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The weakness of weak ties

March 29, 2009

I have just submitted an article for publication entitled  “The weakness of weak ties: personal media and social leadership in a Malaysian suburb”. Many thanks to those of you who’ve contributed to earlier versions of this text. As always, I look forward to your views. I have Google-docked the draft article here and what follows is the abstract (Update 19 April 2009 – see also scribd version): 

This article draws from fieldwork in a Malaysian suburb to investigate whether personal media (email, laptops, blogs, mobile phones, etc.) are making any significant difference to local leadership practices. I argue that residential politics does not provide fertile ground for the growth of ‘networked individualism’ – the claim that contemporary social relations are being reconfigured around individuals (Wellman, Castells). Instead of egocentrism, leaders’ personal media practices sustain a sociocentric field of residential politics around ‘community’ issues such as waste disposal and petty crime. Leaders exploit the affordances of personal media (portability, ubiquity, personalisation, etc.) to derive strength from their weak ties (Granovetter) and further their public careers. Yet when operating within the field of residential politics they must align their personal media practices with the field’s egalitarian doxa and communitarian media.

John Postill

View this document on Scribd
4 Comments leave one →
  1. Elisenda permalink
    April 4, 2009 11:42 pm

    Good point! these theories seem to forget the social and political dimension of networked individuals, and it’s strange, as far as the first Castells “networked society” included the political transformations that will bring networking communication technologies. It seems that Internet is “social” and democratic driven, while mobile phones are more “individualistic”. May be it has to do with the “imaginaries” and narratives attached to technologies.


  1. Social media and political activism « media/anthropology
  2. Personal media vs. communal media in Jenkins’ Convergence Culture « media/anthropology
  3. Three working assumptions about social media and activism, J. Postill « media/anthropology

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