Computer technology, large-scale social integration, and the local community

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Computers and new communications technologies are widely expected to contribute to “decentralization” of society. While they may contribute to population deconcentration, however, they offer major increases in capacity for centralized control and coordination of social action. Computerization facilitates further development of large-scale bureaucratic organizations and, thus, at least potential economic and political centralization. The existence of such large-scale forms of social integration is not incompatible with face-to-face community life, as some dystopian visions have presumed. The issue is one of balance between indirect (organizationally and technologically mediated) relationships and direct primary and secondary ones. Renewed attention to variations in pattern and extent of social integration is needed as a complement to attempts to describe demographic and economic-functional changes in urban life. This calls for a conceptual framework that elucidates the roles of both direct and indirect relationships, and does not presuppose the exclusive virtue or eventual complete predominance of either. Such a framework is outlined briefly here and illustrated through discussion of possible social consequences of widespread telecommuting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)329-349
Number of pages21
JournalUrban Affairs Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1986
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Urban Studies


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