A study of the impact of Internet use on American society, based on a series of nationally representative surveys conducted from 1995 to 2000.
Drawing on nationally representative telephone surveys conducted from 1995 to 2000, James Katz and Ronald Rice offer a rich and nuanced picture of Internet use in America. Using quantitative data, as well as case studies of Web sites, they explore the impact of the Internet on society from three perspectives: access to Internet technology (the digital divide), involvement with groups and communities through the Internet (social capital), and use of the Internet for social interaction and expression (identity). To provide a more comprehensive account of Internet use, the authors draw comparisons across media and include Internet nonusers and former users in their research.
The authors call their research the Syntopia Project to convey the Internet's role as one among a host of communication technologies as well as the synergy between people's online activities and their real-world lives. Their major finding is that Americans use the Internet as an extension and enhancement of their daily routines. Contrary to media sensationalism, the Internet is neither a utopia, liberating people to form a global egalitarian community, nor a dystopia-producing armies of disembodied, lonely individuals. Like any form of communication, it is as helpful or harmful as those who use it.
James E. Katz is Chair of the Department of Communication at Rutgers University and director of the Center for Mobile Communication Studies. He is the author of Magic in the Air: Mobile Communication and the Transformation of Social Life and coauthor of Social Consequences of Internet Use (MIT Press, 2002).
Ronald E. Rice is Professor and Chair of the Department of Communication in the School of Communication, Information, and Library Studies, Rutgers University.
Jim Katz and Ron Rice were doing Internet research way before it was cool and they have produced the kind of book that you'd expect from pioneers: It's brave and panoramic. It also has something for everyone: fresh research for data wonks, references to delightful and pathbreaking Web sites, and conclusions about the impact of the Internet that are fair-minded and far-reaching. Use of the Internet matters to more and more people and that's why this book matters a lot.
Lee Rainie, Director, Pew Internet and American Life Project
Shaping the Network Society documents and analyzes the emergence of civil society in cyberspace. Based on contributions by some of the best experts in the world, it is essential reading for students and practitioners of the new forms of democracy in the Information Age.
Manuel Castells, Wallis Annenberg Chair of Communication Technology and Society, University of Southern California