Personal Relationships, Intimacy and the Self in a Mediated and Global Digital Age

  • Lynn Jamieson


Few would disagree with Roger Silverstone that the near global exposure of almost all individuals to various forms of mass media content invisibly informs and constrains much social action and belief (Silverstone, 1994: 133). There is less agreement about the precise nature of the impact, particularly in the domain of personal life. The concern of this chapter is digitally mediated forms of communication and intimacy in personal relationships. My work in the 1990s sought to untangle contradictory claims about social change, selfhood and the quality of personal relationships, reconnecting theory with empirical evidence. The optimists in debate then, exemplified by Anthony Giddens, saw personal relationships as becoming more intense and democratically collaborative projects as people sought to anchor themselves through intimacy in rapidly changing worlds. For the pessimists, then exemplified by Zygmunt Bauman and Ulrich Beck, the same forces of rapid change were corrosive of personal relationships and rendered intimacy insipid, vapid and unworkably fragile. Exaggeratedly optimistic and pessimistic postures also haunt discussions of digital technologies and everyday personal lives, similarly implicating theories of selfhood and social change.


Mobile Phone Social Networking Site Digital Technology Personal Life Symbolic Interactionism 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Adkins, L. (2004) ‘Introduction: Feminism, Bourdieu and After,’ in L. Adkins and B. Skeggs (eds.) Feminism after Bourdieu, Cambridge: Blackwell: 3–18.Google Scholar
  2. Allan, G (1996) Kinship and Friendship in Modern Britain, Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Bauman, Z. (2003) Liquid Love. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  4. Beck, U. and Beck-Gernsheim, E. (2002) Individualization. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  5. Beer, D. and Burrows, R. (2007) ‘Sociology and, of and in Web 2.0: Some Initial Considerations.’ Sociological Research Online 12(5), (downloaded 11 November 2008).
  6. Berger, P. and Luckmann, T. (1967) The Social Construction of Reality. New York: Doubleday.Google Scholar
  7. Castells, M. (2003) The Internet Galaxy: Reflections on the Internet, Business and Society. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Delamont, S. (2003) Feminist Sociology. London: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. van Doorn, N., van Zoonen, L., and Wyatt, S. (2007) ‘Writing from Experience: Presentations of Gender Identity on Weblogs.’ European Journal of Women’s Studies 14(2): 143–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Frissen, V. (1995) ‘Gender is Calling: Some Reflections on Past, Present and Future Uses of the Telephone,’ in R. Gill and K. Grint (eds.) The Gender-Technology Relation: Contemporary Theory and Research. London: Taylor and Francis: 79–94.Google Scholar
  11. Giddens, A. (1991) Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  12. Green, E. (1998) ‘ “Women Doing Friendship”: An Analysis of Women’s Leisure as a Site of Identity Construction, Empowerment and Resistance.’ Leisure Studies 17: 171–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Green, E. (2001) ‘Technology, Leisure and Everyday Practices,’ in E. Green and A. Adam (eds.) Virtual Gender: Technology, Consumption and Identity. London: Routledge, pp. 173–188.Google Scholar
  14. Green, E. and Adam, A. (1998) ‘On-Line Leisure: Gender and ICTs in the home.’ Information, Communication and Society 1(3): 291–312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Green, E. and Adam, A. (1999) ‘Special Issue on Gender and ICTs.’ Information, Communication and Society 2(4): 399–583.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Green, E., Hebron, S., and Woodward, D. (1990,) Women’s Leisure, What Leisure? Hampshire: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  17. Green, E. and Singleton, C. (2007) ‘Mobile Selves: Gender, Ethnicity and Mobile Phones in the Everyday Lives of Young Pakistani Muslim Women and men.’ Information, Communication and Society 10(4): 506–526.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Green, E. and Singleton, C. (2009) ‘Mobile Connections: An Exploration of the Place of Mobile Phones in Friendship Relations.’ The Sociological Review 57(1): 125–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Haraway, D. (1985) ‘Manifesto for Cyborgs.’ The Socialist Review 80: 65–107.Google Scholar
