Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Pattern Recognition

The criticism of the SCOT (social construction of technology) approach to analyzing the relationship between technology and society is that the focus on the individual and micro-level can lead to a neglect of higher-level power relations and imbalances that play a key role in shaping individual choices and behaviors with respect to technologies. Yet the social determinism that drives the political economy approach seems to lead to an equally narrow, cloistered view. And, unlike Graham and Marvin, I see no easy way of integrating the two approaches. It seems that to admit the validity of one approach denies the power of the other.

Seeking positive outcomes

Re Graham and Marvin, most discourse seems to think in technological terms first, as often we consider the technology, its many applications and evolutions, and then apply it to all the things we think of technology affecting. McLuhan often cited this human weakness (somewhat furthered by Mitchell) to always think of technology in iterative ways, comparing it to recent or past technologies. This weakness seems to be at the core of technological determinism and utopianism-futurism. Urban political economy and social constructivism bring in more of the proximity of places and their connections with technological means to expand and grow. But the social makeup of who gets access and changes in identity and perception of places seem to be similar to the questions we’ve been asking all semester. How can we see urban political economy and social constructivism somehow helped along with natural market forces so that there are more positive outcomes re these issues?

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Between structure and will

To be strange, the Graham & Marvin's article reminded me of the debate between structuralism and humanistic, cultural, post-structuralism. From the viewpoint of politcal economy, it is evident that the contemporary technology developments are largely driven by global, trans-national, advanced capitalism. The structure of this post-industrial capitalism and the media environment of telecommunication derived from the rationale of the advanced capitalism seem to be dominant and unavoidable. However, this is not the end. Based on the understanding of our reality, we need to develop some strategies to overcome the dominance of capitalism. At least, we need to claim the possibility of redeeming our will to overcome the dominance. In this sense, the social constructive approach provides us with the rationale to stimulate us to think about the strategy. As I posted before, I think that the virtual space is like a battle field. Before we become pessimistic of our future, we have a mission of constructing our virtual space to democratic and emancipatory place.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Bloggers Beware!! (part two)

High schools are getting involved in monitoring blog content. This article is from the Hartford Courant ...

New Britain student disciplined for profanities on Web site

April 23, 2005

NEW BRITAIN, Conn. --A New Britain High School drum major has enlisted the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut after he was disciplined for posting a profanity-laced entry in an online journal.

Daniel Gostin, 18, a senior, was stripped of his drum major position, given an in-school suspension and barred from participating in music-related extracurricular activities and performances for the remainder of the year.

Lori Rifkin, an ACLU lawyer who represents Gostin, says the school's actions violate his free-speech rights. In a letter to schools Superintendent Doris Kurtz on Wednesday, she asked that Gostin be reinstated as drum major, his disciplinary record be expunged and that he resume participating in musical activities.

The posting "contained no threats nor did it contain any other statements which would interfere with the ability of school administrators to maintain order and discipline at the school," Rifkin wrote.

Kurtz, Assistant Superintendent of Schools Ron Jakubowski and New Britain High School Principal Thomas Reale could not be reached for comment, The Hartford Courant reported Saturday.

Gostin posted his entry on a Web site that allows users to create their own pages and record thoughts as in a diary. Rifkin said the posting was apparently brought to the
attention of school officials by another individual without Gostin's
knowledge.

At Gostin's request, she said she would not release a copy of the March 9 posting, which was largely directed at the band director. Rifkin characterized it as a "typical teenage rant" over the director's cancelation of several band activities.

New Britain police have launched an investigation following an earlier, more threatening entry on the Web site that promises a "homicidal spree" and "long, torturous death," presumably targeting fellow members of the band.

Police say the investigation will not likely result in criminal charges. Because of a nearly two-month lapse between the time school officials learned of the earlier posting and when police heard about it, electronic evidence was destroyed or deleted, police say.

Gostin and his parents have declined to discuss the case, The Courant reported.

Mediated communities of affinity and geographic preference: A red/blue compromise?

When I moved to Madison two and a half years ago, I was excited to finally be living in a predominantly liberal area. It's not that I couldn't find like-minded people in western upper Michigan and Green Bay, but it was always clear that we were part of the "them" in those places. But beyond that, I was also excited to finally live in a place that had a vibrant local rock scene, was bike-friendly, had an easily accessible slate of events to check out most nights, etc. This was a place that had a lot of things that I liked, and presumably a lot of other people who also liked those things.

