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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Internet and Virtual Civil Society: The New Frontier of Social Capital


Although scholars generally agree that social interactions within traditional social groups build social capital, they debate the benefits of a virtual civil society based on social interactions over the Internet. Our research examines how interpersonal social group activity and virtual activity contribute to the multiple dimensions of social capital: social trust, citizen norms and political involvement. Our analyses rely on data collected in the 2005 Citizenship Involvement Democracy survey conducted by the Center for Democracy and Civil Society at Georgetown University. This survey provides unique detail on participation in both social groups and virtual interactions. Our findings suggest that social group activity and virtual interactions both foster democratic norms and activities.

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