Apparently, we use IM, Flickr, blogging and email to thicken existing social relations. Certainly this is my experience of family contact. Digitally networked environments layer onto phone and face2face contact in interesting ways – did you see the pictures on my photostream/ dad wrote about that on his blog/ see you online tonight at 8.00 etc. The same layering seems to happen in our blended professional lives, too. I’m interested in how our face2face conversations so regularly references our postings – a chance encounter with Dr Joolz (visiting Angie) exemplified this. Some of these ideas are spelt out in Benkler’s new book “The Wealth of Networks” (promoted here). Benkler also suggests that, irrespective of media, we favour the geographically proximate over the distal – which could shed some light on the rather inward-looking nature of some blogrings. But the book also claims that social software allows for new kinds of relationships – those in which we play a more limited role, but are typically “interest or practice-based” (affinity spaces). In this way the argument follows and builds upon Wellman’s ideas about networked individualism. So, Benkler argues that the individual has greater control and can “reorganize […] social relations in ways that fit them best.” I reckon this just about holds up, although sometimes I must say, I feel rather controlled - particularly by email.