The following is a  review of Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman’s new book Networked: The New Social Operating System (MIT Press).

Broad Summary
Rainie and Wellman, using scores of data, argue that we live in a networked operating system characterized by networked individualism. They describe the triple revolution (networked revolution, internet revolution, and mobile revolution) that got us here, and discuss the repercussions of this triple revolution within various arenas of social life (e.g. the family, relationships, work, information spread). They conclude with an empirically informed guess at the future of the new social operating system of networked individualism, indulging augmented fantasies and dystopic potentials. Importantly, much of the book is set up as a larger argument against technologically deterministic claims about the deleterious effects of new information communication technologies (ICTs).

This is part of a series of posts highlighting the Theorizing the Web conference, April 14th, 2012 at the University of Maryland (inside the D.C. beltway). See the conference website for information as well as event registration.

This panel consists of four presentations that exhibit a theoretically rich range of approaches to understanding theory of mobile technologies in contemporary contexts. Jason Farman’s “The Materiality of the Mobile Internet: An Object-Oriented Approach to Mobile Networks” uses the path of a single mobile phone signal to illustrate the importance of considering both human and non-humannodes in digital networks. Katy Pearce’s “Is your Web everyone’s Web? Theorizing the web through the lens of the device divide” considers the social implications of accessing the Internet via mobile vs. traditional interfaces. In doing so, she casts a much-needed theoretical spotlight on a notion many of us grasp intuitively: that the quality of one’s online experience depends critically on the device(s) used to get online. Along similar lines, David Banks’ “Finding it ‘Otherwise’: Culturally and Geographically Situating The Practice of Texting” takes a sociotechnical approach to mobile phoneuse in Ghana, discovering how residents use their phones to move about their world. In a laudable instance of research informing real-world practice, data from the project will inform the deployment of a regional condom distribution network. Finally, Jim Thatcher’s “MobileGeo-Spatial Devices: a theoretical approach to the GeoWeb” critically interrogates the mediation of geographical knowledge-gathering through mobile devices. Applying a critical Marxist understanding oftechnology, he develops a radical reading of ostensibly innocuous “apps” that may serve to reinforce offline inequalities.

[Paper titles and abstracts after the jump.] more...

Yesterday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved a new set of rules regarding how Internet service provides (ISPs) must treat the data they transfer to individual Internet users.  The rules have been pitched as a compromise between the interests of two industries: On the one hand, content providers like Google, Facebook, or Amazon tend to favor the concept of “net neutrality,” which holds that all types of data should be transferred at the same speed and, ostensibly, creates an even playing field where start-ups can compete with industry titans.  On the other hand, ISPs like Verizon and Comcast want to charge for a “fast lane” that would bring content to consumers more rapidly from some (paying) sites than from other (non-paying) sites.  (A more extreme possibility is that ISPs would completely block certain sites that do not pay a fee).

The crux of compromise is that the new net neutrality rules will only apply to wired connections, leaving mobile connections virtually unregulated. more...