The rise of “connexionism” through online-offline integration

When checking in for a flight recently I was offered the opportunity to “Discover who’s on board”. By connecting my Facebook, Linkedin or Google+ account I could see who else had done the same. So, this makes it possible (in KLM’s words) to “…see who sits where [and] choose or change your seat”.



This opens up the possibility for strange surveillance or stalking potential. The presence of more business oriented networks (Linkedin and Google+ along with the dominant social network, Facebook) rather than leisure and youth focused ones such as snapchat and instagram seems to be indicative of a more corporate mentality. But is also indicative of the rise of what Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiappelo call “connexionism” outside of the strictly corporate arena.

Boltanski and Chiappello identify the connexionist ideal in 1990s management culture with these characteristics:


<Natural relations between beings>




Adjusting to others,


In a connexonist world, a natural preoccupation of human beings is the desire to connect with others, to make contact, to make connections, so as not to remain isolated. To succeed they must trust and be trusted, know how to communicate, discuss openly, and also be capable of adjusting to other people and situations depending on what the latter demand of them, without being held back by timidity, rigidity or mistrust. This is the price of co-ordinating themselves in mechanisms and projects.


Engaged, Engaging,


<Condition of great man>

Enthusiastic, Involved,

Flexible, Adaptable,

Versatile, Having potential,

Employable, Autonomous,

Not prescriptive, Knows how to engage others,

In touch, Tolerant,



(Boltanski and Chiappelo, 2005: 111-112)


Many of the traits and qualities they identified seem to be central to social networking sites particularly those related to the avoidance of “isolation” and the desire to “connect”. But many of the fears which the management literature was  trying to encourage people to overcome are the same as those which the owners of social networking sites had to train out of people.

People had to be encouraged to trust other people enough to “friend” them and to overcome timidity in airing their views to strangers. “Enthusiasm” and a desire to be “involved” to be constantly “in touch” with others and “engaging” are central parts of the successful social media operator.

Social networking sites in general could be seen as manifestations of this connexionist mentality but their integration with real world scenarios such as catching a flight help to reconfigure another space in a connexionist fashion. An aeroplane seating plan becomes a reserve of potential connections who might enable further career (or other) progression.

Boltanski, L and Chiappelo, E. (2005) The New Spirit of Capitalism. London: Verso.

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