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Local Communities: Relationships between ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ social capital

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Springer London, Dordrecht Amsterdam


The paper explores forms of ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ social capital within a geographical area of the UK comprising 65 ‘communities’. Measures of real social capital based on formal community organisations were compared with web-activity relating to the same communities. Three main types of websites were identified: first a local government scheme which created ‘identikit’ websites for each of the places which could then be taken up by local people; second a similar scheme operated by a private company and covering the whole of the UK; and third independent, bottom up sites created by social entrepreneurs or community groups. Numbers and forms of organisations and websites, and levels and forms of community web-based participation were measured for each community at two points in 2004. The analysis suggests no strong correlation between these measures of real and virtual social capital. The analysis further suggests that providing a ready made website rarely results in the creation of a developed community site – although it may provide outlets for more limited information exchanges. However bottom up sites which reflect the heterogeneity of real communities are also rare. Interviews with participants suggest the need to understand more about the social networks, practices and organisational forms that sustain community engagement with community websites


Liff, Sonia (2005): Local Communities: Relationships between ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ social capital. Communities and Technologies: Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Communities and Technologies 2005. DOI: 10.1007/1-4020-3591-8_3. Springer London, Dordrecht Amsterdam. ISBN: 978-1-4020-3591-3. pp. 41-53. Full Papers. Milano, Italy