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The effects of Facebook use on civic participation attitudes and behaviour: A social network study

(DPhil research proposal)

Dissertation submitted to University of Sussex in partial fulfilment for the award of Master of Science in Cross Cultural Research Methods

BY

Candidate number: 70642

Under the Guidance of Prof. Gerard Delanty

September 2011

The effects of Facebook use on civic participation attitudes and behaviour: A social network study (DPhil research proposal) Candidate number: 70642

Summary

The following proposal suggests a network analysis approach to study the effects of web communication on civic participation. A three-phase mixed methods research design is proposed to examine firstly, the effect of supplementary communication via the social networking site Facebook, on the structure (quantity) and content (quality) of social ties within a network of citizens engaged in health and social care policymaking. It is proposed that the network variables of tie structure and content are then tested in an affective capacity against the participatory attitudes and behaviour of networked individuals. By reframing the study of web use and civic participation under a network theoretical framework, the proposed study will add to the existing literature in the field through recognition of the mediative capacity of relational ties in the formation of participatory capital. It is suggested that it is through their effect on relational tie structure and content within citizen participation networks, that social networking sites such as Facebook affect participatory attitudes and behaviour. To set a critical context for the proposed study, a final qualitative phase of research is suggested to examine the professional power structures impacting upon participant expressions of agency.

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The effects of Facebook use on civic participation attitudes and behaviour: A social network study (DPhil research proposal) Candidate number: 70642

CONTENTS

  • 1 PREFACE

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  • 1.1 Context and rationale

3

  • 1.2 Research Questions

5

  • 2 LITERATURE & THEORETICAL OVERVIEW

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  • 2.1 Social networking sites (SNS) and social relations

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  • 2.2 Networked social relations and civic participation

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  • 2.3 Critical context: Negotiations of power in civic

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  • 2.4 Bringing it all together: Social relations, civic participation and the web

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  • 3 THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK

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  • 3.1 Framework rationale and definition

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  • 3.2 Network theory and Actor-Network-Theory (ANT)

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  • 4 METHODLOGY, RESEARCH DESIGN, AND RESEARCH METHODS

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  • 4.1 Research context

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  • 4.2 A mixed methods approach to network analysis

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  • 4.3 Quantitative network analysis

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  • 4.3.1 A sociometric approach to data collection

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  • 4.3.2 Quantitative variable definition

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  • 4.3.3 Preliminary hypotheses and regression model responses

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  • 4.4 ANT:

Narrative theory approach ...........................................................................................

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  • 4.5 Data collection, sampling, and final points

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  • 4.5.1 Quantitative data collection and sampling

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  • 4.5.2 Qualitative data collection and sampling

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  • 5 BIBLIOGRAPHY

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The effects of Facebook use on civic participation attitudes and behaviour: A social network study (DPhil research proposal) Candidate number: 70642

1

PREFACE

  • 1.1 Context and rationale

“Web 1.0 was predominantly a system of cognition. Since the millennium, the character of the web has been successively changing. With the rise of heavily frequented platforms such as MySpace, YouTube, Facebook, Wikipedia, Friendster, etc., communication and cooperation have become more important features of the web” (Fuchs, 2008: p125)

Web 2.0 represents an evolution of web 1.0, where content was pre-produced, published, and delivered from one-to-many passive users whose role was one of cognitive interpretation, to an open-platform environment where many users participate in the production and consumption of diverse media content (Musser and O’Reilly, 2006). Prolific Internet penetration and evolution of the web itself have catalysed a change in social relations where “*c+ommunication is the medium in which belonging is today being expressed in its most important ways” (Delanty, 2010*2003+: p135)

