“Why do I care?” When The Theoretical Meets The Practical
Anthony Elliot discusses various social theories in his book Contemporary Social Theory. When thinking about social theories one could ask the question”Why do I care?”. Elliott provides a simple answer “The present for us is always filtered through certain social-theoretical assumptions, precepts and ideas—however basic or elementary—of the social realities all around us. Thus we cannot choose to live non-theoretically: social life, its regulations, orderings and structurings, is quite as much theoretical as practical” (Elliott,11). Our “social life” is shaped by the world we live in and how we engage in that world is based on how we view it. Social theories provide us with a different way to see the world and gain understanding as to how our connection as human beings is socially constructed. By no means will we fully agree with any one school of thought; however, if we look at them as puzzle pieces in a complex puzzle then we can piece them together and see a more interconnected social picture.
One of the social theories that is posed in Elliot’s book is the Network theory. This theory is held by Dr. Manuel Castells, a sociologist and university professor. Castells work and research has been in the area of information society, networks, communication and globalization. In 1996 Castells wrote a three part series entitled The Rise of the Network Society. In volume one ,The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture, he explains how our society has changed as a result of the information age. He talks about how the Information Technology Revolution has paved the way for “networking logic” and its ability to transform the way in which we communicate and connect in the world. “Castells argues that communication, computers and information technology are at the centre of global production networks” (Elliott,274). “Networks”,in his theory, are made up of what he calls “nodes”. “Nodes are thus shorthand for the uprooting of human action and social relations from local contexts and cultures when organizations become interwoven with information and communication technologies” (Elliott, 276). Because of the innovation of information and communication technologies, these networks are able to spread throughout the world and there by allowing for decentralization of locations. “Networks” enable fluid processes and structures. For example, businesses no longer have to have linear relationships in there business processes like in the Industrial Revolution. The IT Revolution allows for real time connection and enables fluidity of time and space. Therefore, removing the rigidness of linear thinking about time and space creating what he refers to as a “timeless time and placeless space” (Elliot,275). The global financial market has transformed greatly since the industrial revolution. With technological advancement it has become a virtual market where multiple transactions can take place within a matter of seconds. Financial information is now instant and decisions can be made quickly on whether to buy or sell.
The Machines Are Taking Over The World 
It is true that from the use of hieroglyphics to mobile phones humans have quickly adapted to changes in technology and adopted new ways to communicate. Despite the connectivity of the world through these networks, Castells sees the global network as a possible societal threat as the financial system becomes more automated. “Global networks for him are now a medium of domination, and thus threaten to uproot the world from human control. ‘Humankind’s nightmare of seeing our machines taking control of our world,’ writes Castells (2000:56), ‘seems on the edge of becoming reality—not in the form of robots that eliminate jobs or government computers that police our lives, but as an electronically based system of financial transactions” (Elliott, 279).
Connecting The World 
Mortimer Adler wrote “Enlightenment is achieved only when, in addition to knowing what an author says, you know what he means and why he says it“. In light of that, I am aware that there are many critics of Castells theory. I am not going to rehash all of them but I will provide my reflections on the practical application of his theory. Although, Elliott says that Castells’ Network theory is criticized for being exaggerated, I can see how Castells Network theory would apply in developed and highly technical societies. These societies have the technology and resources(nodes) to create the networks and benefit from the decentralization. Where this theory falls apart is in countries or areas where information technology is not available or accessible. In this case while communication and “networks” do exist they are more linear and are not driven by technological infrastructures and mediums. Yes when he wrote this book back in 1996 who would have perceived how rapid the growth of technological advances would be 20 years later. The good news is that now these advances are helping to close that gap in third and fourth world countries. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, stated that in an “effort to connect the whole world …our goal with Internet.org is to make affordable access to basic internet services available to every person in the world” . As a result, Facebook’s Connectivity Lab is working to build drones to provide internet to places where it does not currently exist. Imagine a world fully connected all across the globe. The world we live in is constantly evolving because of technology and soon we will be connected to the world in a way we have never been before. Leaders like Mark and his Connectivity Lab team truly embody the very principle of Ingenuity that Chris Lowney wrote about'”Leaders make themselves and others comfortable in a changing world. They eagerly explore new ideas, approaches, and cultures rather than shrink defensively from what lurks around life’s next corner. Anchored by nonnegotiable principles and values, they cultivate the “indifference” that allows them to adapt confidently “.
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- Adler, Mortimer Jerome, and Van Doren Charles Lincoln. How to Read a Book. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014. Kindle. Location,262.
- Zuckerberg, Mark. Facebook (post), March 27, 2014. Accessed November 1, 2016. https://www.facebook.com/zuck/posts/10101322049893211.
- Chris Lowney, Heroic Leadership: Best Practices from a 450-year-old Company That Changed the World (Chicago: Loyola Press, 2003). Kindle. Location,242.