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A Study of New Communication Technologies and Civic Engagement : A Time to Reconceptualize the Research Constructs?
Unformatted Document Text:  3 definition of social capital as “features of social life – networks, norms and trust – that enable participants to act together more effectively to pursue shared objectives” (1995; p.665) is more neutral and more general than Coleman’s. Furthermore, Putnam also makes an important distinction between two forms of social capital, bridging and bonding. According to him, bonding social capital is inward looking and tends to reinforce existing identities and homogenous groups, while bridging social capital is outward looking and creates cross-over networks transcending social cleavages. The examples of the former type are ethnic groups, exclusive country clubs and bible study groups, while the example of the latter are youth service groups, bowling leagues, and civil rights organizations. In line with this typology of social capital, Putnam also distinguishes between the “weak” and “strong” social ties, suggesting that each of the two types brings in a distinct set of benefits for an individual. For example, a network of the strong ties may help us overcome a family crisis more easily, while having a number of the weak ties may greatly help us in our job search. Still, Putnam suggests that that the effects of bridging or bonding social capital may not always be positive. This is particularly the case with the bonding type of social capital, which frequently creates a strong in-group loyalty and favoritism while at the same time causing considerable out- group antagonism. Finally, we should note that bridging and bonding types of social capital should not be viewed as being on the opposite sides of a single continuum, but rather as two dimensions describing characteristics of any social network. While Putnam (2000) has presented an impressive collection of research evidence demonstrating association between civic demise and television viewing (especially

Authors: Skoric, Marko.
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definition of social capital as “features of social life – networks, norms and trust – that
enable participants to act together more effectively to pursue shared objectives” (1995;
p.665) is more neutral and more general than Coleman’s. Furthermore, Putnam also
makes an important distinction between two forms of social capital, bridging and
bonding. According to him, bonding social capital is inward looking and tends to
reinforce existing identities and homogenous groups, while bridging social capital is
outward looking and creates cross-over networks transcending social cleavages. The
examples of the former type are ethnic groups, exclusive country clubs and bible study
groups, while the example of the latter are youth service groups, bowling leagues, and
civil rights organizations. In line with this typology of social capital, Putnam also
distinguishes between the “weak” and “strong” social ties, suggesting that each of the two
types brings in a distinct set of benefits for an individual. For example, a network of the
strong ties may help us overcome a family crisis more easily, while having a number of
the weak ties may greatly help us in our job search. Still, Putnam suggests that that the
effects of bridging or bonding social capital may not always be positive. This is
particularly the case with the bonding type of social capital, which frequently creates a
strong in-group loyalty and favoritism while at the same time causing considerable out-
group antagonism. Finally, we should note that bridging and bonding types of social
capital should not be viewed as being on the opposite sides of a single continuum, but
rather as two dimensions describing characteristics of any social network.
While Putnam (2000) has presented an impressive collection of research evidence
demonstrating association between civic demise and television viewing (especially


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