“Networks matter because they are the underlying structure of our lives.” – Manual Castells, 2004
These are words from the man himself, the man of the moment or the man of this week anyway. As big as this statement reads, I tend to agree with it. The interesting issue for me on this however is if the benefits of this current state far outweigh the negatives. Now as a communication and media student, it would make sense that I’d be entirely excited about this continuing digital revolution, as let’s face it, a significant amount of jobs that I’m hoping will be at the end of this degree wouldn’t be existent without it.
The positives aspects that have resulted from our society’s newfound networking importance, as Castell put’s it that we now “live in a network society, not in an information society or knowledge society”, are far spread and no secret.
Socially, this rise of technological networking has given ease of communication, with it now being possible to contact someone on the other side of the world, in a matter of seconds, at no extra cost than the platform you’re using itself. It can have benefits financially as well, I know with small business, a sector that can commonly be struggling to make profits; it can save a great amount of costs for their business networking aspect. For example, I assist with my parents’ Camper-Trailer hire business by doing their social media and marketing for them. 10 years ago, this wouldn’t of been possible and all of their networking would of have to been outsourced, obviously resulting in an increased strain on business. In this day as Castell enforces that business wise “the successful ones are precisely those based on networks and flexible partnerships.” Further, this distributive global network expansion can even have environmental benefits too. Social media platforms such as Skype can allow for business’ to liaise via the medium of the internet, therefore saving not only costs but also the effect on the environment from flights and use of cars.
So these are all those great benefits we now have, that constantly get spoken about. However the aspects that I don’t think get enough attention, at least not in my age demographic, is the potential damage this change could be doing. This ranges from the simple things – does anyone remember the excitement of when you were young, and you received an actual postcard from a family member on holidays? There is just something about that traditional form of communication that won’t have anywhere near the amount impact on me as an update on a travel blog. How about the next generation and our kids, how are their actual social skills going to be, regardless of how skilled at social media they may be? Whether it be distributed, decentralized or centralized, it is constantly demonstrated to us how great this rise of networking can be, I just think we need to be more wary of the negative impact this can be having on society too.