Virtual Communities and Social Capital

Virtual Communities and Social Capital

Anita Blanchard (Claremont Graduate University, USA) and Tom Horan (Claremont Graduate University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-878289-86-5.ch001
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Abstract

Robert Putnam (1993) has developed a theory of social capital to explain the effect of decreasing community participation and civic engagement on declining institutional performance. Subsequently, there has been much speculation as to whether emerging virtual communities can counteract this trend. We apply the findings of computer-mediated communication and virtual communities to the networks, norms, and trust of social capital and also examine the possible effects of virtual communities on the privatization of leisure time. We conclude that social capital and civic engagement will increase when virtual communities develop around physically based communities and when these virtual communities foster additional communities of interest. Through a preliminary analysis, we identified potential communities of interest including education, exchange of general community information, and opportunities for government and political participation. We conclude with a discussion of current trends and research needs.

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