Who are the social capitalists?


Regular readers of this blog and interactive cultures will have picked up that I have a preoccupation with social capital. So you won’t be surprised to learn that when I met up with the new intake on the MA Social Media for the first time this year, social capital was the key thing I wanted to discuss with them.

The students had already begun to engage with the topic at A New Currency: Multiplatform storytelling and social capital, and the session gave me a chance to build out from that point to discuss the many definitions of social capital that we can find in academic literature.

We closed with a question which the students have gone off to consider:

Who are the social media capitalists?

If we have such a thing as social capital, is there such a thing as social capitalism? Who would we consider as “social media capitalists”? How useful is social capital to understanding what happens online? Does it change the way we look at online activity?

Capitalism as a concept is simply about generating a surplus from the actions of others by which you may profit. 

When looking at social media, we can consider social capitalism in two broad senses. Firstly the relationship between social media users and the companies that own social media services (something like this) and secondly by looking at those individuals who manage to accrue a great deal of personal benefit through leveraging communal action within their social media network.

The students are blogging their responses. Here are the ones I’ve seen so far:

By Jon Hickman

Hi, I'm Jon. I teach and research digital culture, social media and new media practice at Birmingham City University. Find out more about me with this lovely CV: http://uk.linkedin.com/in/jonhickman Find out about my work at the Birmingham Centre for Media & Cultural Research: http://interactivecultures.org