secondary to the importance of `flows'.
It is the flows of information,
images and capital that increasingly shape society.
It combines the spread
of information technology with increased possibilities for personal mobility.
It both enables and is driven by the global economy. Globalization implies
a networked world: `Globalization promotes much more physical mobility
than ever before, but the key to its cultural impact is in the transformation
of localities themselves.'
One consequence is a comparative loss of local and national power. For
example, jobs can disappear from a community as a direct consequence
of decisions made on the other side of the world, in response to a
downturn in the global market. This does not mean that the `local' is no
longer important, but it does mean that it is subject to considerable change
and is less free to shape its own future.
The Internet is both an example of network society and a metaphor for
understanding it. From one perspective the Internet has no centre. There
is no one `place' where choices are controlled. Everywhere is linked to
everywhere else. Each person chooses his or her own route, with a search
engine as the only pilot. Networks of relationships are formed in chat
rooms around mutual interests. Friendships are maintained electronically.
But it would be untrue to say that the Internet has no centres of power.
There are powerful financial networks that have significant control, and
particular places (including London) that are physical hubs for the global
network. Economic interests and the divide between the technological
rich and the technological poor create their own forms of inclusion and
Networks have not replaced neighbourhoods, but they change them.
Community and a sense of community are often disconnected from locality
and geography. A typical town will have an array of networks. Each school
will have a network of the parents whose children attend it, as well as
networks of the children themselves. Each workplace will have its own
networks, according to who works with whom, and these networks may
spread to key suppliers or clients of the firm. Some of the networks may be
based around a locality, particularly among poorer people who are less
mobile. For example, the residents of a social housing scheme may still
have a network based on where they live, as well as reaching out to their
local relatives. The neighbouring private housing estate may have no such
local network, and a person moving there may find it hard to meet people
until they go to a group that is the heart of a network, such as a Baby and
Toddler group in the town. Another network in the town may revolve around
the nightclub, or the Working Men's Club. Of course, any one person may