Is social capital dehumanising? (comment call)

Following on from my post about teaching community-based journalism, I had an interesting correspondence with James Brooks, who found terms like “social capital” dehumanising, refused to join Facebook and many other web platforms on ethical grounds (that they conflate the professional and private), and took issue with the idea that my assignment suggested that he “should become an active member” of certain “communities”.

I wanted to explore this further, because I think this is a complex area that deserves fleshing out. So, is social capital dehumanising? Should journalists refuse to join social networks on ethical grounds? And does a journalist have to engage with communities to do their job?

PS: James is happy for me to blog about it.

4 thoughts on “Is social capital dehumanising? (comment call)

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Is social capital dehumanising? (comment call) | Online Journalism Blog --

  2. Jon Bounds

    That’s really interesting, the measurement of anything affects your instinctive reactions to it so I am in some agreement that the quantification of social capital, or influence, is somewhat dehumanising. That said, the quantification is an inaccurate and necessary process—but the awareness of why people act the way they so is essential in many fields.

    Is to dismiss the theories to have to start each interaction from scratch with no forewarning?

    I don’t see that there’s a difference for journalists offline or online in terms of how they best gain the trust of a community or access to information within it—is it possible to do journalism without blurring the personal and private and engaging in the community that you are reporting on? yes probably but it’s a research job. To do it well I think it is necessary to engage above a professional detachment.

    As for the tools: they don’t conflate the professional and the private, but their use may.

    1. Paul Bradshaw

      Thanks Jon – I think you hit the nail on the head there. It’s measurement that prevents me from feeling completely comfortable with it – but it’s an academic’s job to measure things.

  3. Oliver Conner

    Maybe a little off the point, but I cannot help but feel that the advent of social media is fundamentally changing the boundaries of the private and the professional, and consequently changing what it means to be human.

    This transformation was spotted by French Philosopher Jacques Derrida during the early days of email in his paper Archive Fever:

    ‘[electronic mail] is on the way to transforming the entire public and private space of humanity, and first of all the limit between the private, the secret (private or public), and the public or the phenomenal’.

    It is because of this that I don’t consider social capital dehumanizing, I just think it is a new part of a humanity undergoing alteration. And as with all inevitable changes there will be resistance. Surely it is a journalists responsibility to be at the forefront of this change?


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