  20. Harding, S. (2008) Sciences from Below: Feminisms, Postcolonialities, and Modernities. Durham: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Herring, S., Kouper, L, Scheidt, L.A., and Wright, E.L. (2004) ‘Women and Children Last: The Discursive Construction of Weblogs.’ Into the Blogosphere: Rhetoric, Community, and Culture of Weblogs, http://blog.lib.umn.edublogosphere/women_and_children.html (downloaded 2 July 2009).
  22. Kennedy, H. (2005) ‘Subjective Intersections in the Face of the Machine.’ European Journal of Women’s Studies 12(4): 471–487.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Jackson, S. (1999) ‘Feminist Sociology and Sociological Feminism: Recovering the Social in Feminist Thought.’ Sociological Research Online 4(3), (downloaded 11 November 2008).
  24. Larsen, J., Urry, J., and Axhausen, K. (2006) Mobilities, Networks, Geographies, Hampshire: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  25. Liff, S. and Shepherd, A. (2004), ‘An Evolving Gender Digital Divide?’ Oxford Internet Institute, Internet Issue Brief (2): July 2004, researchassociates.cfm?id= 46 (downloaded 2 July 2009).
  26. Ling, R. (2004) The Mobile Connection: The Cell Phone’s Impact on Society. San Francisco: Elsevier.Google Scholar
  27. Lohan, M. (2001) ‘Men, Masculinities and “Mundane” Technologies: The Domestic Telephone,’ in E. Green and A. Adam (eds.) Virtual Gender: Technology, Consumption and Identity. London: Routledge: 189–205.Google Scholar
  28. MacKenzie, D. and Wajcman, J. (Eds.) (1998) The Social Shaping of Technology (2nd Ed.), Buckingham: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Mills, C.W. (1970) The Sociological Imagination, Harmondsworth: Penguin.Google Scholar
  30. Morgan, D. (2005) ‘Revisiting “Communities in Britain” ,’ The Sociological Review 53(4): 641–657.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Moyal, A. (1992) ‘The Gendered Use of the Telephone: An Australian Case Study.’ Media, Culture and Society 14: 51–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Ofcom (2008) Communications Market Report: UK, August (downloaded 18 August 2011).
  33. Ofcom (2011) Communications Market Report: UK, 4 August 2011, FINAL.pdf (downloaded 18 August 2011).
  34. Office for National Statistics (2011) Internet Access Quarterly Update, 18 May 2011, pdf (downloaded 18 August 2011).
  35. Oudshoorn, N., Saetnan, A.R., and Lie, M. (2002) ‘On Gender and Things: Reflections on an Exhibition on Gendered Artifacts.’ Womens’ Studies International Forum 24(4): 471–483.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Plant, S. (1997) Zeros and Ones: Digital Women and the New Technoculture. London: Fourth Estate.Google Scholar
  37. Rakow, L.F. (1992) Gender on the Line: Women, the Telephone and Community Life. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press.Google Scholar
  38. Shade, L.R. (2002) Gender and Community in the Social Construction of the Internet. New York: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
  39. Silverstone, R. and Hirsch, E. (1992) ‘Information and Communication Technologies and the Moral Economy of the Household,’ in R. Silverstone and E. Hirsch (eds.) Consuming Technologies: Media and Information in Domestic Spaces. London: Routledge, pp. 15–31.Google Scholar
  40. Smart, C. (2008) Personal Life. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  41. Spencer, L. and Pahl, R. (2006) Rethinking Friendship: Hidden Solidarities Today, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Urry, J. (2007) Mobilities. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  43. Urry J. and Sheller, M. (eds.) (2006) Mobile Technologies of the City. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  44. Wajcman, J. (2004) Techno Feminism. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  45. Wajcman, J. (2007) ‘From Women and Technology to Gendered Technoscience.’ Information, Communication and Society 10(3): 287–298.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Wajcman, J., Bittman, M., and Brown, J. (2008) ‘Families without Borders: Mobile Phones, Connectedness and Work-Home Divisions.’ Sociology 42(4): 635–652.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Walby, S. (2007) ‘Complexity Theory, Systems Theory, and Multiple Intersecting Social Inequalities.’ Philosophy of the Social Sciences 37(4): 449–470.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Wyatt, S. (2008) ‘Feminism, Technology and the Information Society: Learning from the Past, Imagining the Future.’ Information, Communication and Society 11(1): 111–130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Lynn Jamieson 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lynn Jamieson

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations