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Anti-social capital

- March 17, 2009

“David Gibson”:http://www.iq.harvard.edu/blog/netgov/2009/03/facebook_social_capital_david_gibson.html at the Complexity and Social Networks blog.

bq. The Facebook statistics recently provided by Alexander Schellong–such as that the site adds an astonishing 600,000 users per day–are worthy of serious contemplation by social scientists still playing catch-up when it comes to this and other forms of online communication. But at the risk of seeming curmudgeonly (I imagine my undergrads, Facebook devotees all, rolling their eyes), I want to make a prediction. Social scientists are very fond of “capital,” which is a type of resource with a plausible connection to some desired outcome. These include economic capital (money), human capital (skills), cultural capital (powers of discernment vis-a-vis cultural objects), conversational capital (interesting things to talk about) and social capital (social connections). To this list I predict that we will eventually want to add something that I am tempted to call anti-social capital, which is a snarky (and imprecise) term for the absence of ties of a certain type, namely those whose main consequence is that you spend a lot of time online communicating with people who, like you, have a lot of time to spend socializing online. It’s not hard to foresee why someone without such connections would fair better at school, in the workplace, and in their family relations than someone with them, other things being equal.

bq. Of course, the problem is not merely time diverted from more serious pursuits–exercise, learning, thinking long and hard about life’s problems, interacting with those with whom one shares microbes–but also the disclosure of personal and potentially damaging information. That might point to yet another kind of capital, which I’ll call non-self-disclosure capital, which is the state of not having made public (especially online) information about yourself that could result in a serious loss of face, life prospects, and possibly safety if the information gets circulated beyond its intended audience.

See also his general thoughts on the “uselessness of the term social capital”:http://www.iq.harvard.edu/blog/netgov/2009/03/a_comment_on_social_capital.html (thoughts I heartily endorse).

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