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A Study of New Communication Technologies and Civic Engagement : A Time to Reconceptualize the Research Constructs?
Unformatted Document Text:  2 from traditional civic values, including a sharp fall in traditional group membership, weakening party loyalties, lower voter turnouts, and the loss of trust in others. Research community has offered several explanations for this phenomenon, attributing “civic demise” to the changes in the economy (Bennet 1998) and/or general dissatisfaction with the current political system (Norris 2000). However, Putnam’s (1995; 2000) indictment of television as a prime culprit of social capital decline has probably generated most attention, demonstrating again that “the media scare” is always in vogue. Literature Review The concept of social capital was originally introduced by a sociologist James Coleman (1990) who suggested that social ties, shared norms and trust make a significant contribution to economic efficiency and well being of individual citizens. Recently, Robert Putnam has combined Coleman’s concept with some of Tocqueville’s key ideas and created a new theory addressing the relationship between civic engagement and effective democratic governance. His research on the topic of local government in Italy (Putnam 1993) has attracted a lot of attention from scholars and pundits alike by clearly demonstrating that civic engagement in community affairs has a powerful impact on the performance of the government and other social institutions. In his follow-up work on civic engagement in the United States, Putnam (1995; 2000) has blamed television for erosion of social capital in the United States arguing that TV viewing, especially entertainment-oriented viewing has been reducing our stock of social capital, mostly by means of time displacement. According to this hypothesis, the more time we spend watching TV, the less time we spend socializing. It is worth noting that Putnam’s

Authors: Skoric, Marko.
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from traditional civic values, including a sharp fall in traditional group membership,
weakening party loyalties, lower voter turnouts, and the loss of trust in others.
Research community has offered several explanations for this phenomenon,
attributing “civic demise” to the changes in the economy (Bennet 1998) and/or general
dissatisfaction with the current political system (Norris 2000). However, Putnam’s (1995;
2000) indictment of television as a prime culprit of social capital decline has probably
generated most attention, demonstrating again that “the media scare” is always in vogue.
Literature Review
The concept of social capital was originally introduced by a sociologist James
Coleman (1990) who suggested that social ties, shared norms and trust make a significant
contribution to economic efficiency and well being of individual citizens. Recently,
Robert Putnam has combined Coleman’s concept with some of Tocqueville’s key ideas
and created a new theory addressing the relationship between civic engagement and
effective democratic governance. His research on the topic of local government in Italy
(Putnam 1993) has attracted a lot of attention from scholars and pundits alike by clearly
demonstrating that civic engagement in community affairs has a powerful impact on the
performance of the government and other social institutions. In his follow-up work on
civic engagement in the United States, Putnam (1995; 2000) has blamed television for
erosion of social capital in the United States arguing that TV viewing, especially
entertainment-oriented viewing has been reducing our stock of social capital, mostly by
means of time displacement. According to this hypothesis, the more time we spend
watching TV, the less time we spend socializing. It is worth noting that Putnam’s


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