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Thematic Issues
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Volume 9 (2008/2009), ISSUE 14 (YEARLY)


Creating Social Capital through the Internet: 

Thoughts and Experiences of Generations X and Y 




This article investigates whether members of Generation X and Generation Y sought to create social capital through the Internet. Using an ethnographic approach, 24 people were interviewed and their public interactions with the discussion forums of organizations in civil society were analyzed. The findings both confirm and challenge previous findings about young people and the creation of social capital. In particular, the participants in this study are not apathetic and uninterested in participating in civil society. However, they do not necessarily express their interests and action in ways that are acknowledged by mature adults. They actively seek to create social capital, but not necessarily according to recognized measures. 

Social capital seems to have two manifestations, the first being related to the creation of a secure personal environment which they feel comfortable to inhabit and the second being related to �making the world a better place�, in a wider societal sense. When they consider social capital something that relates to their own well-being and support, most young people require at least some face to face interaction or the possibility of meeting the other person or people and believe that online interactions alone are inadequate for creating social capital. However, when they consider social capital a good in society at large or in a wider community, these young people acknowledge that social capital can be created through the online interactions, using the internet to interact with people they do not know and may never meet. Further research is proposed to explore whether differences with previous findings are merely another example of young people yet to adopt the thoughts and customs of the generations before them or whether they signal a fundamental shift in the way social relations and involvement in civil society are conducted.


Youth - Internet - Social Capital - Social Relations - Public - Private


Hilary Yerbury has had a long-standing interest in the way people share knowledge and information and use it to make decisions in their everyday lives. She has led research projects at the University of Technology, Sydney, investigating the experiences of university students as they develop as reflective practitioners and she has explored the information seeking behaviors of groups such as recently arrived immigrants. Her involvement with the Oxfam International Youth Parliament from 2000-2006, in particular the setting up of the Skills Centre, showed the power of using information and communication technologies for formal and informal learning, for distributed communication and for establishing peer to peer relationships among people who did not know each other and who were unlikely to meet face to face. Recently she has had the opportunity to formalize her interest in the ways members of Generation X and Generation Y interact and share information and experience through a study on the lived reality of community of a group of young people.


This article is a revised version of a paper presented at the Third International Conference of The Social Capital Foundation, Buggiba, Republic of Malta, 21-22 September 2008. 


All work published in The International Scope� Review is subject to copyright and may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, in any manner or in any medium - unless written consent  is given by The Social Capital Foundation represented by its President, unless the author's name and the one of The International Scope� Review as the first publication medium appear on the work or the excerpt, and unless no charge is made for the copy containing the work or excerpt.

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