In addition to widespread private and corporate use, as “*d+emocratic governments [come] under pressure to adopt a new approach to policy-making one which places greater emphasis on citizen involvement both upstream and downstream to decision-making” (OECD, 2001: p71), British local

authorities are also beginning to employ web 2.0 social networking sites (SNS) such as Facebook as a stimulus for citizen participation in the ‘co-planning’ and ‘co-delivery’ (Bovaird, 2007) of public services: “…social media enables publics to create conversation…and *local authorities to+ benefit from increased participation” (Wakeman, 2008: p26). The (either explicit or implicit) logic behind the application of SNS communication as a catalyst for civic participation is that Delanty’s (ibid) ‘belonging’ or more specifically in a participatory context, Putnam’s (1995, 1996, 2000) sentiments of relational ‘trust’ and ‘reciprocity, which are widely acknowledged as antecedents to collective

civic participation, can be activated' "

...

through

some form of system meta-intervention [i.e.

improved communication between citizens]" (Bovaird et al.; in Gotze, Pederson et al., 2010: p267).

Whilst a limited number of academic studies have established positive causality between additive web use and participatory attitudes and behaviour, there is endemic failure to treat empirically,

Putnam’s (1995, 1996, 2000) third antecedent of participation: ‘networks’ (see in particular Blanchard and Horan, 2000; Calhoun, 1998; Kavanaugh et al., 2003; Kotus and Hławka, 2010; Stern

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The effects of Facebook use on civic participation attitudes and behaviour: A social network study (DPhil research proposal) Candidate number: 70642

and Dillman, 2006; Wellman et al., 2001). Empirical neglect of this antecedent, which mediates input

(SNS use) and output (participation), means that data do not allow for "

...

strong

inferences about

how Internet activity influences…participation" (Wellman et al., ibid: p450; emphasis added).

To refocus the study of web use and civic participation under a network theoretical lens, in the absence of a comprehensive body of work that has empirically acknowledged the mediative capacity of measurable network characteristics such as relational connectivity and quality specifically in the production of participatory capital, it is necessary to merge two bodies of literature that deal with the endogenous production and exogenous effect of those characteristics in networks more generally (i.e. outside of a civic participation context). The first body of literature concerns the effect of web use on the network characteristics of relational connectivity and quality, whilst the second reviews the idea that such network characteristics have an affective relationship with the attitudes and behaviour of actors toward network function. In the wider network literature, both quantity and quality of network relations are found to be positively affected by SNS use and positively affective of network attitudes and behaviour.

Contextualised within an as yet undecided Local Involvement Network (LINk; see section 4.1 for definition), the three-phase mixed methods research proposal suggests a quantitative variable construct based on two sequentially linked stages of empirical research, the first testing for an affective link between frequency and type of SNS use, and the quantity and quality of relations within the LINk, and the second seeking to establish a causal relationship between the state of those relations and participatory attitudes and behaviour. The third, qualitative dimension of the proposal comes in response to a point made by Jones and Norton (2010: p445) that “*l+ocal people are only able to be part of local decision making if…the council, and councillors in particular, is willing to respond positively to the views of the citizen and indeed to change and develop policy accordingly.Thus, to ensure a critical account of the extent to which SNS use fosters networked relations conducive to participatory attitudes and behaviour, the proposal suggests a qualitative deconstruction of the power relations acting upon those expressions of participatory agency.

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The effects of Facebook use on civic participation attitudes and behaviour: A social network study (DPhil research proposal) Candidate number: 70642

  • 1.2 Research Questions

The following meta-question establishes the direction of the entire study:

To what extent does SNS communication foster networked relations conducive to civic participatory attitudes and behaviour?

This question is then broken into three related component parts:

  • 1. To what extent does SNS use affect the quantity and quality of social relations within civic participation networks?

  • 2. To what extent do relational quantity and quality affect the participatory attitudes and behaviour of individuals within civic participation networks?

  • 3. What is the process of negotiation that occurs between participants and professionals in the implementation of participant-led public service policy and development ideas?

    • a. To what extent are participant ideas transformed from their original state before being applied to public service policy and development?

