The New News Economy


Bridging-Social-Capital-Mod (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Whereas physical capital refers to physical objects and human capital refers to properties of individuals, social capital refers to connections among individuals – social networks and the norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness that arise from them. In that sense, social capital is closely related to what some have called “civic virtue.” The difference is that “social capital” calls attention to the fact that civic virtue is most powerful when embedded in a dense network of reciprocal social relations. A society of many virtuous but isolated individuals is not necessarily rich in social capital (p. 18”)

In Bowling Alone (2000) Robert Putnam tirelessly documents the history and meaning, use and current state of social capital in the United States. What Putnam sees disappearing, are bonds which immigrants formed in social clubs, church groups, and when they met together. Members of the groups, whether churches or social clubs, could be counted on to help one another, even if they weren’t family or close friends. This was an effective way of creating, strengthening, using, and building social capital in an industial age when immigrants often lived and worked near each other.

In an age where individuals didn’t travel far from where they were born, social ties to the other people, [quote] whether strong or weak, were based on propinquity. There was no larger or more righteous purpose for this arrangement, it simply was based on the way things were. Facing new challenges and new environments, individuals found that cooperation around shared work was a more successful strategy than competition. Some neuroeconomic research is looking at how human beings might be “hard-wired” for collaboration and other behaviors.

Many institutions that were powerful and influential in the past, that we respect today, or wax nostalgic about, arose to foster or cement strong ties between individuals to make life easier for most of the individuals in the group.

In 2005, writer and researcher Clay Shirky gave a TED talk  where he looked at the costs of organizing groups of humans the historic or traditional way, by forming institutions, whether for profit or non-profit, public or private. The cost of communication between individuals who make up a group and whose actions and ideas need to be coordinated. Before electronic communication and especially internet, these costs were high, and creating an institution was one of the most effective ways of controlling the costs.

With the advent of internet and instant, ubiquitous, and inexpensive communication, the need to form tightly controlled and centralized institutions to harness the energy and work of groups of individuals lessens.


Collectivism – exploits hierarchy, maximizes collective. Digital networking beginning to provide tools to promote this.

Characteristics include:

Distributed power among ad hoc participants

Ubiquitous, “free” resources (cloud computing.)

Volunteers who want to help

Sharing protected by licensing like Creative Commons.

Real-time communication via Twitter, RSS, etc.

Passionate opinions shared online

Sharing, cooperation, collaboration, openness, free pricing, transparency are now practical.

Examples: Craigslist, Kiva (micro loans), couchsurfing, MixedInk.

Individuate (a post-modern term) means customizing on the individual level on a massive scale.

Mass media will be part of mix, but consumers, not publishers, broadcasters, or marketers will do the mixing.

Not subsets of existing mass media offerings; it is individuals selecting from all content providers, from some content providers, and mixing choice and “agent” recommendations.

Facebook provides about 200 million people with different content selections based on their interests & friends.

Vin Crosbie, Kevin Kelley in Wired.