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Anthills, cobwebs and Internet Studies

June 24, 2008

I was recently involved in a brief email exchange with some fellow internet researchers over my New Media & Society 2008 article “Localizing the internet beyond communities and networks”. I thought it might be helpful if I posted here an analogy that may help future readers unfamiliar with social theory get to the gist of my argument and avoid misunderstandings.

In a nutshell, in the article I am suggesting that Internet Studies seems overly preoccupied -almost obsessed –  with two social life forms, namely ‘communities’ and ‘networks’, and relatively uninterested in the countless other forms studied by social scientists down the decades, such as gangs, cohorts, clans, age-sets, action-sets, coalitions, clubs, etc, etc. I call this the community/network paradigm, and I think it is akin to the hypothetical case of biologists studying a rich ecosystem being fixated on, say, anthills and cobwebs at the expense of all other natural designs to be found there.

See also Postill (forthcoming) “Personal networks, social fields”

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