These questions are further deconstructed in the research hypotheses developed in section 4.3.3.

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The effects of Facebook use on civic participation attitudes and behaviour: A social network study (DPhil research proposal) Candidate number: 70642

2

LITERATURE & THEORETICAL OVERVIEW

  • 2.1 Social networking sites (SNS) and social relations

Zhao (2006) found “…social use of the Internet *rather than ‘antisocial’ independent browsing+ is positively related to interpersonal connectivity”. Zhao finds web chat users to have a significantly

greater number of social ties than non-web users 1 , and heavy or frequent web chat users to ‘keep in touch’ with a significantly greater number of people 2 than light web chat users 3 . In other words, those users who make more frequent use of social media have a greater number of social ties than those who are less frequent users (see also Ellison et al., 2007; Hampton and Wellman, 2003;

Haythornthwaite, 2005).

By contrast, Zhao’s research finds social media to be ineffective 4 in maintaining relationships that are durable across both the online and offline dimensions. This finding may well be attributable to Zhao’s (ibid) definition of social media, which is limited exclusively to “…chat-rooms, news-groups, listservs, and bulletin boards” (p849), and excludes SNS such as Facebook, which constitute “… a newer form of virtual socialising in which connections are initially made offline and then migrated online, where they can be maintained” (Ellison et al., 2006: p27). In-terms of its social function Facebook is probably closer, in Zhao’s (ibid) terms at least, to emailing than social media as like Facebook the former is “…nested within offline social networks” whilst the latter “…largely involves

contact with strangers” (p859; see also; Ellison et al., 2006). Boyd & Ellison (2007) posit that closed or exclusive SNS such as Facebook are effective in developing social relations that span both the online and offline dimensions due to their personal contact and community page privacy controls. This is supported by Dwyer et al. (2007: p10), who found that “…Facebook members were more trusting of the site and its members *than MySpace members+” 5 and more willing to disclose information” because “…Facebook members use the site to manage relationships initiated offline”

(p8; see also Lampe et al., 2006).

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17.82 ties for non-users and 27.91 ties for chat users ( defined as ‘friends or relatives contacted at least once a year’.

); where social ties are

2

; defined as ‘those who used many-to-many online communications programs” for more than three hours per week’.

3

.

4

A further conclusion drawn by Zhao (ibid) is that online social media users maintain fewer offline face-to-face

contacts than do email users:

.

5

Measured along two combined seven-point sematic scales:

.

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The effects of Facebook use on civic participation attitudes and behaviour: A social network study (DPhil research proposal) Candidate number: 70642

Thus, whilst the empirical literature finds SNS users may be better connected overall, it also either implicitly or explicitly differentiates between strong and weaker social relations, the former tending to be initiated offline (i.e. face-to-face) and the latter initiated online. This distinction is captured in Wellman et al.’s (ibid; see also Hampton and Wellman, ibid) ‘utopian – dystopian’ debate. On the basis that social relations require only frequency of communication to emerge and develop, utopians argue that the web’s capacity to increase relational communication frequency by overcoming spatial and temporal restrictions (Baym, 1997; Sproull and Kiesler, 1991; Wellman et al., ibid) renders it a catalyst for an improved era of social relations. By contrast, dystopians argue against the capacity of web communication to transmit the verbal and nonverbal cues required for the building of “…complex friendships, [and provision of] intangible resources such as emotional support” (Wellman ibid: p439).

The utopian interpretation of the web’s influence on social relations draws on Walther’s (1995) Social Information Processing Theory (SIP), which posits that “*o+ver an extended period, the issue is not the amount of social information that can be conveyed online; rather; it’s the rate at which that information mounts up” (Griffin, 2009: p143). In other words an absence of verbal and nonverbal cues can be compensated for either by an extended period of communication or an increased

frequency of message sending. By contrast, the dystopian perspective draws on Daft et al.’s (1987) Media Richness Theory (MTR), which suggests that as media can be classified according to its capacity to transmit verbal and nonverbal cues - its ‘richness’, the web will always be inferior in its capacity to convey the ‘depth or closeness’ (Marsden and Campbell, 1984) required for the

development of strong social relations relative to face-to-face communication , which conveys an optimum number and range of cues (see Daft et al., ibid; Fish et al., 1993; Kiesler and Sproull, 1992; Rice, 1987; Trevino et al., 1990; University of Twente, 2010).

