Social capital and online community


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Social capital and online community

  1. 1. Social Capital and Online Community Pete Jones & Sukhman Perhar
  2. 2. Outline ● Definition of Social Capital ● Pre-SNS research and theory ● Post-SNS research and theory ● ● Recent developments: Examples of social media increasing social capital Conclusion
  3. 3. Definition of Social Capital ● Wellman et al. (2001) – – ● Participatory capital – ● Network capital Community Commitment Builds on analysis by Putnam on the decline of social capital and civic involvement (1996). Two kinds of social interactions: bridging and bonding.
  4. 4. Definition of Social Capital ● ● Valenzuela et al. (2009) Social capital: “The resources available to people through their social interactions.” (p3) – ● e.g. social trust, civic engagement, life satisfaction, political participation. Uses Scheufele and Shah's framework (2000): – Intrapersonal – Interpersonal – Behavioural
  5. 5. Wellman et al.: pre-SNS analysis of online media and social capital ● Three theories of the internet's effect on social capital: – Utopian – Internet use increases social capital offline. – Dystopian – Internet use decreases social capital offline. – Supplementary – Internet use supplements social capital offline.
  6. 6. Does the internet increase/decrease social capital? ● ● ● ● Utopian The internet improves offline communication. ● ● The internet increases offline interaction. ● “Nonlocal community” can bridge gaps in geography. ● ● Dystopian Online interactions inferior to offline interactions. Online activity competes for time with other activities. Absorption. Alienation, loneliness, depression.
  7. 7. Absorption?
  8. 8. Research and Conclusions ● ● ● ● ● ● ● Looked at survey conducted using Nat Geo website visitors (1998). Network capital: Found that internet use neither replaces offline communication nor increases it. Participatory capital: Tracks and supplements offline patterns. Community commitment: Online community commitment decreases due to exposure to unfavourable behaviour. Offline community commitment no pattern. Argues that this tracks a general trend away from strong socially controlling communities towards individualisation, fragmentation. Limitations of data prevent strong inferences. Overall, they find that internet use is supplementary and doesn't have enough impact to support either utopian or dystopian views.
  9. 9. Valenzuela et al.: post-SNS analysis of social media & social capital ● ● Authors observe flaws in earlier research which fails to recognise the dynamic nature of internet use e.g. compared to TV. Looks at the effects of Facebook use on social capital through: – – ● Social trust – Life Satisfaction Civic engagement – Political Partication As Facebook facilitates both bridging and bonding, it can potentially increase all kinds of social capital.
  10. 10. Research and Findings ● ● Survey of college students from two diverse universities in Texas. When index of intensity of Facebook use was varied from the lowest value to the highest value, they found: – Life Satisfaction was ceteris paribus 14.5 percentage points higher for high use. – Social trust was 4.7 points higher. – Civic engagement increased 16.1 points for Facebook use and 9.5 points for Facebook Groups use. – Political participation increased ceteris paribus 27.4 points for Facebook Groups use. – Most variables, including demographic variables were insignificant.
  11. 11. Research and Findings
  12. 12. Valenzuela et al. Conclusions ● ● ● ● “The results show a stronger association of Facebook use with the intrapersonal and behavioral components of social capital than with the interpersonal dimension.” This doesn't mean that Facebook makes people more satisfied etc., it could be that it attracts these people. What the small increases do mean though is that theories of isolation and alienation are not valid. However, even this analysis is limited and somewhat outdated.
  13. 13. YouTubers ● ● ● The basic form of social capital, as defined by Valenzuela et al., is “It is the resources available to people through their social interactions”. YouTube stars are able to use New Media to garner massive followings on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Able to use their fan base to enact change/support a cause/raise money for charity.
  14. 14. Arab Spring ● “Utilised social media as an effective means to spread information and promote insurgent agendas.” (Lindsey, 2013) – ● ● Facebook events, real-time tweets about the events, YouTube videos showing the violence, Reddit feeds dedicated to the events. Powerful influencers came out of social media use → Wael Ghonim and the Egyptian Revolution (Oehmke, 2012) Social media became such a powerful tool for organising events that many nations shut down the internet.
  15. 15. Fandoms ● ● The creation of Fandoms, especially on Tumblr, is an example of community-building via social media. You can “follow” people with similar interests to you. – ● ● e.g. comic book art, Photoshop, TV shows. Television producers/writers know the power behind fandoms and carefully consider what they want when crafting episodes. Fandoms are seen as powerful and very connected communities.
  16. 16. Conclusions ● ● ● ● ● Existing research doesn't support the idea that social media use significantly affects social capital. Positions which maintain a view of distinct online/offline spheres fail to capture reality. Social media can certainly facilitate increased social capital (as shown in examples) despite what pessimists argue. Therefore we should look to promote these forms of use. This suggests a case for a positive attitude towards the relationship between social media and social capital.
  17. 17. References ‘23 People Who Didn’t Know the Titanic was Real’, Twisted Sifter, available at [accessed 26/11/13]. Lindsey, R.A. (2013), 'What the Arab Spring Tells Us About the Future of Social Media in Revolutionary Movements', Small Wars Journal, Available online at : [accessed 26/11/13]. Oehmke, P. (2012), 'The Unwilling Revolutionary: Egyptian Activist Wael Ghonim's Quest for Peace', Spiegel Online, available at [accessed 26/11/13] Valenzuela, S.; Park, N.; Kee, K.F. (2009), 'Is There Social Capital in a Social Network Site?: Facebook Use and College Students’ Life Satisfaction, Trust, and Participation', Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 875–901. Wellman, B.; Haase, A.Q.; Witte, J.; Hampton, K. (2001), 'Does the Internet increase, decrease, or supplement social capital?', The American Behavioral Scientist; 45, 3; ABI/INFORM Global, pg. 436.
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