For me, the Internet is like ocean. It is very hard to contour what is happening and to predict what will be occur in the ocean. In reverse, I think that this fact gives us a cue to approach to this area. The Internet is like a battle field that all sorts of political, cultural, economic and social networks, groups, or persons struggle to occupy. It is a virtual but real world to affect our life to a great extent. Therefore, we need to define the Internet world normatively and seek for potential to contribute to public life as we struggle to realize public life in non-virtual world.
Even though Wellman’s explanation of social shift to person-to-person networked individualism is very appealing, it sounds like another technology-deterministic explanation. Also, he relies on the network theory assumption which takes it granted that human beings are strategic in networking (structuralist instrumentalism) in terms of Mustafa Emirbayer’s analysis (1994) in the last week reading. At this point, I wonder whether we have to admit the fact that such informational networked society that is technologically determined is unavoidable or not. Or is this social change is desirable? I know that accepting this social change is not matter of choice. However, I think that at least we need to figure out how to employ this new social phenomenon for leading to a democratic public life. That is why this issue relates to quality of life.
On the other hand, Castelles is talking about electronic democracy. He seems to have a strong belief of potential that electronic media can provide for grass-root democracy. Even though he is too optimistic, his analysis gives us a normative approach to the Internet. How can we use this virtual space for increasing public life?