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Publications - Abstracts:

Capitalizing on the Internet: Network Capital, Participatory Capital, and a Sense of Community


How does the Internet affect social capital in terms of social contact, civic engagement, and a sense of community? Does online involvement increase, decrease, or supplement the ways in which people engage? Our evidence comes from a 1998 survey of North American visitors to the National Geographic Society website, one of the first large-scale web surveys of the general public. We find that online social contact supplements the frequency of face-to-face and telephone contact. Online activity also supplements participation in voluntary organizations and politics. Frequent email users have a greater sense of online community, although their overall sense of community is similar to that of infrequent email users. The evidence suggests that as the Internet is incorporated into the routine practices of everyday life, social capital is becoming augmented and more geographically dispersed.

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