Why Networks Matter

We are all caught up in multiple networks, even if we don’t know that’s where we are. Social networks connect us through who we know, and what we do with those people, a pattern of connection lain over life linking us through friends and family. Online, we are freed by constraints such as distance, and social and cultural boundaries, expanding our social connections on a global scale (Castells 2004). Facebook’s OpenGraph, which powers its social search engine and allows app developers to understand social trends and locate target audiences, reflects real life connections. Indeed, Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg has called the social network the ‘Web’s ‘social connective tissue’, where actions we make online, and ‘places’ and sites we find interesting are bounced back across the ‘network’ of the web and shown to our social connections on Facebook, who are not only friends but also acquaintances and connections, sharing our passions and experiences (Morrissey 2010).

Castells talks about the power of networks to push past traditional jurisdictions and challenge global boundaries (2004). We have seen this phenomenon play out in many different arenas in recent years, demonstrating the need for institutions, governments and even ways of thinking to change. Supranational cooperation between non-governmental organisations, international institutions, various states, and local and regional government via networks both physical and digital have shown the power of the network in cultivating change.

This kind of change stems from civil society using online networks to stimulate discussion and prompt activism.  Networks are creating new public spheres for discussion and pushing traditional boundaries to interaction; they form and reconfigure based on current issues, events and changing cultures (Castells 2004), finding common ground and room for understanding. This is shown in the current use of networking platforms, and the steadily building networks of organisations and individuals. These networks have become central to debate surrounding Australian politics. Political parties and election candidates will use social networking platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and even Instagram to debate with voters and activists about the myriad of issues which are being addressed in the election on 7 September. Already, Australian Prime Minister and Labor Candidate Kevin Rudd has over 52 000 followers on Instagram, and over 1 300 000 followers on Twitter, where the average Australian voter can directly message him to express opinions and ask questions.

New networks of people and organisations will continue to form, in groups and inside institutions and organisations, physically and digitally, based on opinion, electorate and common understandings. Time will tell us how much further technology, the internet of things, and new forms of social interaction will take networking structures and the possibilities of the network.


Castells, M. 2004, ‘Afterword: why networks matter’ in Network Logic: Who governs in an interconnected world, pp. 221-224,

Morrissey, B 2010 ‘Into the open graph: Facebook’s bid for ubiquity just might work’, ADWEEK, 26 April, accessed 04/08/013, Academic OneFile


2 thoughts on “Why Networks Matter

  1. meggeer says:

    It is an interesting point you make about the political power that the Internet can have like Kevin Rudd having over 52 000 followers on Instagram, and over 1 300 000 followers on Twitter. It is like the 2008 American election where it is believed that Obama won because of his online presence. It will be interesting to see where our networked society will take politics in the future.


  2. paulieecic92 says:

    Another interesting point you make, and as Castells refers to is the affects of digital networks on human interaction.

    In the past the physical networks humans relied on were most likely the most significant of their lives. Do we now think that there is room for these digital networks to assume the role of our once physical ones? Maybe not in the next 50-100 years, but is there a place in the future for physical networks, or will, like many facets of human life, physical networks evolve with the wave of technology?


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