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Are We Bowling At All? An Analysis of Social Capital in Online Networks

Date & Time:
17:00:00 - 18:30:00,
Tuesday 8 July, 2014


How does social capital exist in online networks? This talk analyses the formation of bridging and bonding social capital in online networks. It has been suggested by Putnam that online interactions are unable to foster social capital. We test this claim using Twitter data from three events: the Occupy movement in 2011, the IF Campaign in 2013, and the Chilean Presidential Election of the same year. Using Ronald Burt’s concepts of closure and brokerage as indicators of bonding and bridging social capital, we observe the networks formed through online interactions and test them against several simulations. Our results support the claim that online ties are able to create social capital, but by distinguishing bridging and bonding types, and comparing across different issue networks, we tease out more specific findings. In the case of bonding social capital, online ties seem more effective to form close networks than theory predicts. Meanwhile, bridging social capital requires particular conditions for its creation, such as the presence of organizations and professional brokers. Our results provide a confirmation that online networks are able to produce social capital, but it raises questions about the process of brokerage across highly connected groups.

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  • Name: Javier Sajuria
  • Affiliation: University College London
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  • Bio: I am a PhD Candidate and a PGTA in Research Methods in the Department of Political Science at University College London (and since last year, an Associate Lecturer at Birkbeck, University of London). I received a Licentiate in Law (J.D.) degree from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and an MSc in Democracy and Democratisation from UCL. Prior to joining UCL, I worked on topics of civic participation, political parties and political communication. I also worked as speechwriter and contents manager for a campaign in the 2009 Chilean presidential election. My research interests include political behaviour, social capital theory, social media and politics, and political methodology. My doctoral research aims to provide a general theory of online social capital and its effects on political participation.