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A Study of New Communication Technologies and Civic Engagement : A Time to Reconceptualize the Research Constructs?
Unformatted Document Text:  4 entertainment viewing), the direction of this relationship is still a matter of a considerable scientific debate (Norris 2000). The plausible alternative hypothesis is that people who disengage from civic life are more likely to engage in television viewing, including viewing of entertainment-oriented programming. If that is the case, we could be simply observing the selection effects. Furthermore, both Putnam (2000) and Norris (2000) have agreed that viewing of public affairs television programming is associated with more active participation in political life, even though the direction of this relationship is again unclear. In summary, while many researchers have questioned the claim that television entertainment has negative effects on social capital, very little evidence has been presented indicating that these effects may perhaps be positive. What about the relationship between social capital and other communication technologies? Let’s start with the telephone. The technology itself has been around for more than a century and in 1991 around 94% of American homes had a telephone line demonstrating that the phone is a basic element of associational structure (Ray 1999). Furthermore, the rapid diffusion of cell phones during 1990s has allowed many Americans (over 30% of population) to be connected anywhere, anytime. An analysis of General Social Survey data reported in Ray (1999) indicates that people with no telephone in their households are less likely to have voted, attended church, or to belong to voluntary organizations. Phone have-nots are also more likely to be residentially mobile, socially alienated, and skeptical of human nature. In summary, they are social outsiders, with very little social capital.

Authors: Skoric, Marko.
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entertainment viewing), the direction of this relationship is still a matter of a considerable
scientific debate (Norris 2000). The plausible alternative hypothesis is that people who
disengage from civic life are more likely to engage in television viewing, including
viewing of entertainment-oriented programming. If that is the case, we could be simply
observing the selection effects. Furthermore, both Putnam (2000) and Norris (2000) have
agreed that viewing of public affairs television programming is associated with more
active participation in political life, even though the direction of this relationship is again
unclear. In summary, while many researchers have questioned the claim that television
entertainment has negative effects on social capital, very little evidence has been
presented indicating that these effects may perhaps be positive.
What about the relationship between social capital and other communication
technologies?
Let’s start with the telephone. The technology itself has been around for more
than a century and in 1991 around 94% of American homes had a telephone line
demonstrating that the phone is a basic element of associational structure (Ray 1999).
Furthermore, the rapid diffusion of cell phones during 1990s has allowed many
Americans (over 30% of population) to be connected anywhere, anytime. An analysis of
General Social Survey data reported in Ray (1999) indicates that people with no
telephone in their households are less likely to have voted, attended church, or to belong
to voluntary organizations. Phone have-nots are also more likely to be residentially
mobile, socially alienated, and skeptical of human nature. In summary, they are social
outsiders, with very little social capital.


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