© Barry Wellman and Figure/Ground Communication Dr. Wellman was interviewed by Andrew Iliadis on October 30th, 2012 Professor Barry Wellman is based at the University of Toronto, he directs NetLab,...
How do you see the individual actor in contemporary society? Your theory of “networked individualism” implies something different from actors working within groups. Is it the information in the network that comprises the individual? Can you say something briefly about this concept?
Well we’re playing off against, mostly against groups. Groups are really tightly bounded and densely knit networks where everybody knows each other; the village or a work team would be the best examples of it. A lot of things that a lot of evidence points out are that people live in multiple communities. I remember when I did my first study in East York, which is in Toronto by the way, in 1968, we were surprised to find out how few people lived in the same neighborhood. We always thought of communities as neighborhoods. Now we’re studying work groups and we’re finding the same thing. Scholars especially move around from team to team. So, yes, that’s an issue, and networked individualism says, look, there are individuals, they are centers of their own personal networks, and then they move around between team and team. And we can’t analyze them as motley type super-individuals because people are constrained, they’re connected. We couldn’t solve the New York City Hurricane Sandy flood situation by giving everybody a little shovel. We have to have something that is comprised of small little building block groups.
Another concept – “Glocalization” – is becoming widely used and this is in part due to your own research on the subject. What is glocalization, and how is it different from the older model of globalization?
Glocalization is an multiple invented term. Keith Hampton, who was once my student and is now a faculty member at Rutgers, and I jointly invented the term. But we found that four or five other people did too. It’s a neologism certainly in which we put together global and local, and what we kept finding is people use social media such as the internet to be wildly connected, but at the same time the local situations turn out to be very important, both online and of course in real life because as computer scientists keep forgetting, they have bodies, so glocalization in our sense means interaction that is both global and local and of course everything in-between happening more or less simultaneously. But for many people the local is more important because almost always the people they speak to on the internet, or whatever form of it, are the same people they see in their physical interaction as well. There is no separation between the two.