The Strength of Internet Ties -- new tools for creating social capital?
Posted by Howard at 01:58 PM
(Thank you, Lars!)
Some interesting and credible evidence just arrived to lend some actual data to the ancient armchair theorists debate about whether online media enable the creation of social capital or suck the life out of face to face communities. The Pew Internet and American Life Project just released a report on "The Strength of Internet Ties," (PDF) that "highlights how email supplements, rather than replaces, the communication people have with others in their network." The researchers are well known experts in social network analysis of cybersocializing -- John Horrigan, Jeffrey Boase, Lee Rainey, and Barry Wellman.
Our evidence calls into question fears that social relationships — and community — are fading away in America. Instead of disappearing, people’s communities are transforming: The traditional human orientation to neighborhood- and village-based groups is moving towards communities that are oriented around geographically dispersed social networks. People communicate and maneuver in these networks rather than being bound up in one solidary community. Yet people’s networks continue to have substantial numbers of relatives and neighbors — the traditional bases of community — as well as friends and workmates.
The internet and email play an important role in maintaining these dispersed social networks. Rather than conflicting with people’s community ties, we find that the internet fits seamlessly with in-person and phone encounters. With the help of the internet, people are able to maintain active contact with sizable social networks, even though many of the people in those networks do not live nearby. Moreover, there is media multiplexity: The more that people see each other in person and talk on the phone, the more they use the internet. The connectedness that the internet and other media foster within social networks has real payoffs: People use the internet to seek out others in their networks of contacts when they need help.
Because individuals — rather than households — are separately connected, the internet and the cell phone have transformed communication from house-to-house to person-to-person.
Original Location: http://www.smartmobs.com/archive/2006/01/25/the_strength_of.html