Week 5 – Pasek & Karpf

In previous weeks, we learned about differing opinions of the capabilities of the internet and other new communication technologies, and their potential impact on the future. Authors like Shirky and Rheingold envision a future in which the development of communications technologies will provide a vehicle for a greatly increased circulation of ideas that will, in turn, invoke an era of technological utopianism. All will have the ability to broadcast their own message and, most importantly, be heard.

In the study by Pasek et. al., Realizing the Social Internet? Online Social Networking Meets Offline Social Capital, looks at internet usage and its correlation with social capital. The authors eventually conclude that the, “results of [the] study give little weight to the notion that online social networking may be the key to Rheingold’s idealized “virtual community.”” However, the authors do not count out the ability of these forms of communication to have a potential positive effect of social capital.

In Karpf’s essay, Measuring the Success of Digital Campaigns, the author states that there are two different metrics involved with the measuring of success: tactics and strategies. While tactics are more quantitative measures, like numbers and figures, they do not necessarily equate to success. Strategies, on the other hand, are more tangible applications in that one can progress beyond numbers into real world demonstrations of success.

Social networking sites like Facebook are among those mentioned by Pasek et. al. as having the potential to effect the alleged declining social capital of our generation. Facebook has the power to connect people. The number of Facebook friends an individual has would be considered a “tactic” by Karpf. Are there already existing forms of Karpfian “strategies” to further achieve Rheingold’s utopia, or are we still a ways off, as suggested by Pasek et. al.?

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3 Responses to Week 5 – Pasek & Karpf

  1. farleyan says:

    I agree with how you describe the differences between the authors’ arguments. Shirky and Rheingold talk about how, ideally, the Internet should not only be able to permit people to broadcast their information, but they should also have an audience and be heard. On the other hand, Pasek et al. and Karpf believe that we have not necessarily reached that stage in the realm of online communities. When Karpf talks about ‘strategies’ as ‘goals,’ I think the ‘strategy’ he is trying to achieve is similar to the utopian community that Shirky and Rheingold touch on. Personally, I can not think of any ‘strategies’ that our society (and more specifically, our generation) has been doing that are helping us reach the utopia. You mentioned that ‘tactics’ are the quantitative accumulation of steps taken to reach the ‘strategy’ or ‘utopia.’ I think these tactics that you mention, like the amount of Facebook friends you have, contribute to the development of the utopia that Shirky and Rheingold refer to. While we are all participating in these tactics, it is difficult to ultimately know how effective they will be in developing a utopian online community. In fact, it is even more difficult to know if we will ever reach the type of online community where everyone’s messages are always heard.

  2. jgemuend says:

    I believe that farleyan is on the right track by addressing that while the tactics being measured with social media sites are impressive and growing, there does not seem to be much strategy. While these numbers can help bring about the realization of the utopian social society, they are nothing unless actual progress is being made. The number of visits to a website means nothing if the product is not being sold. Looking at the idea of social capital, however, we must consider differences between the generations before and our new online generations. In previous generations, social capital was more likely to be developed through in-person relationships, which as we know is typically strong ties. Online relationships, however, tend to be weak ties. While we may know hundreds of friends through our social media sites, this may be less effective than 10 close-tie relationships in-person. I estimate that while these tactics being boasted online are successful, their actual power is limited. How many people are going to be willing to get out of their seats, abandon their keyboards, and actually make change happen?

  3. gmariebo says:

    I would argue that while there may not be (and really isn’t) just one common strategy utilized by social networking site users to create the utopia as Rheingold sees it, there are some smaller goals being achieved by the type of social capital evolving on the Internet. For instance, as Shirky points out, there are tons of online groups, say for stay at home mothers or for atheists, whose goal is to unite with people like themselves, and this goal is accomplished through these networking websites. True, this does not immediately result in social or political change, but I think that every small goal being met through these types of tactics only speak to the potential for larger goals to do the same. But yes, I agree that when it comes to something as radical as taking over a government regime, there are merely scattered tactics on not necessarily any common strategy. I hope in the future that, by using the small-goal strategies as examples, political activists will pull together for common goals.

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