Publication Details

Birtchnell, T. 2014, 'Networks', in A. Elliott (eds), Routledge Handbook of Social and Cultural Theory, Routledge, Abingdon. pp. 175-191.

Additional Publication Information

ISBN: 9780415696098


You are about to catch public transport. As you get on board you notice a couple of seats ahead of you an acquaintance touching their smartphone rapidly; in fact, they are texting you now. As your phone vibrates you realize there are networks of very many different types all around. There are the communications systems, which your phone is a part of, allowing you to keep in touch- even though you are physically co-present in this case- through the touch screen. These same communication systems allow instant contact to distant and near socialnetworks of families, friends and colleagues.

You wave your hand, realizing the acquaintance is saving a seat for you, which explains their seemingly pointless text. As you sit down and start to move another network surfaces in your mind. Around you is a sophisticated transport network with connections, timetables, stops, signs, online ticketing and passengers. Before alighting and debarking these passengers knot together in groups in order to travel, just like you. Sometimes this is taken for granted, as in the daily commute; other times it is stressful and seems to only hang by a thread, as on holidays.

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