A personal story on bringing social capital into a new world

This entry is a bit of a follow up of my post looking at the ills of social media on creative art.  I want to look at the concepts of social capital and apply it away from a whole of world concept.

The traditional thinkers on social capital or Coleman, Bourdieu etc look at social capital as

“networks and the associated norms of reciprocity have value. They have value for the people who are in them, and they have, at least in some instances, demonstrable externalities, so that there are both public and private faces of social capital.”

                            Putman (p1)

There is much research suggesting social capital as a tool for societies to move forward, churches, associations and even governments taking networks, taking people’s behaviour and even wealth for the betterment of them, and maybe others.

The problem is that the definition and research around social capital is still quite new, still quite elastic so to transfer it to individuals or groups of people can be difficult.

In my last post, I mentioned that social media has made it easy to take people’s creative products and use them for their own gain without payment or even thanks to the creator of the product.

In one way, that was a bit of a personal gripe – and one that is shared by many of my photographer friends.  Conversely, social media has allowed be to gain work – infact, it has probably accounted for 80% of the work I have ever had.

Granted, I do (even if I say so) great work in motorsport media.  But so do many people so why do I get jobs over someone else?

This is where I come to social capital.

Over my decade in the sport, I have dedicated much of my time to learning the sport and helping the sport.  I worked for cheap or for free for the young guys, the struggling car clubs, those who didn’t have big media coverage.

I never really talked about my work online – I gave out links, advertised the people I was working for.

This allowed me to build up a sense of trust, of goodwill in the industry.  Importantly, people had seen that I wasn’t a fanboy, wasn’t there to get rich, and obviously seen the quality of my work.  Built up capital that I could spend elsewhere.

That is where the work came in and came in via social media.  80% of my work has come from social media, most of that from Twitter.  Most of it coming from people I have never met.  The payback was biggest when I was putting more in.  In 2012, the payback dried up a little as my focus was on the day job and study.  The more I put in, the more came out – again offers from people I don’t know – just know me from my efforts in the sport.

The links to social capital may be tenuous and it is difficult to explain it in a short blog post but social capital is something that we can interpret and use beyond large and obscure political theory.

It is also where social media will influence social capital.  The world is changing faster than some can comprehend and faster than research can view.  A PhD is a minimum of three years – in that time behaviours come and go – although we may now reach a plateau to better look at social capital in the 21st century.  It will function differently with different tools.  It won’t have to be marketing – infact marketing may lessen your social capital.  It will be genuineness and sincerity to your cause, to your virtual community.

No longer will people have to talk in a church or community hall to build social capital.  They can do it from the comfort of their living room with people they will never meet.