Current Projects

Project Leader: Eleni Stroulia – University of Alberta

Project Co-Leader: Anatoliy Gruzd – Dalhousie University

Study Leader: Barry Wellman – University of Toronto

Study Co-leader: Abby Goodrum – Wilfrid Laurier University

Supported By: GRAND, KNOW – Knowledge Networking for Organizational Work

GRAND’s performance depends on how well collaborative research is managed. A fundamental shift in innovation and knowledge transfer builds on informal professional ties between loosely connected academics, government, and industry.  Networked organizations are particularly suitable for scientific research, but collaboration is not easy.

Researchers in different disciplines have different training, publication channels, and scientific forums. Surveys and field studies to identifying disconnects and untapped opportunities will target communication and knowledge transfer interventions using a social network analysis perspective. The effect on social bonds of working across institutions, influence of bureaucratic institutional culture that discourages information sharing, and differences in procedures that impede shared understanding and common practice will be addressed.

Project Leader: Robert Biddle – Carleton University

Project Co-leader: Catherine Middleton – Ryerson University

Study Leader: Rhonda McEwen – University of Toronto

Study Co-leader: Barry Wellman – University of Toronto

Supported By: GRANDDINS – Digital Infrastructures, PROTECT – Policy, Practice and Technology for Protection of Privacy, Integrity and Access, SSHRC

Quality of life can be greatly enhanced when digital media build and sustain a “networked society”. Three challenges exist: Canadians must understand what infrastructure is needed and they must have access to it; they must have capacity for, and interest in, using digital media to engage each other and support economic activities; and they must understand the social implications (positive and negative) of living and working in a networked society.

Four distinct studies conducted by this project consider various ways in which digital infrastructures are developed, created and taken up by individuals and within organizations and communities for mobile and fixed access to content and services.

DINS will provide a better understanding of the continued evolution of Canada as a networked society and its relationship to the global network.

  • Connected Lives Project

The Connected Lives study investigates interrelationships of personal networks, household relations, community involvement and media use (Internet, phone, in-person). It is the third in the series of East York (Toronto) studies, but the first done in the age of the Internet. The evidence comes from a random-sample survey of 350 adults done in 2004 and full-evening interviews with a 25% subsample of them in 2005. We expect that at least four doctoral dissertations and many papers will come from this research.

Recent Projects

Connected Lives North Project

A project investigating the effects of a new broadband installation (mesh technology) in the northern Ontario town of Chapleau. Our two surveys show that many Chapleau residents who had not been using the Internet did not switch to using it after the introduction of mesh technology. However, when used, the Internet was incorporated into people’s lives in a process of “normalization”. Internet use supplemented both social interaction and social engagement: 1. Internet users engaged in more face-to-face contact than non-users. 2. Moderate users of the Internet were more likely to belong to a voluntary organization. This may be due to the Internet acting as a catalyst for engagement- a facilitating tool to enable a greater ease in scheduling face-to-face social interaction and engagement.

Pew & NetLab: The Strength of Internet Ties

This report confronts one of the great debates about the internet: What is it doing to the relationships and social capital that Americans have with friends, relatives, neighbours, and workmates? Those on one side of the debate extol the internet’s ability to expand relationships — socially and geographically. Those on the other side of the debate fear that the internet will alienate people from their richer, more authentic relations.

Once upon a time, the internet was seen as something special, available only to wizards and geeks. Now it has become part of everyday life. People routinely integrate it into the ways in which they communicate with each other, moving between phone, computer, and in-person encounters.Our evidence calls into question fears that social relationships — and community — are fading away in America. Instead of disappearing, people’s communities are transforming:The traditional human orientation to neighbourhood- and village-based groups is moving towards communities that are oriented around geographically dispersed social networks.

People communicate and maneuver in these networks rather than being bound up in one solidary community. Yet people’s networks continue to have substantial numbers of relatives and neighbours — the traditional bases of community — as well as friends and workmates.