Social Capital and the Equalizing Potential of the Internet
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Internet communication tends to complement real-world interaction; it does not destroy (public good) social capital. The Internet can support and enhance communities that to some extent depend on faceto-face interaction. Taking the online communication of computer professionals as a model, this article seeks to demonstrate the power of virtual communities. Examples are the development of Linux and users’ reactions to a bug in the Pentium processor. Online communication, facilitated by personal home pages and search engines, offers isolated workers opportunities for increasing their private good social capital as well. On the level of infrastructure, key characteristics of the Internet match those of social capital: the network aspect itself, cooperation, voluntary work, giving, standards of social behavior, and the fact that it is not designed. Downsides of the Internet also correspond to downsides of social capital. Realizing the equalizing potential of the Internet in terms of social capital requires action.