Networked communities and its significance

Definition and evidences

Networked communities can be defined as a context that generated by interpersonal ties. “a group of individuals who engage in a process of collective learning and have a common interest of activity” (cited in Hinton&Hjorth, 2013). People find their common interest, share opinions and make friends online. The power of internet moves people away from traditional geographical and time bounded social groups, such as neighborhoods (Wellman, 2003). Social network is not complex, according to the “Six degrees of separation” theory of Frigyes Karinthy, a chain of “a friend of a friend” statements can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps. And it is the foundation of Social Network Site, such as Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Douban. This net structure contributes to communications of users and sets up a internet connection. However, as Castells (2001) points out that these ties between people are not always strong. People getting together to discussion a topic of common interest may have a general understanding with each other, but without real meeting in life may contribute to weak ties.


Have you heard of The Long Tail theory which put forward by Chris Anderson? This theory argues that many small markets could be a large combination by subdividing and focusing. When the long tail combined with Internet, a new era of niche is coming and people’s individual inner worlds will be released gradually. In the past, we could find what we want through search engines; nowadays, everyone can produce information and let others find them. Therefore, in a sense, the long tail provides SNS with more supports. Individuals are bound to find those like-minded people because of the integration of same information. In other words, when you are looking for information, information is looking for you at the same time.


This era is changing in an incredible speed and the Internet has suffered several times reforms. SNSs in both overseas and domestic all have transformed to networked communities. For the interactions between users become increasing significant. But beyond that, constructing the meaning of “community” is equal important. Forming a “circle” and creating good user experience. Relying on the power of “circle” will improve the activeness of users and generate reactions to “circle”. It is the lasting development.


Hinton and Hjorth (2013) used opinions of Castells (2001), Wellman (2003), Hine (1998), Miller and Slater (2001) as references to describe this theory from the perspective of online and offline factors, Internet definition, relationships with networked society, networked individualism. The authors argues that although the networked community is connected closely to online, the other factor offline should not be neglected. As Wellman along with his colleague claimed that people communicate more depending on how strong their offline ties were. So the online experience can not be separated with offline relationships. Daniel Miller and Don Slater’s 2011 study took Trinidadians as a example and found the reason why Trinidadians participate in online activities. Being Trinidadians, this cultural identity contributes to this theory study. Wellman (2003) states that “networked individualism” has arisen in many modern societies, network was used by people to solve problems, make decisions and get support. It is not difficult to see that network has been widely used and own huge commercial potentials.


How does these concepts relevant to my project–painting Hero


When it comes to how connect this theory with my project. I think networked community plays a significant role in my project and its campaign. My project is Painting Hero, a company of film developing, it is also a cultural organization connecting with various of cultural media institutions  such as newspaper, cultural creativity industries and Lofter. Film developing is a relative niche industry especially in the digital era. Therefore the networked community becomes a essential entry point. We set up interest-based groups, choose specific tags like #film, #photography, #filmdeveloping, #35mm, #fujifilm, #kodakfilm to describe ourselves in order to attract specific people who like taking film photos. It is proved that adding tags made targeted audiences to find us easier. The main campaign we launched in Instagram called film postcards collection. When we chosen this platform we have considered that instagram is a large open community and focus on photo sharing. At the same day, we announced this activity in other different platforms in different forms. Putting up posters in the reception area in order to let every audience see this activity at the first time. I think it is a good combination of online and offline communication.


During the campaign, it is not difficult to find some professional photographers and amateur lovers’ traces. That is also an online behavior to show their hobby identity as Trinidadians’ cultural identity. They want to receive more “like” and comments, get more support to inspire themselves and be an outstanding phototaker. This phenomenon embodies “networked individualism”. In another classic activity — Darkroom experience, we find it it beneficial to strengthen the connection with audiences. “We announced activity online— audiences received this information– audience contacts with us– meet audiences on the day of events–interaction — activity end”. This process enhanced the weak ties between people by having a real meeting in life. Therefore, it is also the application of networked community in my project.

How might my work contribute to and develop on the theory?


As to answer the question of How might my work contribute to and develop on the theory. I consider that my project focus more on the interpersonal “ties”. Because the essence of the social network sites is to establish a good “interpersonal environment”. So I try to add more personalized contents to evoke a sense of belonging, set up interesting activities to improve the participation. Everyone in the community should be get involved and participate in the running process, manufacturing information, attracting information, and be the builders of the community. The results of my project is not bad I think. About 102 net friends responded the postcards program and uploaded their film photos mentioning PaintingHero to share their joy of film photography. The film photos I post in the instagram with the tag #paintinghero got 104 “likes” in the past three weeks.

Potential problems

There is no doubt that some potential problems also exist in networked community. For instance, contents in networked community is of varying quality, the purification of the networked environment is urgent. Cheat and crime result from the loose Internet censorship.


In conclusion, the most attractive aspect of this course is we have chance to access to some new useful websites and get to know some social theories. getting good theories foundations is beneficial to our further studies and practice. In the future, networked community would be more diversified. The censorship of Internet would be stricter in order to maintain healthy internet environment. With the development of mobile technology, mobile apps would be the most popular form for community communication, everyday and everywhere. Networked communities is pacing to a reality life.


List of references

Hinton, S. and Hjorth, L. (2013). Understanding Social Media. Sage Publications, London.


The definition of Networked community. Retrieved from



The definition of Six degrees of separation. Retrieved from



Andrea L. Kavanaugh, Debbie Denise Reese, John M. Carroll & Mary Beth Rosson.(2005).Weak Ties in Networked Communities, The information Society, 21:2, 119-131

Castells, M. (2000) The Rise of the Network society. Blackwell, Oxford.


Wellman, B. (1999) In Wellman, B.(ed.), Networks in the Global Village: Life in Contemporary Communities. Westview Press, Boulder, CO,pp.xi-xxiv.


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