I don't think I'm alone in this. I've talked to people here who've expressed similar feelings about coming to Madison, have friends in my old towns who'd like to be elsewhere, and know people who've left here for places like Wichita and are learning to make due with the lesser communities that they can find. Indeed, I seem to recall reading last year that American cities are becoming generally more politically homogenous and polarized; people like me are finding ways to co-locate with other liberals, and the conservative children of Madison are finding their way over to Waukesha County.

But I've been seeing a peculiar sentiment expressed on blogs lately -- "red state" liberals are finding their communities of affinity online, and are taking the strength of those communities back to their offline lives. Rather than wishing aloud that they could move to Madison or Berkeley or even Austin, rather than threatening to bolt for Canada, they are trying to use what they get from the online community -- be it knowledge, moral support or even financial and in-kind donations -- to effect change in and from their conservative locales.

I'm not sure what we might be able to gather from this, but the one thing that pops out at me is that these people are probably seeing online organizing as a viable alternative to traditional democratic activism. But also, I suspect that the in-group trust level is extremely high. Other implications?

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Wimax column

Groupies,

I published this in TV Technology a couple of months ago, for those interested in a folo to the Madison article Chris posted:

Why WiMax has Maxed Out

By Will Workman

I’ll admit it; I fell for the hype.

You’d think as one of those former hard-bitten, nihilistic reporter-types I would have asked tougher questions about all the WiMax window dressing popping up over the past year. Last August, when I wrote about the new technology in the wake of significant backing by Intel, I heralded it as a hopeful competitor to DSL and cable broadband solutions. (I also plugged into powerline broadband, but that’s another story).

Now it’s time to fess up: this tech is nowhere near ready for primetime consumer solutions, its business applications are limited, and its long-term ability to provide mobility is questionable.

WiMax, short for worldwide interoperability for microwave access, is essentially radio technology that uses fixed antennae to provide two-way broadband connections (up to 75 megabits per second) to users up to 30-miles distant (though half that is optimal).

It’s got some killer advantages. First, it’s actually here; providers have been popping up in several metro areas. Second is price: for about $500 a month one of these early WiMax providers, TowerStream, offers a 1.54 megabits-per-second connection. That’s nearly half the price of a standard T1 line. And WiMax providers can do this because they don’t have to lease lines from big telcos. Any customer within a 15-mile radius of a WiMax antenna can pick up the signal, even using it to power WiFi hotspots within their premises.

Though there’s a narrow but profitable market for this technology with small businesses, it’s hard to see how it can break out of that niche.

Big companies need security and reliability. Though WiMax providers can offer QOS guarantees and encrypted service, they can’t match secure landlines and backup power supplies of T1 service providers. That makes WiMax little more than a backup.

And WiMax may never attain widespread home user adoption. Installing a receiving antenna can cost hundreds of dollars. Meanwhile, DSL and cable broadband providers have been upping speeds and lowering prices.

There are also larger issues holding back WiMax that combine to serve as an illustration of the bugaboos that can derail a promising technology.

The litany runs a familiar gamut: WiMax signals use public airwaves rather than licensed spectrum, so interference can result, particularly if multiple players saturate a market; patents and legal issues could at least delay rollouts; and the ever-present standards issue remains a pressing concern.

Last June the IEEE approved the 802.16-2004 standard, promising equipment interoperability as tested by the industry group WiMax Forum. But some reports indicate developers looking at the standard are reeling from its complexity, which could bode further delays from ongoing modifications.

Additionally, a Yankee Group report projects WiMax CPE (consumer premises equipment) costs to drop from the current $250-to-$600 range, but not until 2006.

The report goes on to anticipate the most significant impact on WiMax coming from new silicon embedded in laptop and other mobile devices after 2007, based on the 802.16e standard, eliminating CPE. Intel’s support will be critical; it has announced it will release chips for WiMax elements such as relay stations and towers in the coming months, and add WiMax support to its notebook PC processors by next year. But skeptics say 2006 or 2007 is far too optimistic a timeline to have effective equipment.

The mobility cloud remains the gloomiest on the WiMax horizon. Users want to take their broadband with them, and with notebook adoption expected to double in the next few years, and cell phone use exploding, there are too many competing technologies that promise broadband-on-the-go. Cell phone companies are building third-generation (3G) networks, but several, including Nextel late last year, have announced they will not opt for WiMax

The WiMax 802.20 mobile wireless standard is still a pipe dream in the works, say critics, who estimate it may be four or five years before true deployment. Meanwhile, other wireless solutions on tap, such as Flash OFDM and UMTS TDD, offer mobility and could deliver on their promise earlier.

