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This is a short response I was required to write during my academic writing assessment as part of my master’s program application last month. I am happy to report that I received a perfect score on it and am sharing this accomplishment with my readership, not only in response to my surge of pride, but also to offer other aspiring academic writers a guide of sorts on how to analyze and synthesize sources in order to support a thesis. Please note that because only one page of Manuel Castells’s article was required for inclusion in my essay, no in-text citations were necessary, although I did include a bibliography at the end for proper form and for those who are curious to read his piece.
In his article, Materials for an Exploratory Theory of the Network Society, Manuel Castells argues that most of our societies today are facilitated by networks. Having previously worked in the labour sphere as a brand journalist, I can confirm that the relevance of his theory prevails almost 19 years after its publication. In this essay, I will explain how Castells's "network society" is reflected in communication efforts for union members through the union's goals for information sharing among the membership and how the communications department operates conjointly to complete projects tailored to member advocacy.
As an entity specializing in health care, the union I worked for touts leadership, education, and solidarity. This particular brand narrative offers it a unique competitive verve in relation to other leading unions in the province due to its in-depth understanding of labour relations as they affect the health care industry and its dedication to developing proactive member leaders in the workplace through its extensive leadership academy opportunities.
It is analogous to Castells's belief that production and competition can be measured by the generation of knowledge and management of information because the effectiveness of union campaigns in their representation of workers' issues can determine the extent of a member's involvement with their union—thus potentially inspiring new ideas for communication materials—and the likelihood of the union winning the vote among non-unionized workers over other unions.
To ensure consistency in member servicing, the communications department must work together with other departments and corroborate the necessary knowledge base and resources for projects. For example, the public affairs and policy department might request an educational brochure that explains to government officials why developmental service workers (DSWs) require Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) coverage in light of the government's new bill compromising legislation that would have otherwise guaranteed this coverage for DSWs.
Through collaborative interviews and research with public affairs, the communications team would create copy that highlights a DSW's significant role in supporting developmentally delayed patients and how health and safety issues at work can affect the quality of patient care if not insured, as well as a design that strengthens brand recognition. Public affairs would then contribute to the project's approval process. This system is in line with Castells's notion about the network enterprise whereby a large company (the union) is decentralized to form individual networks (the union's departments) that address business affairs requiring their special expertise (the DSW brochure) and connect with others on different projects respectively upon completion.
The point of contention regarding Castells's network society is that modern professional environments—in this case, the union—indeed use a structure that allows for streamlined information development in fields, such as communication, intended to accomplish business goals (to empower members and maintain the union's competitive position in the labour movement). As evidenced by nearly two decades of cultivation, it is crucial for this new economy to continue embracing and adapting to innovative technologies, strategies, and challenges that will affect networking in the professional world.
Castells, M. (2000) “Materials for an Exploratory Theory of the Network Society” British Journal of Sociology, Volume 51, Tavistock Publications