Barry Wellman

Professor Barry Wellman studies networks: community, communication, computer, and social. His research examines virtual community, the virtual workplace, social support, community, kinship, friendship, and social network theory and methods. Based at the University of Toronto, he directs NetLab, is the S.D. Clark Professor at the Department of Sociology, is a member of the Cities Centre, and the Knowledge Media Design Institute, and is a cross-appointed member of the Faculty of Information. He is the co-author of Networked: The New Social Operating System (with Lee Rainie, Director of the Pew Internet and American Life Project) published by MIT Press in Spring 2012.

Prof. Wellman is a member of the Royal Society of Canada. He is the Chair-Emeritus of both the Community and Information Technologies section and the Community and Urban Sociology section of the American Sociological Association. He is a Fellow of IBM Toronto’s Centre for Advance Studies. He has worked with IBM’s Institute of Knowledge Management, Mitel Networks, Advanced Micro Devices’ Global Consumer Advisory Board, and Intel’s People and Practices research unit. He has been a keynoter at conferences ranging from computer science to theology, and a committee member of the Social Science Research Council’s (and Ford Foundation’s) Program on Information Technology, International Cooperation and Global Security. He is the (co-)author of more than 200 articles that have been co-authored with more than 80 scholars, and is the (co-)editor of three books.

Social Network Analysis: Prof. Wellman’s intellectual approach is social network analysis. He founded the professional society in the field: the International Network for Social Network Analysis. His co-edited Social Structures: A Network Approach has been named by the International Sociological Association as one of the “Books of the Century” (Cambridge University Press, 1988; updated ed., JAI Press, 1997; reprinted, Canadian Scholars Press International, 2003). Prof. Wellman has published articles about the theory, methods and substance of social network analysis. He created the terms “network city” in 1973, “network of networks” in 1983.

Research Focus:
Currently  Prof. Wellman and his NetLab team are studying: “networked individualism” and in 2000, with Keith Hampton, pioneered the use of “glocalization” in discussing computer mediated communication networks.

  • Networked Individuals Study: The fourth study of Toronto’s borough of East York. Investigating the interplay between social networks, community and Internet use using surveys, in-depth interviews, and ethnographic observations.
  • The paradigm shift from group-centered relations to networked individualism.
  • The NAVEL study of how a loosely-coupled networked scholarly organization discover, access and manage knowledge, on and offline.
  • Sociologically-informed design principles for ad hoc networking systems in which people work and find community with shifting sets of others.
  • The “glocalization” [globalization + localization] that comes with wired living via advanced connections to the Internet and other online services.
  • International comparisons of Internet use, with special emphasis on Japan, the United States and Canada.

Computer Networks as Social Networks: Much of Prof. Wellman’s work has analyzed computer networks as social networks. In the 1990s, Prof. Wellman worked with computer scientists and information scientists at the University of Toronto to design, development and evaluate the Cavecat/Telepresence system for computer supported cooperative work. This combination of personal video and collaborative computing enabled people to communicate, work and commune over large distances. The project entailed multidisciplinary cooperation between researchers in universities and the private sector. With Caroline Haythornthwaite, he edited a special issue of the American Behavioral Scientist The Internet in Everyday Life Nov, 2001), which was substantially revised and expanded into a book of the same name (Oxford: Blackwell, 2002). He is also preparing two books, Living Wired in a Networked World and Personal Communities: From Little Boxes to Networked Individualism.

Communities as Social Networks: Since the late 1960s, Prof. Wellman has developed the study of communities as social networks: demonstrating that communities are no longer limited to neighborhoods. He has been studying the ways in which people use these ties to gain resources, and the implications of these networks for large-scale social organization. His current research in this area focuses on multilevel analyses of support and reciprocity in personal community networks in an era of “networked individualism”. Prof. Wellman is now completing a long-term study of network-based personal communities in Toronto. In 1999, he published Networks in the Global Village (Westview Press), an edited volume of original analyses of personal communities around the world, each written by a resident of the country being discussed.He is a principal founder of a new sociology journal, City and Community, whose first issue appeared in 2002.

Interdisciplinary Links: Much of Prof. Wellman’s research has been collaborative and interdisciplinary, including work with archivists, communication scientists, computer scientists, educators, geographers, historians, information scientists, lawyers, librarians, psychiatrists, psychologists, statisticians, and theologians.

International Links: Prof. Wellman founded and headed the International Network for Social Network Analysis in 1976. He collaborated on a study of the Internet in Catalonia (with Manuel Castells and Isabel Diaz de Isla) and with Kakuko Miyata, Ken’ichi Ikeda and Jeffrey Boase in Japan.

Prof. Wellman’s work has been translated into Bulgarian, Catalan, Chinese, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese. He is a Fellow of the Centre for Public Administration and Policies, Institute of Social and Political Sciences, Technical University of Lisbon, and is a member of the International Scholarly Advisory Committee of the Institute for Empirical Social Science, Xi’an Jiaotong University, China. He has lectured and held workshops about social network analysis in Argentina, Bulgaria, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Israel, Japan, the Netherlands, Peru, Portugal, Spain, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, and the USA. His work has been linked to research and development at AMD, Bell Canada, IBM, Mitel Networks, and Nokia. He has keynoted in North and South America, Europe and Asia.

Editorial Posts: Prof. Wellman founded the informal social network analytic journal, Connections, in 1977 and edited/published it for twelve years. He was the principal founder of a new sociology journal, City and Community, whose first issue appeared in March 2002, and served as an Associate Editor through 2005. He has been the Book Essay co-editor of Social Networks, and is the North American editor of Information, Communication and Society. He serves on a number of other editorial boards.

He has published in a wide array of books and journals, including: American Behavioral Scientist, American Journal of Sociology, Annual Review of Sociology, Bulletin de Methode Sociologique, Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology, Communication Yearbook, Communications of the Association for Computing Machinery, Cultural Anthropology Methods Bulletin , History of the Family, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Journal of Computer Mediated Communication, Journal of the American Society for Information Science, Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, Journal of Interdisciplinary History, Marriage and Family Review, Roundel, Science, Social Networks, Sociological Methods and Research, Sociological Theory, Sociological Research Online.

Editorial Posts: Prof. Wellman founded the informal social network analytic journal, Connections, in 1977 and edited/published it for twelve years. He was a principal founder of a new sociology journal, City and Community, whose first issue appeared in March 2002, and he current serves as an Associate Editor. He is the Book Reviews editor of Social Networks, and the North American editor of Information, Communication and Society. He serves on a number of other editorial boards.

Teaching: Prof. Wellman teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in Urban Sociology, Community, Social Network Analysis, Information and Communication Technology and Society, and Research Methods. Prof. Wellman received the International Network for Personal Relationships’ Mentoring Award in 1998. He was the second place winner of the International Society for Personal Relationships’ Outstanding Teaching Award (1996). At the University of Toronto, the Department of Sociology has named its undergraduate research prize after him (the “Barry Wellman Prize”).