Changing Social Capital and Collective Action

Shirky discusses the necessary complex interaction of a promise, tool, and bargain with the users in order for a group to be successful. The promise must offer a more valuable lifestyle in some way than he or she currently leads (261). In this case most social media sites promise some variation of reducing transaction costs, as Coase would say, to simplify collective action. The tool “must be designed to fit the job being done” (265). It is a complex interaction because certain tools work for different sites depending on group size, outreach, etc. These tools will reshape our society with the bargain from the users. The people ultimately decided how a tool should be used and what they can expect.

The formula for a group’s success is present when discussing Putnam’s argument about social capital. He believes that participation in groups is declining and therefore our social capital is as well, which will hinder our society. However, Putnam mainly blamed this lack of social capital on television and factors like suburbanization, which make it harder to connect with one another. Shirky allows us to think of how the Internet is changing how we gain social capital.  Because “society before and after [this] revolution [is] too different to be readily compared”, can online tools be a substitute for traditional community interaction (305)? Since “falling transaction costs benefit all groups, not just groups we happen to approve of”, is our society changing for the better or for the worse (208)?

Rheingold allows us to think about collective action dilemmas and how they are the “perpetual balancing of self-interest and public goods” (32). Is this new form of communication changing the way we work with one another? Because people can hide behind a screen, there are defectors from the rules, and freeloaders who do not contribute to the success of the group. This is the Tragedy of the Commons, but is there a way to manage the commons where you are not stifling their voice? Too little intervention allows trolling and undesirable consequences, but too much intervention defeats the purpose of the Internet as a free space.

There are many questions still in debate about groups online, their potential for collective action, and the effect they have on our society. However we do know that these tools are allowing society to share and work together and are changing society quickly.

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3 Responses to Changing Social Capital and Collective Action

  1. chicmix says:

    After thinking about the readings this week, I have concluded that I disagree with many of Putnam’s arguments. He discusses how the process of suburbanization and television and other transitions happening in our society decline the amount of social capital we have today. He has strong points for why it may be harder to connect with one another; however, I believe that it is merely changing the ways we communicate. Changing forms of communication, in my opinion, do not eliminate the amount of social capital in our society. We have the ability to adapt to the new environment and options available, and I believe we make the most from them.

    • jessica gelov says:

      After thinking about the readings this week, I have concluded that I disagree with many of Putnam’s arguments. He discusses how the process of suburbanization and television and other transitions happening in our society decline the amount of social capital we have today. He has strong points for why it may be harder to connect with one another; however, I believe that it is merely changing the ways we communicate. Changing forms of communication, in my opinion, do not eliminate the amount of social capital in our society. We have the ability to adapt to the new environment and options available, and I believe we make the most from them.

  2. goblu says:

    I do not think that at this point in time we have enough information to either disagree or agree with Putnam. For him to make these claims he needs to look at the decline of social capital over many years. Statistically, I do not think he has enough information to rule out other factors, such as a recession, as the cause for a decline in social capital. I do think Putnam has a great point and it does seem that increasing social media is stopping people from getting out of their house and doing things. However, in my opinion, there needs to be more evidence to make a statement because it is to soon to make such a causal claim.

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