Using the power of research to inform ICT integration in education

Archive for 01/11/2011

How can Social Capital inform the actual and potential use of IT?

Marleen Huysman, Volker Wulf (2005) The role of Information Technology in building and sustaining the relational base of communities, The Information Society (TIS), Vol. 21, No. 2, 2005, pp. 81 – 89

One of the most important potential fallacies of the debate on IT enabled communities, is the over-enthusiasm towards technological possibilities. The trap lurks particularly in the assumption that IT can positively support and improve knowledge sharing while ignoring the social conditions that trigger or hinder people to share knowledge. As many scholars have already argued, the tendency to perceive IT as independent from the social environment of which it is part, has caused disappointing acceptance rates (e.g. Ciborra 1996, McDermott 1999). It is not the technology itself but the way people use it that influence whether or not and how IT will be used. Moreover, in case of communities of practice, it is not the technology itself that enables connecting people, it is the motivation for people to relate to each other (Lesser 2000). We postulated that social capital analysis of communities informs us better about the actual and potential use of IT. Based on theory we proposed that the higher the level of social capital, the more members are stimulated to connect and share knowledge. This implies that communities with high social capital will be more inclined to use – or continue using – ICT to share knowledge than in case of low social capital.

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