A third argument, from which the present study takes its lead, is that modern day SNS are no different from any other channel of communication and used in a similar way to earlier communication technologies “…to keep in touch with old friends and to maintain or intensify relationships characterised by some form of offline connection” (Ellison et al., 2007: p1162; see also Flanagan and Metzger, 2001; Koku et al., 2001). As well as supporting the basic idea that SNS use increases social connectivity in-terms of number of relations (SIP), the centrist argument combines both utopian SIP and dystopian MRT propositions to suggest that newer SNS such as Facebook also strengthen existing strong ties, which are necessarily initiated offline (MRT), through increased frequency of communication (SIP). Farrow and Yuan (2011) find support for this centrist argument

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The effects of Facebook use on civic participation attitudes and behaviour: A social network study (DPhil research proposal) Candidate number: 70642

empirically within an alumni network, where relations have been initiated offline but are maintained via Facebook. Facebook group membership is found to be a statistically significant positive predictor of frequency of communication 6 , the latter is then found to be a statistically significant positive predictor of ‘emotional closeness’ or quality of social relations 7 .

Adding a further dimension to the centrist position are a small number of studies that have combined SIP’s argument for the importance of frequency of interaction with MRT’s idea of cue transfer, to establish a causal relationship between frequency of richer (versus leaner) media use in relational communication and the strength of social ties. Thus, an IBM workplace study conducted in 2007 found that when colleagues or business partners chose to communicate more frequently using richer media - face to face or phone – “…they were perceived as more competent and more enjoyable, as well as the other person being more aware of their knowledge and skills…*whilst+ [t]here were lower perceptions of all these characteristics when people used email, conference calls or instant messaging” (Ehrilich and Carboni, 2007: p19-20; see also Cummings et al., 2001) 8 .

What Ehrilich and Carboni’s (ibid) study seems to hint at is an affective link between frequency of richer (versus leaner) media use and the strength of social ties. In the present context, which is concerned with the influence of the SNS Facebook on social relations, we can refer to Cormode and

Krishnamurthy’s (2008: p18) classification of Facebook applications by type of communications activity 9 :

  • 6 i.e. for every one extra alumni group joined on Facebook, frequency of alumnus communication increases by 0.6 where frequency is measured on a 7-point semantic scale where 1=never and 7=almost every day.

  • 7 i.e. for every one point increase on the 7- point semantic measure of frequency, emotional closeness increases by 0.75 where emotional closeness is measured using a composite of 7-point semantic scales (see 2005 PCUAD Alumni Attitude Study [Performance Enhancement Group, Ltd., 2005]).

  • 8 Ehrilich and Carboni (2007) find a significant difference (but not a causal relationship; ) between weak and strong ties and the preference of each group to communicate more frequently using face-to-face or via the telephone ( ). Strong ties were also likely to use email to communicate less frequently than weak ties ( ).

  • 9 Underpinning this functionality is the AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) programming technique, which employs Javascript and XML (EXtensible Markup Language) code alongside the HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) that underpinned web 1.0. AJAX harnesses the dynamic functionality of Javascript to allow

for interactive web pages. “Unlike classic web pages, which must load in their entirety if content changes, AJAX

allows web pages to be updated asynchronously by exchanging small amounts of data with the server behind the scenes” (Google, 2011a). AJAX programming thus allows for the creation of user-led content pages within a static HTML/CSS (Cascading Style Sheet) template. So, for example, whilst Facebook’s platform is based on a

pre-defined HTML/CSS template, AJAX code allows users to add content to pages to render Facebook what is

known as a ‘mashup website’, “…a website that combines content data from more than one source to create

a new user experience” (Google, 2011b).

