The relational, structural and cognitive dimension

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Frame of Reference

This chapter presents the theories on social capital that are used in the analysis of the empirical data. It be-gins with explaining the choice of theory and a deeper introduction to the concept of social capital with four of its components; trust, knowledge sharing, shared norms and citizenship. Then it continues with the pres-entation of the two theories chosen for this thesis and ends with a description of the importance of social capi-tal for organizations such as Electronicum.

Choice of Theory

The purpose of this thesis is to examine the link between Facebook and the level of social capital in the work place of Electronicum. It is, therefore, crucial to look into theories on social capital. The theories presented below were chosen according to how well they related to the purpose of this study and also how influential the theories were in the research field of social capital. A common feature among scholars is the tendency to divide this compli-cated notion into dimensions and, thus, refer to it as a multidimensional concept (Claridge, 2004a).
Since social capital is such a broad and complex concept, the authors chose a theory devel-oped by Nahapiet and Ghoshal (1998) that breaks it down into different dimensions; a structural, a relational and a cognitive dimension. This helped the authors to manage and link the empirical data to the theory in a straightforward way. Moreover, this theory – among most other theories on social capital – recognizes the four components of trust, shared norms, knowledge sharing and citizenship that the authors chose to focus on.
In addition to this, Putnam‟s theory of bonding and bridging social capital has had a major impact on the research of social capital as he is one of the most cited authors in the re-search field (Pawar, 2006). The notions of bonding and bridging are frequently reoccurring throughout the research field and, therefore, this theory was also added to the frame of ref-erence. This theory further helped the author identify the different types of social capital that existed among the employees within Electronicum. Finally, this chapter ends with de-scribing the importance of social capital for organizations like Electronicum. In order to il-lustrate this, the authors had to examine the risks and benefits associated with managing social capital.

Social Capital

Originally described as a relational resource comprised of personal ties (Portes, 1998), modern research has broadened the conceptualization of social capital. Theoretically, social capital has been conceptualized at multiple levels including; national, individual and organi-zational. (Griffith & Harvey, 2004). Needless to say, the research performed in this field is extensive. Recent research has broadened the spectrum of where social capital can be ap-plied including areas such as business, public relations and marketing.There exists a wide variety of definitions of social capital (Claridge, 2004b). The definitions are many and vary on what facet they have chosen to focus upon within social capital (Nahapiet & Ghoshal, 1998). Examples of this diversity are illustrated by the following different scholars‟ versatil-ity of definitions.


Social capital is “the features of social organization such as networks, norms, and social trust that facilitate coordination and cooperation for mutual benefit”(Putnam, 1995, p. 67).
Bourdieu and Wacquant (1992, p. 119) define social capital as “the sum of the resources, actual or virtual, that accrue to an individual or a group by virtue of possessing a durable network of more or less institutionalized relationships of mutual acquaintance and recogni-tion”. Baker (1990, p. 619) defines it as “a resource that actors derive from specific social structures and then use to pursue their interests; it is created by changes in the relationship among actors”.
Furthermore, Burt (1992, p. 9) argues that social capital is “friends, colleagues, and more general contacts through which you receive opportunities to use your financial and human capital”. Burt (1997, p. 355) also defines the concept as “the brokerage opportunities in a network”. The definition adopted in this thesis is the definition developed by Nahapiet and Ghoshal (1998, p. 243): “the sum of the actual and potential resources embedded within, available through, and derived from the network of relationships possessed by an individual or social unit. Social capital thus comprises both the network and the assets that may be mobilized through that network”.

Trust, Knowledge sharing, Shared norms and Citizenship

As mentioned previously, the definitions of social capital vary according to what facet of the concept scholars have chosen to focus upon (Adler & Kwon, 2002). However, some components seem to repeat themselves under different divisions, namings or groupings throughout the research. Examples of such components are; trust, knowledge sharing, shared norms and citizenship (Claridge, 2004c). The authors of this thesis have chosen to focus upon four components of social capital that are relevant for the case study on Elec-tronicum. Namely; trust, knowledge sharing, shared norms and citizenship. Arguably, there are no rigid borders between the four components in the way that they tend to blend with each other.


Similar to the discussion of defining social capital there is confusion in the literature as to how trust is associated with social capital (Adler & Kwon, 2002). Therefore, the authors consider it necessary to decide on a definition for this component. Some scholars view it as an asset resulting from social capital (Lin, 2001b), some equal it to social capital (Fuku-yama, 1995) some view it as a source of social capital (Putnam, 1993), and the list contin-ues. Notwithstanding, there is no confusion regarding the assumption that there exists a closely-knit relation between social capital and trust (Leana & Van Buren III, 1999). For this thesis, the authors have chosen to adopt the perspective of Lin (1999) arguing that trust is an asset embedded in a network‟s relationships.

Knowledge sharing

According to Nahapiet and Ghoshal (1998), social capital is both the network and the re-sources that can be assembled from that network. One of these resources is knowledge sharing (Nahapiet & Ghoshal, 1998). Knowledge within an organization is crucial for its function and it has, consequently, been accepted as an important resource by economists (Nahapiet & Ghoshal, 1998). It is the information transfer that takes place between people (Miller & Shamsie, 1996). Previous research has proven informal social interaction to be important for effective knowledge sharing (Steinfield et al., 2009; Van Maanen & Schein, 1979). Similarly, Nahapiet and Ghoshal (1998) argue that social interaction indirectly en-hances knowledge transfer since it creates trust, and trust in itself, promotes the willingness to share knowledge.