Why did WiMax get so hot last year, only to fizzle?

This is largely a product of its primary backer, Intel, overstating its case to overcompensate for previous misfires in the broadband arena.

If you go back to recent, but dim, history, Intel backed its favorite wireless standard, HomeRF, over WiFi, only to get steamrollered by the latter. Now it’s getting hammered for its WiMax braggadocio.

The chipmaker behemoth has been productive in promoting municipal wireless, calling on state and local officials to spurn lobbying by phone and cable broadband providers seeking to block municipalities and other public agencies from setting up public networks.

For this effort, Intel merits kudos.

But turning its PR gang loose to wax on WiMax deserves opprobrium.

While all the hoopla dust settles, small businesses can turn to WiMax as a low-price alternative, or backup, to T1 service. Larger broadband providers are also looking at WiMax as an effective last-mile backhaul solution. And there are plenty of rural areas that could use WiMax by putting the antennas on transmission towers.

But none of that restores the glitter to WiMax as a near-term solution for providing ubiquitous, mobile, low-cost broadband.

In the future I’ll try to save my waxing for something more productive – perhaps a snowboard or skis while it’s still winter.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Wired help to build community & geographical ties?

While Dutton et al caution that electronic networks could lessen geographical ties, Ellis et al rejoice in how communities (however we choose to define them) can be fostered to strengthen human relations. Can a wired city concept today - like Madison's or others proposed in throughout US - especially as promoted by city government - potentially bring in more people to participate as members of their physical communities? I have to think that if we could see just 10 years ahead on widespread Internet access provided in a cost-effective way and supported by the geographical-center of a city, that this would help enlighten people to things outside of the city yet root them further in their physical community because of the improvement of information. Much better than the public access channel of city mtgs - given the interactive component of the Internet. Is this idea just a modern-day step up from the widespread information spread by the US Postal Office? Could widespread city-supported access truly lower cost of entry to bring in more people, and enhance real community within geographical ties?

What really makes virtual community to be “community?”

From the Ellis et al.’s article, I am convinced that community is not place-based but relation-based, which tends to become networked these days. According to Rheingold’s definition of virtual community, virtual communities are “social aggregations that emerge from the Net when enough people carry on those public discussions long enough, with sufficient human feeling, to form webs of personal relationships in cyberspace.” Even though information-oriented activities seem to be dominant in cyberspace, virtual communities are not likely to succeed without emotional and peer-group supports. Therefore, communication in virtual community becomes more than exchanging factual information. It brings up identity-building, empathy, and social support among the members. So, it is tempting to conclude that communication makes virtual community to be “community.” However, as they show from a variety of virtual community studies, trust is the most important factor to make people increase willingness to communicate and build sense of community even in the virtual space. In sum, I think that how to build trust in virtual community must be an important topic in the discussion of virtual community.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Wired Cities, Wireless Madison

Madison's plan to offer wireless Internet connectivity downtown raises some interesting public policy issues that connect nicely to both articles we're reading this week. But so far as I know there has been virtually no public discussion of the project. Here's the latest from the Cap Times:

start

City Dickering Over Wireless Net Access
The Capital Times :: METRO :: 2C
Monday, February 28, 2005
The city of Madison has started negotiations with SkyCable/AOL to provide the city's "Wi-Fi" wireless Internet access network, which will begin serving the Dane County Regional Airport and downtown later this year and may be expanded in the future.

SkyCable/AOL was selected as the preferred vendor over SBC and InSite Wireless. SBC and InSite still could become the provider if the city and SkyCable/AOL can't make a deal.

No tax dollars will be involved in building or operating the service. The provider will pay the county, city and state for the right to run the network. Access to some Web sites will be free, with full Web access available for a fee on a daily, monthly or long-term basis.

"This initiative continues the city's tradition of being at the leading edge of emerging technologies and is a major step forward for my Healthy City initiative," Mayor Dave Cieslewicz said.

end

As I understand it, free access on the network will be limited to city-produced websites. General Internet access to the Web and to email will be on a fee basis only.

What do you think about what the city is planning to do?

Rehashing Community

Again.

