New Network Theory- Parallel Sessions- ‘Network and Social Life’

On: July 1, 2007
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About Michelle Lentz


Yukari SekoThe first speaker on this theme is Canadian Yukari Seko. She has done research on self destructive behaviour in connection with keeping a blog/being part of a blogging community. Seko argues that self destructive individuals act out their feelings online through murmuring. She has chosen the verb murmuring/mumbling in order to define the fine line between the protected spaces of these blogs (becoming part of these blog communities requires an intake) and at the same time the openness of these blogs, others are able to read/hear them.
What Seko found out was that most friendships these people had online, came through this self destructive interest, they understand each other and not necessarily try to evict these self destructive thoughts. They respected their thoughts as part of their identity. Seko claims that this results in personal growth, although the other way a round I think, is not unthinkable.

The next speaker is Kristoffer Gansing. He focusses his dissertation on the interaction between local, alternative media and new media through a series of collaborative case studies. In particular he has looked at the activist as community through the case study of the Danish Ungdomshuset. This building was demolished without much hassle. The activists however, did organize some sort of movement on youtube and TVTV (self-organized tv, tries to break traditional monopoly of production and the right to broadcast) where everybody can express his/her thoughts on what is going on. Gansing is mainly intrigued by what these new networks of technology and people have to offer and engage with new users. It is after all a performance.

Alice Verheij comes from managementsciences and has done research concerning the influence of informal networks on social care in the Internet age. Her specific area of study is transsexuals and the process they have to face before becoming the other sex physically (the interlinking of social, professional, medical, peer, legal and spiritual/religious networks). Verheij was mostly interested in peer group networks, how they strengthen their social position. Through the Internet and the online communities these people gathered particular knowledge that would have been impossible before the Internet age. This results in a trend of these patients finding alternatives outside The Netherlands and possible reputational damage for doctors. (patients sharing their experiences which may be quite negative towards a doctor, might result in this sort of damage)

What I found very interesting was Verheij’s argument that these doctors often have no idea that their patients make important decissions based on this peer group knowledge. Doctors have a limit view on the link between their medical network and these online peer groups. The question asked during the discussion was then how doctors change from the use the Internet, was this not an important area to do research in? Through my own limited experience in a small organization dealing with coordinating doctors, I agree with Verheij that doctors not only know very little of these Internet peer network groups, (or the Internet itself) they also do not really try to recognize the importance of the medium; (there are exceptions of course) they are the experts, why should they? Personally I think that when the oppostion between experts and ‘knowledgeable lay people’ is deconstructed, these doctors would become/have to be more open towards new imput from whatever area. But in order to do so, a revolution is needed..

sequential tartKimberly de Vries is quite linked to Gansing’s theme but on a totally different area. De Vries did research on three online blogging communities: Sequential Tart, (women against cartoonist unrealistic representation of women) Neil Gaiman (a cartoon writer before he became well known through his blog) and comic writer Warren Ellis (a harsh, bold cartoon blog). What De Vries tried to achieve by comparing these three blogs was that despite their different approach on the theme cartoon, they all blurr the line between creators of the blog and the readers. Their common passion is their medium which goes against the idea of the fragmented Internet. De Vries argues that these communities are not replaced by networks but rather replaced with shared passions.

This session concludes with Kenneth Werbin who concerns himself with human beings having to believe in the non-isolated parts of our isolated world. His lecture was rather theoretical and philosophical (how would it feel being a molecule in a closed circuit?) the bottomline is that we shouldn’t have ultimate faith in machines, because they won’t set us free. We have to filter the noise ourselves, we should not follow the machines but rather ask what we can get out of these tools.

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