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Communication and «The Good Life»


Edited By Hua Wang

What is a «good life» and how can it be achieved? In this volume, communication scholars and media experts explore these fundamental questions about human existence and aspiration in terms of what a «good life» might look like in a contemporary, mediatized society. While in many ways a mediatized society brings us closer to some version of the «good life», it also leads us away from it. The affordances of new technologies seem to have shifted, for many, from an opportunity to an obligation. Rather than choosing when and where to be connected to these larger networks of information and acquaintances, we feel we must be permanently available, thus losing the luxury of controlling our time and attention.
This volume illuminates the complexity of our modern era, exploring how society can leverage exciting new opportunities whilst recognizing the complex challenges we face in a time of constant change. It helps us understand how we have come to this point and where we may be going so that we may study the opportunities and the dangers, the chances and the risks, that digital media pose in our quest for some version of «the good life».
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Chapter Nine: Modeling Communication in a Research Network: Implications for the Good Networked Life


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Modeling Communication in a Research Network

Implications for the Good Networked Life1


What happens when “the good life” becomes “the networked life”? For millennia, thinkers thought they knew what the good life was: nestled in a rural or urban village, holding a single stable job preferably in supportive communion with coworkers. Although celebrated in many ways in many centuries, perhaps Thornton Wilder’s 1938 Our Town epitomized it in the 20th century: life, love, work, family, and death all in a simple village. We note that this pastoral ideal was more a sardonic myth than reality for many peasants, servants, and laborers; nevertheless, the myth still dominated (Marx, 1964). But the “triple revolution” (Rainie & Wellman, 2012) has upset the reality of pastoral village life for many—and perhaps even the myth.

1. The social network revolution, starting at least as far back as the 1960s, has seen people change from being embedded in groups—family, community, and work—to involvement in multiple, partial networks.

2. The Internet revolution has created communication and information-gathering capacities that dwarf those of the past. Networked computers easily afford connectivity that leaps large distances at a single keystroke. These are personal computers: the individual—not the family, community or work group—has become the point of contact. It took the proliferation of the Internet to move...

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