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They have done so by focusing on activities that provide the most added value and outsourced or offshored the manufacturing of the products they design. Their core activities include research and development, finance, marketing, retail and distribution. Many of them own globally recognized brand names and are actively involved in the development of new products.

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The net worth of a platform corporation is thus more a function of their brand names and capacity at innovation than from tangible assets like factories , outside those heavily involved in mass retailing where commercial real estate assets can be very significant. Low margin work is usually outsourced, leading to a very flexible supplier base. This is reminiscent of the cottage production system that took place in the early phases of the industrial revolution where many labor intensive activities especially in garments where sub-contracted to households looking for additional income.

Platform corporations particularly thrive in the context described below:. It can be argued that Wal-Mart is essentially an information network, using its knowledge and distribution facilities to link thousands of suppliers together in a profitable collaboration. It is worth mentioning that this type of production structure is mainly applicable to activities that have a strong consumer retailing component which is subject to constant fluctuations in the demand. The centrality of specific services is often discussed, but less often investigated as experienced by the users.

Hence, as a first lesson learned, our participants noticed what kinds of services have a specific centrality in their everyday lives. Which is probably not overly surprising, but their reflections about it are: They extensively discuss that they have not been aware of much of their regular media use and online activity, even though they are central to highly important parts of their lives.

In general news consumption, information searches or even active engagements in an online-discursive sphere were rarely among the most common and most missed practices. Although they felt partly too little informed during the off-line week, a newspaper would not do it. These included far too much information: the universality of newspapers was no sufficient substitute for the highly customized news-stream they are used to. Maria was not the only participant to test physical newspapers as a substitution for the online news consumption. Again the forced disruption made visible how expectations and practices concerning news consumption have changed and how regardless of fully reflected shortcomings of the filter bubbled encounters with information, the embeddedness of news in the daily online stream of communication is the preferred reception mode.

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The participants frequently documented that they themselves were surprised or even irritated by the frequency of them going online without a real aim or necessary purpose. In line with that some of the participants noticed that certain online activities they had previously considered to be inevitable were not that important after all, e. In that sense, the data from the diaries revealed and made visible again, how dependent on the Internet specific working routines, collaborations and information provision have become.

Absence was experienced as a clear breach of the normality that the participants were used to and — more importantly also a step out of the routines that they were expected to comply with. Checking online and being available for online working groups and coordination was expected by their co-workers, fellow students and the faculty likewise and each group who would often react undiscerning, when confronted with the non-use of the internet.

Disconnection :: Project Winter General Discussions

The exercise of forced disconnection has provided valuable clues for understanding how central and normal the use of online communication devices has become for several fields of work and private life and how this affects personal routines beyond the conscious reflection alas the consideration of alternative strategies.

From this re-opening of the eyes for specific communication we can also discern situations and fields in which non-users of online communication are likely to be indirectly affected by the consequences of media life. Lonely without the cloud — The experience of disruption as exclusion. The experience of disconnection was severe and intense to some of the participants as they felt disconnected from a very integral part of their lives. The week off-line became a major disruption in terms of personal and professional relationships.

Accordingly not all of the participants were able to make it through the whole week off-line without cheating and surrendering occasionally, which becomes very clear from some diary entries:. Contrary to the situations in which participants learned that some of the activities they thought they could not do without were in fact expandable, others felt rather minor online activities being so necessary that they broke the absence temporarily.

While Hanna suffered and temporarily returned to all her communication activities, others explained how they only could make it through the week because they knew that it was for one week only and that they would be free to return back online soon. Back online it was a common practice to try to catch up with what was missed, e. The increase of silence however was only by some participants experienced as a liberating moment, while the majority quite contrary saw it as pressing isolation and solitude.

While some experienced the off-line period as some sort of relief, participants also tried to develop compensatory modes and strategies of communication.

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Hence, we noticed which forms of participation and what purposes, they considered most important or felt they could not easily do without. Participation in online communication was utmost important for coordination and organization of everyday practices, to keep in touch with personal networks, friends and families as well as for entertainment purposes.


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During the period of abstention the organization of everyday and personal relations was experienced as the most crucial area of sacrifice. Activities that were planned and organized online by others were literally missed, birthdays and other important dates were forgotten and went by unnoticed.

What made this experience so severe was that while the participants were aware that they missed information, they themselves were allegedly, as perceived from the abstainers perspective not so much missed by their online contacts. The participants felt that as soon as they were expelled from the daily stream of communication they were excluded from their main environment of social interaction. Pushing this impression further, some experienced that their absence was apparently not really noticed by their contacts.

