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The Network Society

The Network Society

Fourth Edition

December 2020 | 384 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd

The Network Society is a clear, engaging guide to the past, consequences and future of digital communication, and forms a comprehensive introduction to how new media functions in contemporary society.

Integrating both face-to-face and online communication, the fourth edition explores crucial new issues and challenges in today’s digital media ecology, in doing so exploring the centrality of power to understanding life in the network society. Featuring:

  • The rise of the ‘data economy’
  • The increasing importance of artificial intelligence. big data and robotics
  • The growth of Internet platforms and how to regulate big tech.
  • New coverage of disinformation and fake news, including deep fake videos
  • Updates to the story of digital youth culture, as a foreshadow of future new media use

With examples, cases and real-world applications, this is the essential guide for digital and new media students seeking to understand a diverse, fast-moving field.

Chapter 1. Introduction
A New Infrastructure of Society

A Second Communication Revolution

Characteristics of the Digital Media

Communication Capacities of Digital Media

The Nature and Design of this Book

Chapter 2. Networks: the Nervous System of Society
What is a Network Society?

A Short History of the Human Web

Networks at All Levels

Causes of the Rise of Networks

The Seven ‘Laws’ of the Web

From Mass Society to Network Society

Chapter 3. Technology
The Relationship Between Technology and Society

Technical Foundations of the Network Society

Current Technical Trends

Chapter 4. Economy
The First, Second and Third Communications Revolution

Markets, Hierarchies and Networks

Main Characteristics of a Network and Data Economy

The Network Producers: From Infrastructure to Service Providers

The Rise of a Platform Economy

Consumers: the Pushers and the Pulled

Chapter 5. Social Structure
Space and Time in the Network Society

The Blurring Spheres of Living

Social Networks and Social Media

Unity and Fragmentation: A New Social Cohesion

The Instability of the Network Society

Networks and Social (In)equality

The Digital Divide

Chapter 6. Power and Politics
What is Network Power?

Technological Power

Societal Power: Politics and Democracy

Internet: Between Freedom and Control

Power in the Organization

Privacy and Personal Autonomy

Chapter 7. Culture
What is Digital Culture?

Characteristics of Digital Culture

The Quantity and Quality of Digital Media Content

Digital Youth Culture

Trends in Digital Media Use

Chapter 8. Psychology
Perception and the Digital Media

Cognition and the Digital Media

Learning with the Digital Media

The Social Psychology of Digital Media Communication

Changes in Human Personality?

Chapter 9. Law
The Law Undermined by Networks

Who Rules the Internet?

Information and Communication Freedom

Intellectual Property Rights

The Right to Privacy

Platform Regulation

Chapter 10. Conclusions and Policy Perspectives
General Conclusions

The Network Society in North America, Europe, East Asia and the Third World

Policy Perspectives for the Network Society


This 4th edition provides interdisciplinary insight into the growing significance of digital media in society. It comprehensively explains why the process of becoming a network society varies worldwide as a result of differing values and responses to the emergence of varied structures, processes and control systems.

Robin Mansell
Professor at The London School of Economics and Political Science

This fourth edition of Jan A.G.M. van Dijk’s classic book, The Network Society, clarifies and analyses a wide variety of crucial concepts and contemporary practices, with insight, clarity, analysis, and critique, as well as examples, boxed explanations, and conclusions for each chapter. Topics include social values, digital media capacities, multimedia, network theory, medium theory, network society, technological foundations, platform economy, space and time, social media, digital divide, network power, privacy, digital culture, social psychology of online communication, platform regulation, intellectual property rights, global and developing network societies, and policy perspectives. This is a necessary and accessible textbook for understanding the age of digital networks.

Ronald E. Rice
Arthur N. Rupe, Professor in the Social Effects of Mass Communication, University of California

The publication of the 4th edition of Professor Van Dijk’s The Network Society speaks volumes for its value across multiple disciplines. This new edition updates his refreshingly global perspective on the growing psychological, cultural, economic and other social issues shaping the future of policy and practice in our increasingly digital world.

William H. Dutton
Emeritus Professor, University of Southern California, and Oxford Martin Fellow, University of Oxford, where he was Professor and Founding Director of the Oxford Internet Institute

This is an excellent book, as a supplement to orthodox texts on network theory.

Dr Alexander Grech
Media and Knowledge Sciences, University of Malta
January 24, 2023

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