2008-11-01Teil eines Buches DOI: 10.18452/13615
‘Do you really talk about emotions on the phone..?.’
Content of Distance Communication as a Structuring Moment of the Modern World Society
Kultur-, Sozial- und Bildungswissenschaftliche Fakultät
Distance communication tools as a mean of spanning and sustaining personal networks, as well as network analysis and the metaphor of a network have long been a focus of transnational studies (Vertovec 2001). There have also been attempts to make these concepts and objects of study fruitful and interesting to the world society approach. Despite the fact that the two approaches emphasize different dimensions of the issue, they are not necessarily contradictory. If we define society as "the inclusion of all possible contacts" (Luhmann 1984: 33) the network perspective can be informative for the model of the modern world society (Stichweh 2006; Holzer 2005). Transnational studies investigate the exact forms and contents of social networks, which can tell the world society approach adherent about their local density and heterogeneity, connectivity and clustering and thus about the structure of world society (Stichweh 2003). Illustrative is the assumption that the modern world society is characterized by universal accessibility – in principle, anybody can be an addressee (and a source) of communication (Fuchs 1997). However, there can be many societal barriers to the possible scope of a social relationship – it is who the participants of social exchange are. From this perspective, distance communication tools – their form and availability – determine the exact form of social relationships yet their nonexistence does not question the existence of the modern world society (Holzer 2005: 320f). Distance communication tools make the social networks possible, insofar they allow the disembedding of communication from physical co-presence (Lübbe 1996). Yet, social networks do not emerge in a vacuum but they are predetermined by particular social specifications on which kind of communication and with which addressee is relevant. Therefore, neither the scope of social networks directly, nor the availability of distance communication tools, structure the world society. Rather, other factors, for example 'mental maps' of the social world and in particular, the way potential contacts are localized, determine the world society's structure. Watts (2003) identified geographical location and profession as two such key factors for selecting communication partners.
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