Early on in the Ellis, Oldridge, and Vasconcelos piece, they ask the question: can a virtual community be a real community? But I think that before that can be answered, we have to ask ourselves another, possibly more difficult question.

Just what is a real community? I think that the word community has become so shrouded in fable and illusion that most people are hard-pressed to say what it is - I know I am. So what is community? Or at least, what are some attributes that community should possess in order to be considered such.

Virtual community

A theme that has been running though the course all semester, and, for that matter, throughout my years in grad school, is what do we mean by "community?" I'm not so sure we'll ever get a definitive answer, but the readings this week assert that some sort of interpersonal interaction is needed to establish a virtual community. Therefore, is a real-time chat feature essential to create a virtual community, or would discussion boards be sufficient? What other online technologies would be essential for a virtual community?

Monday, April 18, 2005

Bloggers Beware!!

Today's New York Times has an article on bloggers who either got reprimanded or fired from their jobs after their employers read their blogs on their presonal websites that were written on their own time at home. (NYTimes.com) One guy got canned from Google for writing about the company's financial condition. The article says, "...even in their living rooms, even in their private basement computer caves, employees are required to be at least a little bit worried about losing their jobs if they write or post the wrong thing on their personal Web logs." A policy analyst with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights advocacy group, was quoted:
"I would have expected that some of the louder, more strident voices on the Internet would have risen up in a frenzy over this. But that didn't happen." Why not, do you think?

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Potluck Action Network (PAN)

A friend of mine -- OK, OK, a "weak tie," really, since this is a person I consider a friend but haven't much seen in over a year even though he lives right here in Madison, and we don't have much of a shared history since we were ourselves connected by a mutual friend (who is now in Nepal, OK, can I stop now?) -- invited me to a thing he helped start: the "Potluck Action Network". (For those of you keeping count, my friend is also the one who started "Nader Trader" online in 2000, but that's another story.) Anyway, PAN could be an interesting example of the different notions of "network" we've been discussing in class. From the Potluck Action Network web site we find this explanation:

In the Potluck Action Network, we hold potlucks. A lot of them.  And we do things-- political actions-- before, during, and after those potlucks. We read up on issues, commit to doing one thing about some issue per month, meet up with friends at potlucks to tell what we've done, and strategize about the future.  Through the network we share stories of our work and fun, and connect with other like-minded people working on the same topics across the country.  [...]

Why a 'Network'? The internet has now developed to a point where nearly everyone has web access, so a web-driven network makes sense to link potluck groups across geographic borders and interest. Much more powerful than a phone tree or a set of index cards, the web allows us to retrieve the stored wisdom of thousands of like-minded people. We can connect to people who we'd never have known of just a few years ago. It's amazing, really. Yet at the same time, we all still have that basic human need of face-to-face communication. So we have potlucks, actions, and a network.

What are the goals of the Potluck Action Network? There are short-term, medium-term, and long-term goals of the Potluck Action Network. In the short term, we will unite progressive individuals from around the country within their communities. In the medium term, we want our members to gain contacts, confidence, and experience that will lead them to make increasingly effective impacts within their communities and beyond. In the long term, we want to provide a steady structure with a deep memory where the next generations of progressive leaders can learn, through personal experience, how to organize within a community, how to harness political energies to make things happen, and how to have fun while making a real, positive impact. How long is the long term? We envision that each potluck group may last 10 years or longer. During this time, members may come and go. New groups may spin off, and that's a great success. We have tried hard to develop a structure and approach that makes people want to keep coming back, for many years. [...]

Will the Potluck Action Network drown me with emails? No. The network does not plan to send emergency action alerts. Many other organizations do this quite well, and we do encourage our members to stay active in those more centralized groups. Our focus is slow, steady, and widespread effort and progress. [...]

Can anyone join? Frankly, no. Members of the vast right-wing conspiracy are not welcome. Don't they have enough outlets? However, recovering members of the right wing are strongly encouraged to join!

Geography-informed comments?

Bringing It All Back Home

Castells holds out hope that the the importance of physical place can persist in the face of the new techno-economic paradigm he terms "the space of flows" and says local societies and governments must systematically intrude their interests into the globalized system in order for that to happen. Let's talk about this in the context of Madison and the question of what local interests should ground, anchor, frame, guide, pick your own verb, this place's participation in the emerging global industrial space and economy. One place I would point to is the university and the human resources here who are plugged into national and transnational research projects and equally farflung funding sources but whose physical roots and lifestyle are here in Madison and also, possibly, a significant chunk of their social network, including key academic and professional ties. What other social actors here are similarly operating in both local, place-based space and transnational space at once?

battles on virtual space

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?