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The effects of Facebook use on civic participation attitudes and behaviour: A social network study (DPhil research proposal) Candidate number: 70642

  • 1. Clicks and connections: Simple activities which only require a single click to complete, such as rating a movie or voting in poll.

  • 2. Comments: Adding a short response, comment or tag to existing content, such as a news story, blog entry, photo etc.

  • 3. Text communication: Sending a message to another user or group, either via an email-like system or via instant messaging. These are typically short, a sentence or two per communication.

  • 4. Content creation: Uploading or entering some entirely new content, such as a webcam movie, digital photo, or blog posting.

Cormode and Krishnamurthy’s classification can be conceptually linked to Daft et al.’s earlier

proposition that media may be ordered along a continuum in-terms of the complexity of the verbal and nonverbal cues that it is able to transmit. Simply put, we might say that a Facebook user who communicates only via clicks or short comments has a lesser capacity to transmit the cues required for strong social ties than a user who communicates using long-text or video content. By implication then, after controlling for use/non-use and frequency of use of the Facebook platform itself, we might assume that more frequent users of richer Facebook applications would have stronger social ties than users of leaner applications. This assertion is too simplistic however, as it ignores the fundamental distinction between older and newer SNS, which is the functionality of the latter to

accommodate either purposeful maintenance of pre-existing strong ties or the building of more general connectivity vis-à-vis, it is not always the intention of Facebook users to strengthen their social ties, but also to increase their general connectivity or number of non-intimate links to increase their capacity to transmit and receive information (Granovetter, 1973).

Thus, depending on intent, the applications comprising any one of Cormode and Krishnamurthy’s categories can be employed by Facebook users either to strengthen intimate social relations or to increase overall connectivity, for the former through transmission and reception of media via the Platform’s one-to-one messaging functionality, and for the latter via its many-to-many 10 communication channels such as profile and group page ‘walls’. Whilst Comm’s (2010: p3) one dimensional assertion that “*s+omeone who uses social media successfully…creates conversations… *, which in turn+ create networks” may be too simplistic, it does provide support for the argument that a further subdivision of the question - ‘do more frequent users of richer Facebook applications have stronger social ties than users of leaner applications?’ – is required. In short, where the

10 See Smith and Taylor, 2002: p78-80

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The effects of Facebook use on civic participation attitudes and behaviour: A social network study (DPhil research proposal) Candidate number: 70642

intention of a user is to strengthen their stronger ties initiated offline, it may be most pertinent to

ask the question, ‘do users of richer Facebook applications have stronger social ties than users of leaner applications?’ However, where the intention is not strength but connectivity, irrespective of tie strength, an entirely different question may need to be asked, ‘do users of richer Facebook applications have more social ties than users of leaner applications?’

  • 2.2 Networked social relations and civic participation

Wellman et al. (ibid) propose the idea of civic participation - “…involvement in political and voluntary organisations” (p437; see also Bovaird, ibid: p848), which for Putnam (1995, 1996, 2000) is a tangible expressionof social capital. Definitions of ‘citizen participation’ tend to vary in the degree of liberal individual versus consensual behaviour, beneficial for society in the development and delivery of formal institutions and services (see Isin and Turner, 2002: p18). Citizen participation is discussed by Putnam and in the present context from a participatory republican perspective (Isin and Turner, ibid), the premise that participation is expressed and constituted through the engagement of citizens with formal institutions created by the state and civil society.