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Shared Norms

Shared norms are a social group‟s standard behaviour and it reflects the common values and culture that are shared by the members of this group (Britannica Encyclopaedia, Shared norms). The norms can be written down rules but for this thesis the main focus is on those norms that exist merely as unwritten rules and mutual understandings within a group (Gulati, 2000). Shared norms is a reoccurring notion in the field of social capital, in-cluded in many scholars‟ theories and research such as Nahapiet and Ghoshal (1998), Put-nam (2000), and Ouchi (1981). This component of social capital can express itself in shared languages and codes (Cicourel, 1973) and through a workplace‟s shared culture and general attitudes (Gulati, 2000). The shared culture refers to how shared norms of behaviour man-age relationships (Inkpen & Tsang, 2005).


Citizenship behavior takes place when the employee goes beyond his or her work respon-sibilities in order to benefit the organization (Bolino et al., 2002). This behavior occurs most often when the employee is pleased with his or her job task, is inspired and supported by the management, and committed to the organization (Bolino et al., 2002). According to Putnam (1993), high civic participation by individuals in communities often goes hand in hand with high social capital in these communities. Transcribing this to organizations, em-ployees that are committed to the organization and show civic behaviors contributes to the development of social capital in that organization (Bolino et al., 2002). That is, organiza-tions that have employees of this caliber often tend to show higher levels of social capital (Bolino et al., 2002). Moreover, employees who have inspiring and supportive leaders tend to show more citizenship behavior (Bolino et al., 2002).
Graham (1991) argues that there are three types of citizenship within organizations; ob-edience, participation, and loyalty. Obedience relates to how willing the employees are to ab-ide and agree to the organizational regulations, rules and procedures. Participation describes the employees‟ willingness to take part of the organizational activities (Graham, 1991). That is, everything related to the organizational life. Finally, the loyalty of the employees portrays how willing the employees are in putting the organization first, as well as how they defend and promote it (Graham, 1991). Moreover, employees who have inspiring and supportive leaders tend to show more citizenship behavior (Bolino et al., 2002).

The Umbrella Concept

Due to the various definitions of social capital many researchers refer to social capital as an umbrella concept (Brunie, 2009; Hirsch & Levin, 1999; Ellison et al., 2007; Adler & Kwon, 2002). Some have even referred to it as a notion that has taken on “a circus-tent quality” (De Souza Briggs, 1997, p. 111) or as Narayan and Pritchett (1997, p. 2) described it “to mean many things to many people”. The breadth of social capital as a phenomenon illus-trates how one social tie or feature can often be used for different purposes depending on the major factors influencing relations between people (Adler & Kwon, 2002). The follow-ing sections will describe how this umbrella concept can be narrowed down and clarified by dividing it into levels and dimensions.

Levels of Social Capital

An effective way of gaining a perspective of and analyzing social capital is to observe it through either a micro (individual), meso (group), or macro (societal) level (Claridge, 2004a). Social capital is a complex concept that may behave and give different conse-quences depending on the context and setting of which it operates within (Brunie, 2009).
Social capital can be conceptualized at different levels of analysis, all ranging from the mi-cro level to the macro level (Tsai & Ghoshal, 1998) as illustrated in the figure below. In this case study the focus will be on the micro level (individuals) and on the meso level (groups) which includes the organizational setting of Electronicum.

1 Introduction 
1.1 Background
1.2 Problem Discussion
1.3 Electronicum
1.4 Purpose
1.5 Research Questions
1.6 Definitions
1.7 Delimitations
1.8 Outline of the Thesis
2 Frame of Reference 
2.1 Choice of Theory
2.2 Social Capital
2.3 The relational, structural and cognitive dimension
2.4 Putnam’s Bonding and Bridging Social Capital
2.5 The Importance of Social Capital for Organizations
2.6 Potential Benefits and Disadvantages with Social Capita
3 Method 
3.1 Purpose of Research
3.2 Primary and Secondary Data
3.3 Research Approach
3.4 Research Method
3.5 Strategy
3.6 Sampling and Selection
3.7 Ethical Issues
3.8 Analysis of Data
3.9 Quality Standards
4 Empirical Findings
4.1.1 Facebook Usage
4.2 Interview Results
5 Analysis
5.1 Research Question 1: Determine how the Facebook usage patterns between Electronicum’s employees affect offline interaction.
5.2 Research Question 2: Further investigate how the employee usage of Facebook affects the social capital components trust, knowledge sharing, shared norms and citizenship, both on an individual and on a group level in the work place.
5.3 Research Question 3: . How does Facebook benefit or disadvantage the social capital at Electronicum?
6 Conclusion 
7 Discussion
7.1 Criticism to the Study
7.2 Suggestions
7.3 Further Research
“Add as Friend” A Case Study on Facebook and its Effects on Social Capital in the Workplace

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