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

SWT perhaps backs multiple network theory?

I owe a posting yet for last week and having accidentally read some of this week's readings for last week had some extra time to think about them. I see Granovetter's SWT tying in with Wellman and Pratt… Networked individualism made me think about how technology is changing the mobile vs. place-based view of our identities and network. Where we may have been limited in social networks by physical place, with our mobility of cell phones and Internet we can more easily join and leave particular networks, or technically be in one network of place and one virtually at the same time. Does this make us more networked, or less connected when we are networked? And could a societal effect from this be more SWT because we are able to establish more weak networks through more networks with less physical space demands?

On a side note, I also don't buy all the assumptions that the nature of networked worlds could create male- and female-segregated society given cultural elements that may shift how this plays out a bit differently.

Meaning in physical and virtual places

Seems as tho we'll spend some time this week debating how place and electronic networks help each other and hurt each other. Castells begs us to see technology can change the flow of power, which could potentially make “social meaning evaporate from places and therefore from society.” I’m new to the space of flows theories but think of many examples of how place and electronic networks are linked in varying ways that can provide “historical continuity” (neighborhoods) and grassroots networks (regional MoveOn approach). What factors help electronic communication level the playing field for those with economic/political power, and those without, and how does place make it better or worse? Appears to be situation-specific perhaps but I'd expect there are some patterns.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Fandom: Node or Network, Or Both?

Something that I was wondering yesterday during class, specifically during the discussion of the networks surrounding television shows, was the place of fandom within that network.

Fandom, for those who aren't quite as geeky as I am, refers broadly to all fans of a particular subject - but more specifically, it refers to those fans who are passionate enough to participate in some kind of forum dedicated to their favorite subject, and perhaps read or write fanfiction, or create or enjoy fanart. Early fandoms like Star Trek often were manifested in fanzines dedicated to the show, but these days a lot of the activity occurs online, in communities, forums, blogs, and websites.

I've been involved in online fandom in one way or another since about halfway through my undergraduate degree, and my experience indicates that it is definitely a network - and a very large one, if you consider Fandom an entity then made up of different and disparate fandoms, which are again networks in their own right.

I guess I'm wondering how the rest of you think fandom would fit into a network such as the t.v. example we discussed in class. I can see several possibilities, all of which are very messy.

I know where you live and I know who you are

Something leapt out at me after class yesterday, which I can't believe I didn't think of during the discussion.

Can we use ZIP code data to approximate social networks? I think the answer hinges on whether the statistical minority from traditional demographic research tends to cluster together, i.e., do "unpredictable" people live near each other and act in predictable ways relative to those around them?

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The Model Citizen

Some of the network literature that Granovetter cites argues that individuals with a rich assortment of weak ties are likely to be more politically sophisticated than those in close-knit networks who are relatively unexposed to outside points of view and influences. This is an interesting counterargument to the classic two-step flow argument by Lazersfeld and Katz re: the key role of influential people--that is people within a network of strong ties--in shaping the opinions of others. So maybe the question is not whether you listen to someone inside or outside your group, but the quality of the information you're responding to.

Global villages and information ties

I've been thinking about the comment I made on Umaysay's and Kevin's posts, and they probably could use a little expanding.

Something I'd like to try to get at today (which I suspect is something we couldn't help but get at, whether I posted this or not) is not just the use or prevalence of networks over time, but the changing focus of networks over time, and the changing perception of networks. I suspect that the nature of the Internet relating to physical space -- that is, virtually "connecting" disparate physical points via physical terminals at those points -- makes the presence and use of networks obvious to the average person in a way that they never were before, even in pre-Internet satellite age (global telephone, television, shortwave, etc.). Internet applications are designed, sometimes explicitly, to show us those networks and allow us to take advantage of them in the most efficient way possible -- this was the whole point of Friendster, IIRC.

So is this all that's changed about our perception of networks in the last 10, 20, 50, 100 years? Is "network" just a new symbol for what we called "community" in the 1950's?

Google Feature Incorporates Satellite Maps (sfgate.com)

I just stumbled across this article about a new feature offered by Google - maybe some of you have heard about it already. Google takes Mapquest's capabilities one step further by offering satellite images of desired locations. Both intriguing and frightening:

"Online search engine leader Google has unveiled a new feature that will enable its users to zoom in on homes and businesses using satellite images, an advance that may raise privacy concerns as well as intensify the competitive pressures on its rivals.