Bovaird (ibid) hones the idea of participation to suggest a theory of ‘coproduction’, which he defines as “…the provision *and development+ of services through…relationships between and amongst professionalised service providers and service users or other members of the community” (p847;

emphasis added). Putnam (1995) also stresses the importance of social relations for catalysing

participatory actions and behaviour, and posits three relationary characteristics - “…networks, norms, and trust – that enable participants to act together more effectively” (p664-665). Putnam’s ‘norms’, which are extended to read “norms of reciprocity” by Woolcock (1998: p153), and ‘trust’, are seen as essential characteristics of networks that are successful in the fostering of participation in civic institutions. These two elements can be easily aligned to Granovetter’s (ibid) concept of social tie strength, which is determined by a “…combination of…the emotional intensity, the intimacy, and the reciprocal services which characterise a tie” (p1361).

One obvious line to take is that individuals within a participation oriented network, who demonstrate greater trust and “…belief that pro-social attitudes and behaviour will be reciprocated” (Blanchard and Horan, ibid: p6) by others in that network, would also demonstrate more positive participatory attitudes and behaviour towards the functional activity of that network. This approach has been empirically tested by, amongst others Farrow and Yuan (ibid), who found that emotional

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The effects of Facebook use on civic participation attitudes and behaviour: A social network study (DPhil research proposal) Candidate number: 70642

closeness amongst member of an alumni network led to a feeling of emotional closeness towards the university institution, which in-turn led to an improvement in participatory attitudes and behaviour within the alumni network 11 . This finding is supported in the literature both empirically and theoretically by a number of studies detailing the positive effect of community or group trust (see La Porta et al., 1997 12 ; Uslaner and Brown, 2005 13 ; Coleman, 1988; Edmonson, 2003) and reciprocity (see Lubell and Scholz, 2001; Sugden, 1984; ) on collective civic participation and contribution.

An extension to the idea of strong ties 14 as a catalyst for positive participatory attitudes and behaviour is Granovetter’s (ibid: p1376) idea that greater connectivity within a network, irrespective

of tie strength, may encourage positive attitudes and behaviour towards network function. From this

perspective, ties may be rendered useful not by “…individual efficiency but by numbers” (Friedkin,

1982: p273). Rationale for this finding comes from the broader organisational literature (see Lee and Kim, 2011 15 ), which finds central or well-connected actors better able to receive information, and communicate and organise their own ideas with a greater number of proximate actors. Improved capacity for communication stimulates a recursive cycle of deliberation and internalisation of positive, productive attitudes and behaviours (Ibarra and Andrews, 1993; Freeman, 1979).

  • 11 i.e. where feelings of emotional closeness to alumni increase by one, where emotional closeness to alumni is measured using 10 seven-point semantic scales adapted from the Sense of Community Index 2 (see Chavis, et al., 2008; Obst and White, 2004), emotional closeness to the institution increased by .69, where emotional closeness to the institution is measured using five seven-point semantic scales (see Chavis, et al., ibid). i.e. where feeling of emotional closeness to the institution increased by one, attitude towards volunteerism increased by .56, where attitude towards volunteerism is measured using 4 seven-point semantic scales adapted from the 2005 PCUAD Alumni Attitude Study (Performance Enhancement Group, Ltd., ibid). i.e. where attitudes towards volunteerism improved by one, actual voluntary participation increased by .70, where volunteer behaviour was assessed by eight seven- point semantic scales adapted from the 1990 American Citizen Participation Survey (Verba, Schlozman, Brady, & Nie, 1990; in Farrow and Yuan, ibid).

  • 12 i.e. across a 40-country comparative study, for every one per cent increase in respondents who responded positively to the question ‘would you say that most people can be trusted?’, civic participation increased by .1244 per cent (percentage of civic activities in which an average individual participates drawn from list of civic activities that can be found on La Porta et al., ibid: p314).

  • 13 [A]ggregate trust is [found to be] the strongest predictor of the share of people in a state who give their time in volunteering” (see Uslaner and Brown, ibid: p885-886).

  • 14 See Krackhardt, 1992 and Henning and Lieberg, 1996 for further discussion.

