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A Study of New Communication Technologies and Civic Engagement : A Time to Reconceptualize the Research Constructs?
Unformatted Document Text:  5 If telephone has positive effects on social connectedness, we may wonder about the type of social capital that telephone fosters. Pew Center reports that two-thirds of adults have called a friend or a relative the previous day “just to talk” (Putnam 2000), and therefore it is not surprising that some scholars have even called the telephone a “technology of sociability” (Fischer 1992). Furthermore, evidence suggests that in the mid 1970s, between 40-50% of all calls from a household were made to another subscriber within a two-mile radius, and as much as 70% within a seven-mile radius (cited in Putnam 2000). Thus we are probably safe at saying that the telephone is a communication medium that promotes bonding social capital (we used it to maintain already strong ties) and has reinforcing effects on existing personal networks (Putnam 2000). According to Fisher (1992), we have very little evidence that the telephone has opened up new social contacts, but it has probably facilitated communication within our private realms. The only possible exceptions to this pattern were party lines, which in the words of Ray (1999) “fostered neighborhood networks and connections, rural-town exchanges, and contacts beyond local boundaries as well”(p. 308). Interestingly, party lines are long gone now, which indicates that people generally value privacy and convenience over community building. What about the impact of the new media technologies, including the Web? Not unlike other communication technologies, the Web has caused a considerable stir in the scholarly community creating a cottage industry of academics in search of either positive or negative effects of the Internet. Today, when more than 60% of U.S. population is online, it is imperative to assess the added value of the Net for civic engagement.

Authors: Skoric, Marko.
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5
If telephone has positive effects on social connectedness, we may wonder about
the type of social capital that telephone fosters. Pew Center reports that two-thirds of
adults have called a friend or a relative the previous day “just to talk” (Putnam 2000), and
therefore it is not surprising that some scholars have even called the telephone a
“technology of sociability” (Fischer 1992). Furthermore, evidence suggests that in the
mid 1970s, between 40-50% of all calls from a household were made to another
subscriber within a two-mile radius, and as much as 70% within a seven-mile radius
(cited in Putnam 2000). Thus we are probably safe at saying that the telephone is a
communication medium that promotes bonding social capital (we used it to maintain
already strong ties) and has reinforcing effects on existing personal networks (Putnam
2000). According to Fisher (1992), we have very little evidence that the telephone has
opened up new social contacts, but it has probably facilitated communication within our
private realms. The only possible exceptions to this pattern were party lines, which in the
words of Ray (1999) “fostered neighborhood networks and connections, rural-town
exchanges, and contacts beyond local boundaries as well”(p. 308). Interestingly, party
lines are long gone now, which indicates that people generally value privacy and
convenience over community building.
What about the impact of the new media technologies, including the Web? Not
unlike other communication technologies, the Web has caused a considerable stir in the
scholarly community creating a cottage industry of academics in search of either positive
or negative effects of the Internet. Today, when more than 60% of U.S. population is
online, it is imperative to assess the added value of the Net for civic engagement.


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