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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Social capital in the production gap: Social networking services and their transformative role in civic engagement
by McQuiston, James M., Ph.D., Kent State University, 2013, 171; 3618866
Abstract (Summary)

Social networking services are used by a large segment of society; Facebook claims that 1 billion users are active on their website. The potential role for social networking in civic engagement is substantial, and this dissertation expands upon previous research in its examination of the relationship between social networking use and civic engagement. Prior research into the effect of social networking services on social capital creation is limited in terms of generalizability and predictive power. The dissertation explores the determinants of social networking service use, the impact that social networking services have on the creation of social capital, and how social networking website use modifies a respondent's level of generalized trust and political efficacy.

The sample utilized in this dissertation includes 2,303 respondents from the Social Side of the Internet Survey, conducted in November and December of 2010. The dissertation utilizes this data to examine social networking intensity as a hypothesized determinant of indirect and direct forms of social capital. Models explore the decision to utilize the internet, social networking services (SNS), and to join traditional groups, evaluating the hypothesis that SNS usage creates social capital through a different pathway than online or physical interactions. Results provide early support for this hypothesis, as the factors influencing the decision to utilize social networking are separate from those modifying online or group activity.

The explanatory power of social networking intensity is compared to demographic and group-centered conceptions of social capital generation. The data supports the conception that SNS intensity is a significant determinant of external political efficacy and social capital, but is unable to identify a relationship between social networking intensity and generalized trust.

By examining the role that social networking services play alongside factors such as age, education, internet use, gender, race, socioeconomic class, technology, and group association, the dissertation tests hypotheses important to political science sub-fields including American politics, civic engagement, and political theory. Future research examining social networking and civic engagement needs to consider how governmental representatives view the social capital generated by social networking services.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Claassen, Ryan
Commitee: Claassen, Ryan, Floyd, Kevin, Johnson, Renee, Manoharan, Aroon, Serpe, Richard
School: Kent State University
Department: Political Science
School Location: United States -- Ohio
Source: DAI-A 75/08(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Social psychology, Political science, Web Studies
Keywords: American politics, Civic engagement, Democratic divide, Digital divide, Facebook, Generalized trust, Multiple imputation, Political efficacy, Political science, Production gap, Public policy, Quantitative research, SNS, Social networking services
Publication Number: 3618866
ISBN: 978-1-303-87391-1
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