A Thought or Two on Social Capital

[fr] On parle en anglais de "social capital" ("capital social", ça se traduit?) pour exprimer le "poids" ou l'autorité que quelqu'un a dans sa communauté (ou encore le respect et l'admiration qu'on a pour cette personne). Ce capital social peut être "dépensé" sagement ou dilapidé. C'est un peu la mesure de "combien de faveurs peut-on demander autour de soi avant de se faire envoyer balader?" -- On peut aussi perdre son capital social en faisant quelque chose de stupide ou pas éthique (se faire payer pour écrire des articles sur son blog sans être transparent à ce sujet... ou même en l'étant).

Je trouve que "capital social" est une expression plus intéressante que "popularité" ou "autorité" parce que d'une part on comprend mieux que c'est une donnée multi-dimensionnelle, et d'autre part elle exprime bien que c'est quelque chose qui se transforme en actes, en concret. (On "fait quelque chose" avec son capital social, on ne le laisse pas juste dormir.)

A couple of weeks ago, I was having a nice afternoon in Geneva (a surprise for me!) sipping an ice tea on the terrace of a café in the Quartier des Bains. The people around the table were interesting, as was the conversation. At one point, I was trying to explain how I viewed “social capital” and the meritocratic nature of the connected lifestyle.

As with many things, the Internet has not really created anything new, but given more visibility or weight to something that already exists in the offline world that everybody knows.

As an individual, I have certain connections with other individuals, and a certain reputation. If I’m respected and appreciated, then I have a certain amount of social capital that I can either accumulate or “spend”.

Here’s an example of “spending” some of my social capital: I’m organizing a conference and ask people to blog about it or introduce me to possible sponsors. In “normal” speech, we’d simply say I’m asking for favours — and that’s what it is.

The amount of favours people will do me depends on how much “social capital” I have — how much they respect, regard, appreciate me. It’s pretty simple, really. “Social capital” is just an expression (like “whuffie”) used to give a name to this “thing” that people have more or less of, and which gives them power as an individual in their network.

Social capital can be well spent, or dilapidated. It can also be lost by doing stupid things (the kind of things that “ruin a reputation”). I think it’s a better expression than “popularity” or “reputation” because it stands a chance of being understood as multi-dimensional.

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This entry was posted in Connected Life and tagged authority, balance, favours, network, popularity, relationships, reputation, social capital, whuffie. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to A Thought or Two on Social Capital

  1. Nice explanation of Social Capital. It’s truly something so simple, yet inherently so important in the world of Social Media, as well as in any Social Media Campaigns that people run. Often traditional advertising has eaten up most if not all of the Social Capital that people might have considered exchanging for being sold to.. Now that it becomes way more personal, and is related to each individual relationship between people it becomes all the more important to keep stock of it lest you run out completely of any Social Media Capital you thought you had left ;) Thanks for sharing ;)

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