Abstract

The impressive growth of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in the last decade constitutes a challenge both for social studies on sociability and on ICT usage. It demands to put methodologies and sociological analysis that have mainly been developed for the study of face-to-face interactions into question. The work presented here traces the history of research on communication practices undertaken by the author for more than a decade. The text presents the hypotheses developed about the links between social contacts and telephone usage and then examines the effects of the popularisation of mobile and individual devices such as cell phones on the practices of interpersonal communications. It concludes with a discussion of methodological issues and looks at more recent research that tries to study sociability across all the various contexts and communication technologies that became widely disseminated in recent years. The relationship between communication technologies and sociability has been changed by the current transformation of the technological landscape. Even if the technologies mentioned neither determine nor totally control social action the new communication technologies lay the framework wherein social bonds are created and maintained. Ways to build, manage and nurture those relationships are closely intertwined with the technologies that mediate contacts. At the same time face-to-face contacts and phone calls are often highly correlated. This is also true for the new communication tools. Research undertaken by the author shows that each new communication service has been adopted in a more global relational economy thus increasing the number of opportunities to forge social links. Hence the new communication technologies are not substituting the older ones but a continuous, mutual and stepwise re-adaptation can be observed as new communication technologies arrive and get integrated into the social partition that guides the music of link. Today’s integration of ICTs into social practices seems to be particularly intense so that it becomes doubtful to analyse social interactions, links or networks without taking into account the technologies that provide support, guide and give them their rhythm. In particular, the transition towards mobile and ubiquitous communication technologies can transform our accessibility if we compare with their use at the usual places of technology-supported presence, like the home or the office. The new technology-heavy relational practices are based on the increasing use of text messaging (email, SMS, IM). Even though these technologies reduce the availability constraints inherent to ICTs by allowing a asynchronous response to contact solicitations the proliferation of mediated contacts increases the pressure exercised by a new relational pace. This interweaving of the “real” and the “virtual” in everyday sociability may bring about new forms of individual control and ways to manage individual reachability. In the long run it might reconfigure the relational rhythms and social norms

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