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A Study of New Communication Technologies and Civic Engagement : A Time to Reconceptualize the Research Constructs?
Unformatted Document Text:  17 nature of political behavior on the Web. But, this is hardly a problem measurement only, because our political institutions are, with few exceptions, based on a sovereignty of nation-state, while the Net’s reach is inherently global. Furthermore, our political institutions were created during times when access to information was monopolized (or oligopolized) by governments, political parties, etc., and hence they may not be well suited for current needs of information-saturated societies. Thus, our investigation of the impact of new media on political participation is not only about media and related policies, but also about the future of a liberal democratic system. We can speculate that a mismatch between the current communication landscape and institutionalized politics could explanation a range of “civic disengagement” phenomena and an apparent loss of social capital. As information accessibility and cost are reduced dramatically, our society is likely to become more complex, and possibly foster greater pluralism and enhanced equality and liberty. However, the process of deinstitutionalization may also lead to more fragmented and coherent public sphere and less deliberative democracy (Bimber 2000). So, how can the concept of social capital be redefined to be more in tune with our present-day information environment, where electronic communication technologies play a central role? I propose a network model of social capital, wherein individuals represent nodes on the electronic network interconnected via social ties. In this model, social capital can be compared to the concept of network externalities which is frequently used in telecommunication literature, i.e. the greater the number of people on the network, the greater the value of the network. Taking a telephone network analogy, social capital is

Authors: Skoric, Marko.
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nature of political behavior on the Web. But, this is hardly a problem measurement only,
because our political institutions are, with few exceptions, based on a sovereignty of
nation-state, while the Net’s reach is inherently global. Furthermore, our political
institutions were created during times when access to information was monopolized (or
oligopolized) by governments, political parties, etc., and hence they may not be well
suited for current needs of information-saturated societies. Thus, our investigation of the
impact of new media on political participation is not only about media and related
policies, but also about the future of a liberal democratic system. We can speculate that a
mismatch between the current communication landscape and institutionalized politics
could explanation a range of “civic disengagement” phenomena and an apparent loss of
social capital. As information accessibility and cost are reduced dramatically, our society
is likely to become more complex, and possibly foster greater pluralism and enhanced
equality and liberty. However, the process of deinstitutionalization may also lead to more
fragmented and coherent public sphere and less deliberative democracy (Bimber 2000).
So, how can the concept of social capital be redefined to be more in tune with our
present-day information environment, where electronic communication technologies play
a central role?
I propose a network model of social capital, wherein individuals represent nodes
on the electronic network interconnected via social ties. In this model, social capital can
be compared to the concept of network externalities which is frequently used in
telecommunication literature, i.e. the greater the number of people on the network, the
greater the value of the network. Taking a telephone network analogy, social capital is


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