Others however saw their absence noticed having to justify their ignorance of not replying to messages for example. Yet it was only a minor part of their networks and contacts that actively tried contact to them during the disconnection period, and very few were willing to use alternative means of communication for this end.

Even if our participants sent text messages instead of using the Facebook messenger, Whatsapp or made more phone calls, their friends and contacts would not adopt these alternative routes in return. Other participants shared the impression of being distanced from their friends during the off-line week, and interestingly this was again an argument provided by students who were reluctant to participate in the study in the first place: they feared that while they abstain from the online stream, hardly anyone would care to take the extra effort of including them using other means of communication.

The data from the disruption diaries show that being off-line caused an increase of costs, financial as well as in time expenses — this corresponds exactly with the reasons mentioned by those who refused to participate in the experiment to explain their abstention from the absence: They feared that using alternative means of communication would raise costs and would require more effort to stay in touch both for them and their contacts.

Something they certainly feared was that their networks would not be willing to accept these changes. A fear well substantiated by the experiences documented in the diaries:. The unwillingness of others to switch from online to off-line means of communication was not only experienced in personal relationships, but also in interactions with strangers, such as service staff.

The initial example of Anja, who tried to get information about the available stock of laptops in a major store shows that many activities nowadays are by default considered to happen online before face-to-face interaction actually takes place. Many everyday practices, professional or private, were meant to take place or to be organized online and the direct surroundings shop assistants, colleagues, and friends of our participants were irritated as they were not available online and some institutions had no not anymore?

This resulted again in experiences of exclusion. While some of the participants embraced the relief and silence brought by the off-line period or surrendered to the isolation felt, some participants tried to develop at least partially compensatory modes and strategies of communication. The disconnection and disruption was, as discussed above, mostly felt in the management of interpersonal relations. It was a common strategy of the participants to compensate the loss of connectivity by trying to enable their partners, flat mates, family or friends as proxies — this is to let them do Google searches, check Facebook timelines or e-mail messages, in some cases even post on their behalf.

To resort to the aid of personal proxies is a well-established strategy by off-liners to partly gain rewards from the Internet anyway Crump and McIlroy, The forced disruption experiment showed the continuous importance of place when it comes to media usage.

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Several participants reflected about their changing media diet and communicational patterns depending on where they are. Mareike, for example, wrote. Patricia considers not only the place, but also the time component, when it comes to her media usage, which changes completely if she compares week days and weekends.

Another aspect is connectivity over distance that is of major importance for Maria. She left Spain to study in Germany and ever since Facebook has become a major site for engaging with her friends, but also family. The network effect saves her a lot of time, since she can keep up with everybody at the same time, on the same platform and in the same way.

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Everything else is just less effective and more time consuming. Sandra shared the experience that the extended weekend in conjuncture with our forced disruption experiment made it much easier for her to withstand from going online. Since she had her family and friends in close proximity, it was not necessary for her to keep with the information flow online.

This article aimed to show how connection and disconnection could be studied fruitfully together. The main aim was, hence, to argue for a combined analysis of connection and disconnection when it comes to the investigation of mediatized societies. Current research however overemphasizes connection rather than disconnection. If disconnection is considered, it is often researched in isolation from connection and in a negative deficit-frame that needs to be addressed by experts for resolving the problem, as for example in discussions of digital divide and knowledge gap. The article also aimed to show that connection and disconnection are dynamic processes that are constantly under re-negotiation.

Disconnection and connection change over time depending strongly on life circumstances and social contexts of media usage as Uwe Hasebrink and Hannah Domeyer , have shown in terms of media repertoires. Modes, rituals, habits and implications of use and likewise the absence of them, helps us to understand their significance. By making visible the role and normalization of specific media use in the everyday, we get valuable clues where to look for the peculiarities of non-users everyday. Use and non-use should then accordingly not be framed as normality or abnormality, but as integral yet different parts of media life.

Future research addressing media usage in its entirety should hence consider new forms of disconnection alongside connection. Furthermore, more research specifically addressing disconnection in media communication, standardized, interactive or virtual, is needed to develop a deeper understanding of how people navigate in mediatized societies in nowadays. Her current research is concerned with the relationship between crisis and social critique, investigating historical forms of media participation that emerged in the context of the current and previous economic crises.


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Christian Schwarzenegger Schwarzenegger is a research assistant at Augsburg University. His main research interests are mediatization and media change research, transnational communication, and the relationships of communication and spatiality. Most of his research applies historical perspectives. E-mail: christian [dot] schwarzenegger [at] phil [dot] uni-augsburg [dot] de. Adolf, Ortner, D. Pfurtscheller, M. Rizzoli and A. Wiesinger editors.