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A Study of New Communication Technologies and Civic Engagement : A Time to Reconceptualize the Research Constructs?
Unformatted Document Text:  7 within the small village. Thus, it seems reasonable to assume that Tocqueville would have been even more impressed if the same village had been wired with a modern electronic system of person-to-person communication like the one we have today. Indeed, a recent project of the new electronic community network in Blacksburg, Virginia has shown that a truly civil discussion can take place on the Net as long as the digital community is based on the actual physical community (see Putnam 2000). What about the impact of the Net on social capital and political participation? A longitudinal study by Katz, Rice and Aspden (2001) shows reports that Internet users are more likely to belong to at least one community organization, engage in traditional political activity during elections, communicate through other media (especially telephone), meet with friends and engage in contact with others than non-users. In addition, more than 10% of users belong to at least one online community and have met friends online (with some of them meeting their cyber friends face-to-face following the initial online contact). Most importantly, web use has been found not to affect time spent with family and friends, which possibly indicates that the Internet takes time away from other non-social activities, like television viewing. The above findings indicate that the Internet has some properties similar to the telephone (it is also associated with greater phone use), reinforcing existing social networks and fostering bonding social capital. Given that, we can confidently say that the Web is used to maintain strong ties that already exist in the offline world and is complementing, not replacing real world communities. Still, there is also some evidence

Authors: Skoric, Marko.
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within the small village. Thus, it seems reasonable to assume that Tocqueville would
have been even more impressed if the same village had been wired with a modern
electronic system of person-to-person communication like the one we have today. Indeed,
a recent project of the new electronic community network in Blacksburg, Virginia has
shown that a truly civil discussion can take place on the Net as long as the digital
community is based on the actual physical community (see Putnam 2000).
What about the impact of the Net on social capital and political participation? A
longitudinal study by Katz, Rice and Aspden (2001) shows reports that Internet users are
more likely to belong to at least one community organization, engage in traditional
political activity during elections, communicate through other media (especially
telephone), meet with friends and engage in contact with others than non-users. In
addition, more than 10% of users belong to at least one online community and have met
friends online (with some of them meeting their cyber friends face-to-face following the
initial online contact). Most importantly, web use has been found not to affect time spent
with family and friends, which possibly indicates that the Internet takes time away from
other non-social activities, like television viewing.
The above findings indicate that the Internet has some properties similar to the
telephone (it is also associated with greater phone use), reinforcing existing social
networks and fostering bonding social capital. Given that, we can confidently say that the
Web is used to maintain strong ties that already exist in the offline world and is
complementing, not replacing real world communities. Still, there is also some evidence


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