The satellite technology, which Google began offering late Monday at , is part of the package that the Mountain View-based company acquired when it bought digital map maker Keyhole Corp. for an undisclosed amount nearly six months ago.

This marks the first time since the deal closed that Google has offered free access to Keyhole's high-tech maps through its search engine. Users previously had to pay $29.95 to download a version of Keyhole's basic software package.

A more traditional map will continue to be the first choice served up by Google's search engine. Users will have the option of retrieving a satellite picture by clicking on a button.

The satellite maps could unnerve some people, even as the technology impresses others. That's because the Keyhole technology is designed to provide close-up perspective of specific addresses.

Keyhole's previous government ties also have raised anxieties.

Founded in 2001, Keyhole raised some money in 2003 from In-Q-Tel, a venture capital firm backed by the Central Intelligence Agency. Leading up to the Google sale, Keyhole's roughly 10,000 customers included a cross-section of government agencies.

There is little reason for people to be paranoid about the satellite maps because the images generally are six to 12 months old, said John Hanke, Keyhole's general manager. "And it's not like you are going to be able to read a license plate on a car or see what an individual was doing when a particular image was taken," he said.

Google believes most people will like the convenience of generating a satellite image with a few clicks of a computer mouse. The company envisions people using the service as a way to scout a hotel's proximity to the beach for a possible vacation or size up the neighborhood where an apartment is for rent.

Google's free satellite maps initially will be limited to North America, with images covering roughly half the United States, Hanke said.

Although Google is offering the satellite maps on a test basis, the feature will probably force its other online rivals to upgrade their technology, predicted search industry analyst Greg Sterling of the Kelsey Group. "To play in this space, you are going to need some robust mapping capabilities."

Sterling said Google's satellite maps pose the biggest threat to Mapquest, a service owned by Time Warner Corp. that has long operated the most popular Web site for finding directions.

The satellite maps also up the ante for the many challengers chipping away at Google's share of the lucrative Internet search engine market by adding more bells and whistles. For instance, Amazon.com Inc.'s A9 search engine earlier this year introduced a feature that includes an index containing 20 million street-level photographs of building exteriors in 10 major U.S. cities."

Ask and ye shall receive

Last week's Core Weekly (Cap Newspapers Inc's faux alt weekly challenge to Isthmus) had a piece about this blogger, who writes about just the kind of thing we discussed in the last meeting -- race and class divisions in Madison. Core isn't online, but I'll bring the paper to class today if anybody wants to take a look.

What is driving network society?

I agree that we are now being towards network society. However, what is driving network society? Obviously, even in traditional societies, personal and social networks as a form of social capital functioned as important factors to contribute to solving personal matters and to driving social changes. Then, why does this contemporary society tend to go fast for network society? I think that this phenomenon relates to the increasing use of information and information flow. In this era of information society, social control and social change highly depend on information control. Therefore, I think that we need to think about network society with considering information society. Social network can be used for individual and community to serve self-purposive goal, but it very often can be employed by power elite to control society.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

I struggled, I'll admit it...

Reading this week's selections I was cruising along fine, loving Granovetter's discussion of the power of weak ties, and then I hit Emirbayer!

Although I understand his basic premise and the need for a merger of culture, social structure and agency, I'm still not sure I really grasp his underlying rationale. Although it appears network theorists need to constantly battles the gap between macro and micro sociological theory, i.e., Do we analyze the superstructure of society – the social groups and organizations – or examine the micro level of interconnectivity of individuals? Doesn't the answer to this debate depend on the research questions?

Maybe I'm simply missing the fact that Emirbayer suggests you can't look at one without consideration of the other, and I'm fine with that assertion. I guess my question is - Does Emirbayer propose that network theorists must frame all research questions to examine culture, structure, and agency or is it OK to examine one specifically with consideration of how the others might influence the phenomenon/social network you're examining?

I don't know if this makes any sense but I struggled with what he was proposing a bit.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

TV and community

Some see TV as a source to facilitate conversation. How much of a role does this have in community building? Spiogel discusses how people used to get together to watch TV, which to me, seems like a form of community building. This doesn't happen too much anymore, but I still think TV is a major source of interpersonal interaction for many people, although it probably has waned somewhat with the rise of the Internet.

Friday, April 01, 2005