Social capital and the networked public sphere


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Social capital and the networked public sphere

  1. 1. Social Capital and theNetworked Public Sphere: Implications for Political Social Media sites Marius Rohde Johannessen Department of Information Systems University of Agder, Norway
  2. 2. Outline • The networked public sphere • Social capital • Findings from example case • Summary 2
  3. 3. The short version • Working public spheres can be a positive contribution to democracy • Social capital can contribute to explain why some are more likely to participate than others • Participation increases social capital • …therein lies the paradox… 3
  4. 4. Why is this interesting? • Needto conceptualise the Public Sphere in a modern context of networks, Internet and social media • Needto explore and understand how we can get more people to contribute in democratic debates • Avoid elitist democracy 4
  5. 5. Background and motivation• Publicsphere often used, seldom explained in eParticipation studies• Need for further exploration • What is a public? • When does a forum become a public sphere? • How is a public sphere created and maintained? • Are there different types of public spheres? • If so, what are the consequences for democracy? • How can we explain who participates? 5
  6. 6. The Public Sphere - definition • Habermas: “that domain of our social life in which such a thing as public opinion can be formed” • A mediating layer between government and citizen • Circular: Receives and provides information • Autonomous from state and economic power – for citizens by citizens • Disappeared with mass media? Photo: Wikimedia commons 6
  7. 7. The Networked Public Sphere 7
  8. 8. Analysing the Public Sphere• Dahlberg’s criteria • Autonomy from state and economic power • Rational-critical discourse: no dogmas • Self-reflective and critical participants • Understand the others’ perspective • Make all information known • Everyone equally entitled to participate• Network society • Points out the importance of connecting different spheres to disseminate ideas and arguments • Allows us to visualise connections between mulitple networks, actors etc 8
  9. 9. Analysing the Public Sphere (2) • Gemeinschaft community • ’’Organic’’ communities, constructed by the participants • Based on common interests, views • Reciprocal ties. Participants help each other out • With networked media everyone can “hide” in their own small enclaves • The challenge is to connect them and engage them in social debate • Weak or strong Public Sphere? • Strong: Enlightened individuals, constructing shared meaning through membership in the “cosmopolitan society” • Weak: Freedom of the press, the public’s right to access information and act as a check on government 9
  10. 10. Social Capital • The glue that binds society together: • Trust & reciprocity • Individual, institutional. Giving something back • Bridging social capital • Connection between groups • Bonding social capital • Connections within a group – community formation • Maintained social capital • Keep connections also when physically apart 10
  11. 11. Bridging and bonding social capitalA core of active members Bridges betweenbonds the community different communities Weak bonding. Few people in the community actually interacting with each other 11
  12. 12. Example case• MyLabour: a Norwegian political party’s online community• Objectives: inform, facilitate debate, information sharing• Zones for local groups• Structure similar to blogs• To what degree is this a public sphere? 12
  13. 13. Case findingsTheory Concept Case observationsPublic sphere Dahlberg’s criteria Partially present: autonomous discussions, inclusive debates, some reflection and some rational-critical discourse Network society Ties between internal core actors and between different zones contribute to maintain a networked community Gemeinschaft Metacommunication and tone between participants community contribute to Gemeinschaft Weak/strong Has aspects of strong public sphere, but not all of themSocial Capital Bridging A total of ten people contribute in more than one zone, acting as bridges. Bonding Each zone has a core community that contributes regularly, and who seem to know each other Trust & reciprocity Plays a big role. Trusting relations and reciprocal actions contribute to participants’ staying. Lack of reciprocity makes participants leave. Maintained social A fair proportion of the participants only meet online, but capital still address each other as if they have a “real” relationship 13
  14. 14. Summary Public Public Public Sphere(s) Sphere(s) Sphere(s) Contributes Participates “Controls” Social media Representative Physical spaces Democracy/ Society Traditional media government Social capital 14
  15. 15. Thank you for listening! 15