  • 15 In an organisational context, Lee and Kim (2011) find actor centrality (connectedness or number of ties) to be a significant positive predictor of organisational commitment: : i.e. as centrality increases by 0.01 or 1%, where centrality is measured on a normalised centrality index where 0 = no direct ties and 1 = direct ties to all network actors, organisational commitment increases by 0.168 units, where organisational commitment is measured on a five-point Likert scale.

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The effects of Facebook use on civic participation attitudes and behaviour: A social network study (DPhil research proposal) Candidate number: 70642

For the proposed study two key points can be drawn from the empirical and theoretical literature pertaining to social relations and civic participation. It is probable firstly, that participatory attitudes and behaviour are improved by the presence of strong, trusting and reciprocal social relations within

participation networks, and secondly that ‘connectivity’ more generally will foster positive attitudes

and behaviour through a greater capacity to transmit and access relevant information. An implicit characteristic of these two points is that the participatory attitudes and behaviour of individuals are influenced, at least partially, by the attitudes or behaviours of actors to which s/he is connected.

  • 2.3 Critical context: Negotiations of power in civic participation

The political context, in which the civic participation that is the focus of the proposed research takes place, is the on-going public and patient involvement (PPI) in local government and services policymaking initiative. PPI aims to move policy and decision-making away from the Keynesian bounded rationality or satisficing model of policy development (Simon, 1957; in Davies et al., 2000), towards a pluralist or incremental approach, which seeks input from stakeholders involved in and affected by the policy-making process (Lindblom, 1959; in Davies, 2003).

As neither individual participants nor networked organisations involved in PPI typically command statutory power, there is a basic decision-making hierarchy to be negotiated by any participant who proposes a policy idea or initiative. In the case of the proposed study, which suggests a LINk as a suitable object of study (see below), from inception, a policy idea would need to pass to one or several elected LINk members, who sit alongside non-executive elected councillors and authority area health and social care service managers (for example Primary Care Trust representatives) on an Overview and Scrutiny Committee (OSC; see Department of Health, 2006a, 2006b, 2009). It is the role of the OSC to review and present the executive council with policy input.

In a study of user participation in the policymaking of two London based mental healthcare trusts, Rutter et al. (2003) found “[t]rust managers to frequently disparage the views and concerns of…active, committed users as ‘unrepresentative’” (p1982). Morevover, Rutter et al. (ibid) found that “…the balance of power remains firmly with provider trusts”, with bureaucratic systems of

participation merely serving to entrench the systems of administration and power that deliver unsatisfactory services to users and “…poor returns and personal costs in time and effort” (p1982). These findings are supported by Conklin et al (2004: p26), who suggest that “…public involvement…will almost inevitably involve trade-offs *between+…what is feasible and what is

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The effects of Facebook use on civic participation attitudes and behaviour: A social network study (DPhil research proposal) Candidate number: 70642

‘ideal’”. This trade-off, it seems, is one of ‘public representativeness’ and ‘representation’ (Conklin et al, ibid), with reconciliation sought between the input of individuals at the local level and the interests of professional policymakers and service managers (see also Bauld et al., 2005; Crawford et al., 2003; Tait and Lester, 2005; Campbell, 2001; Summers, 2003).

“*I+f public involvement is to be successful, it will require…policy-makers’ genuine willingness to yield power to the public to ensure the public’s genuine engagement in the health policy process”

(Conklin et al., ibid: px). From this perspective, the idealistic conception of civic participation is pitched against the reality of bureaucratic and hierarchical public decision-making processes. In light of this, Bovaird (ibid) suggests a need to “…reconceptualise service provision *and therefore citizen participation in service provision] as a process of social construction in which actors necessarily negotiate rules, norms, and institutional frameworks rather than taking the rules of the game as

given” (p858). Social or participatory capital, manifest as public service oriented ideas or action, does not therefore exist inside a power vacuum, but is subject to a formalised process of negotiation as initial ideas are transformed or translated from their original form.

