Social Capital in Online Social Networks

In my postgraduate research Used to do a lot of focus on Social media Theory and Social Capital -- two academic theories through the social sciences field. I thought this was prior to a rise of online social network sites. I just revisited a few of the work I did, and I became enthusiastic about mapping the very idea of Social Capital to social networks because they exist today. As a way to to the next, the following is first a definition and explanation (pulled from my dissertation):

Closely relevant to social media theory would be the theory of 'social capital' which refers to the intrinsic importance of network structures. Generally, social capital "is made of resources embedded in social relations and social structure, which can be mobilized when an actor desired to raise the probability of success in a purposive action" (Lin, 2001b). Lin (2001a) indicates two important components concerning this definition:

    First, resources take root in social relations as opposed to in the individual. The properties from the network and an actor's position in this network tend to be important compared to actor himself.
    Second, access and employ of those resources are determined by an actress knowing their presence. Appears to be actor just isn't aware of ties or relationships between him and other actors, he cannot use the resources open to him. Social capital then seems not to ever exist, and will only receive existence for your actor once he becomes conscious of it. The ability to identify networks and key role-players in these networks will therefore be able to name social capital where the relevant actors might be completely unaware of them. The purpose of picking out the key actors in the network can therefore be likened to gauging the social capital of an network and finding value in networks where it was not previously observed.

Through the definition it can be inferred that social capital depends first with an actor's position from the network (could they be within the right place to access the time?), and 2nd this will depend on the nature with the resources inside network (are the resources worth accessing?).

It's very interesting to think about online social network sites within this context. The social capital (the additional value to be inside network) depends not only on the individual people for the reason that network, but very heavily en route these are connected. Connecting towards the "right" people turn out defining you and building your social capital, because other people will "judge" the volume of capital you've got based on your connections whilst your interactions basic connections. Within this context it is essential to find those "key actors" inside network that are going to raise your social capital essentially the most -- the most popular guy, your VP in the office, etc.

Now, in accordance with Adler and Kwon (2000), you will find 3 features about social capital:

    Social capital provides actors in the network with access to broader sources of information at lower costs.
    Social capital provides actors in the network with extended power and influence.
    Social capital facilitates solidarity between actors, as strong networks encourage compliance with rules and customs with the necessity for formal controls.

Again, it's interesting to overlay these concepts on internet sites online. Consider each therefore:

    Access to broader resources at lower costs. "Lower costs" on this context means less effort -- you are able to get access to the knowledge you want about your mates and never have to find them in a traditional sense with a call or lurking. On Facebook, by way of example, good news comes to you throughout the "Mini-Feed" application. Do you know what the people inside your network watch, eat, do, listen to, etc. This also social data is needless to say a very powerful marketing strategy. Social networks enable these records to spread a lot more easily (i.e. at "less expensive").
    Extended power and influence. Individuals with higher social capital not merely find the advantage of more (although not necessarily better) information, they also stand the opportunity to become "opinion leaders" that the majority of people rely on. This also seriously isn't necessarily the individual with more connections (I will look at this in the upcoming post where I am going to discuss Ronald Burt's theory of Structural Holes). This power and influence really can significantly help to create a web-based identity that becomes a sense pride -- think about the lonelygirl15 phenomenon, or influential blogs like TMZ along with the Drudge Report.
    Solidarity between actors (compliance with rules and customs without necessity for formal controls). It is really an interesting you to definitely look at. Despite the fact that there's a whole lot freedom to try and do and say what you want online, strong social networks appear to have their unique rules regarding what exactly is allowable and what is not. I'm sure to put instance of the "Groups" feature in Facebook, where folks who don't necessarily know the other person connect over shared interests. "Misbehaving" on Facebook or MySpace, by any means that may be defined for a particular network, provide kicked out from the circle -- friends will drop you, groups will take you off their member lists, etc. All of this serves to develop the strength of the network as well as members much more.

"What exactly?", you ask? Well, I believe that individuals do not enough attention to theory. I just now read this paragraph from my dissertation again:

Theory and rehearse is not separated. Virtually any practical decision a person makes each practical opinion a person holds has some theory behind it. Theory definitely makes the facts of social life comprehensible and places seemingly meaningless events in a general framework that allows us to ascertain expected outcomes, to describe, in order to interpret. Even fifty years ago Revzan (1951) commented that "analysis producing theory must not merely condone practice, but should seek rather to raise and direct such practice." Much earlier, Einstein (1938) observed that "science is not just an accumulation of laws, a catalogue of unrelated facts. It's a creation of the human beings mind, using its freely invented ideas and ideas. Physical theories make an effort to form a photo of reality and also to generate a hitting the ground with the wide an entire world of sense impressions. Thus the only justification for our mental structures is along with what way our theories form this kind of link."

The theories of social media and social capital can enhance our knowledge of what are the results in social networks, which can, successively, become strong businesses. Some questions these theories raise to me are, for instance, Just how can we point out who the opinion leaders have been in your web myspace and facebook, something that is not always apparent? Just how do we utilize rules and customs that social networks abide by in creating a more meaningful experience for users?

I'm sure it is a lot needed in looking beyond networks for the social capital which they produce. We have to know how social networks already manifest these concepts, and where there is certainly still the opportunity to begin using these theories to create better experiences for users.


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