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Local Nets and Social Capital. Duncan Timms, Sara Ferlander & Liz Timms, CRDLT, Faculty of Human Sciences, University of Stirling. SCHEMA: Social Cohesion through Higher Education in Marginal Areas. Project funded under the EC 4th Framework Educational Multimedia Taskforce

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local nets and social capital

Local Nets and Social Capital

Duncan Timms, Sara Ferlander & Liz Timms,


Faculty of Human Sciences,

University of Stirling

schema social cohesion through higher education in marginal areas
SCHEMA: Social Cohesion through Higher Education in Marginal Areas
  • Project funded under the EC 4th Framework Educational Multimedia Taskforce
  • Co-ordinated by the University of Stirling
  • Partners in Finland (Lapland & Oulu), Germany (Stuttgart & Bremen) and Sweden (Örebro & Stockholm)
project aims
Use of a client-server topology for the delivery and support of online courses

Exploration of Web-based learning environment

Production of CPD courses for health and welfare workers in remote areas

Research into relationship between on-line networks and local communities

Project Aims
  • NCs/set-top boxes - feasible but timing and economic problems
  • Web-based environments - Reports on packages for collaboration online
  • CPD Modules - modules developed for health & welfare workers (units on applied social research methods, social implications of the Internet, care for dementia sufferers, drug and alcohol abuse, quality management in care provision, community portraits)
  • Research into links between learning communities, local nets and local communities
local nets and social capital5
Local Nets and Social Capital
  • Local Net - locally-based computer network dealing with local issues
  • Social Capital - extent of networks, trust and sense of belonging

See article on “Local Nets and Social Capital” in autumn issue of Telematics and Informatics.


general research question
General Research Question
  • To what extent can the use of C&IT (re-)create Social Cohesion in Local Communities?
  • Specific Research Questions:
    • To what extent can the use of Web-based packages lead to the creation of Learning Communities?
    • To what extent can Learning Communities help in the recreation of local communities?
    • What is the impact of Local Nets?
the existing wisdom c it as a threat to social capital
The Existing Wisdom - C&IT as a Threat to Social Capital
  • The Digital Divide?
  • The seductive antisocial power of the Internet:

“Just as TV produces couch potatoes, so online culture produces mouse potatoes, people who hide from real life and spend their whole life goofing off in cyberspace.”

(McClelland, 1994: 10)

the existing wisdom c it as a vehicle for increased interaction
The Existing Wisdom - C&IT as a Vehicle for Increased Interaction
  • “People in virtual communities … exchange pleasantries and argue, engage in intellectual discourse, conduct commerce, exchange knowledge, share emotional support, make plans, brainstorm, gossip, fall in love, find friends and lose them, play games, flirt, create a little high art and a lot of idle talk. People in virtual communities do just about everything people do in real life, but we leave our bodies behind. You can’t kiss anybody and nobody can punch you in the nose, but a lot can happen within these boundaries”

(Rheingold, 1993: 3)

the existing wisdom the web and empowerment
The Existing Wisdom - The Web and Empowerment
  • “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog”
  • “people whose physical handicaps make it difficult to form new friendships find that virtual communities treat them as they have always wanted to be treated - as thinkers and transmitters of ideas, not carnal vessels with a certain appearance and way of walking and talking (or not walking and talking).” (Rheingold)
  • “when they connect people electronic networks are social networks.” (Wellman)
the community net research project
The Community Net Research Project
  • Identification of two marginalised communities with local net projects
  • Establishing the base: survey of social capital prior to connection
  • Action research involving use of Community Portraits module
  • Follow-up surveys
community portraits
Community Portraits
  • Pilot in Spring 1999 designed to investigate use of online collaboration between members of different H&W professions in different communities (remote areas of Finland, Germany and Scotland)
  • Extension now to members of marginalised com-munities themselves. How can web-based collaborative learning contribute to community building?
  • For further information on the Community Portraits module contact Liz Timms in the Department of Social Work, University of Edinburgh (elizabeth.timms@ed.ac.uk)
research aims
Research Aims
  • What is the extent of social capital in the com-munity prior to the development of the local net?
  • Once the net is installed, who are users and who is left out?
  • What are people’s expectations for the Local Net?
  • Can Learning Communities bridge the divide between different groups?
initial survey results sweden
Initial Survey Results (Sweden)
  • High numbers of single parents, migrants
  • Low social capital
  • Internal divisions & lack of identity
  • C&IT seen as a vehicle for increasing cohesion
expected use of the local net
Expected Use of the Local Net
  • Both Local and Global services (importance of local information)
  • Use of the Local Net thought likely to increase social capital in the community:
    • increased information (substitute for local paper)
    • increased contacts (especially with officials)
    • stronger sense of local identity
    • but less optimism about its impact on intra-community relations
  • Enthusiasm for participation in Community Portraits
local nets social capital
Local Nets & Social Capital


  • Reports available from SCHEMA Website:


Centre for Research & Development in Learning Technology,

Faculty of Human Sciences,

University of Stirling,

Stirling FK9 4LA,