  • 2.4 Bringing it all together: Social relations, civic participation and the web

To recap, the empirical (and theoretical) literature seems to suggest that the frequency with which

an individual uses an SNS such as Facebook, may positively affect that individual’s overall number of

social ties (Zhao, ibid). Moreover, within bi-dimensional social networks (i.e. networks spanning both the offline and online dimensions), as strong ties tend to be initiated offline (Ellison et al., ibid; Flanagan and Metzger, ibid; Koku et al., ibid), whilst “…the number of strong ties that a person may maintain [will] not be significantly increased by online networking technology (Boyd, 2004; in Gross

and Acquisti, 2005: p4), the frequency with which SNS are used in the maintenance of strong ties initiated offline, will increase the strength of those existing strong ties. We might also extend these assertions to say that where ties are strong, frequent use of richer Facebook media in the maintenance of those ties positively predicts tie strength, and moreover that the frequency with which an individual uses richer Facebook media more generally, is likely to positively predict the overall connectivity of that individual.

A small body of work has, superficially, tried to establish a causal link between web use and the civic involvement of individuals (see particularly Welman et al., ibid). The key criticism that can be

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The effects of Facebook use on civic participation attitudes and behaviour: A social network study (DPhil research proposal) Candidate number: 70642

delivered against this work is a failure to treat empirically, the network component of Putnam’s (1995, 1996, 2000) theoretically acknowledged antecedents of participation – ‘networks, norms, and trust’. Empirical neglect of the networked social context of many forms of civic participation, which mediates input (web use) and output (participation), means that data do not allow for " strong ... inferences about how Internet activity influences…participation" (Wellman et al., ibid: p450; emphasis added). Responding to this critical point, the second divergent body of literature reviewed here, suggests that an affective relationship may exist between the characteristics of social relations ( ) within civic participation organisations or networks, particularly relational tie quality and quantity, and participatory attitudes and behaviour ( ; see particularly Putnam, 1995, 1996, 2000; Farrow and Yuan, ibid; Lee and Kim, ibid).

The following research proposal builds specifically on this methodological critique, reframing the study of SNS usage and civic involvement within a network theoretical framework.

  • 3 THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK

    • 3.1 Framework rationale and definition

The proposed research draws primarily on network theory. Network theory is chosen here as the central theory due to the implicit mediative role of networks in the process of building participatory capital.

Several theories are positioned as inputs and outputs to and from the central network framework. As is illustrated by Fig 1, the capacity of networked individuals to transmit and process information is partially determined by use of different types of communication media. Two theories, SIP and MRT (see previously) are conceived theoretically as antecedent to network theory and practically thus, media usage is considered to be a determinant of relational tie character and network connectivity.

Theories of social and participatory capital are treated here as subsequent to or rather consequence of, network theory. In practical terms the inference is that participatory attitudes and behaviour are at least partially determined by relational tie content and network connectivity. Relational tie content and network connectivity are linked as determinants of participatory capital via network

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The effects of Facebook use on civic participation attitudes and behaviour: A social network study (DPhil research proposal) Candidate number: 70642

effects theory, which operationalises exogenously the influence of proximate network actors on participatory attitudes and behaviour.

Fig 1: Theoretical Framework

Social Information Processing Theory

Theory Media Richness
Theory
Media Richness

Network Effects Theory

Network Effects Theory
 
The effects of Facebook use on civic participation attitudes and behaviour: A social network study (DPhil
Network Theory
Network Theory
Social Capital Theory
Social Capital
Theory

The final theory to be employed by the proposed study is the constructivist Actor-Network-Theory (ANT; not shown in Fig 1), which provides a critical theoretical and methodological framework for deconstructing the power relations that either restrict or foster civic participatory attitudes and behaviour.

For economic reasons, the following discussion covers only the central theory network theory (including ANT). As such, what follows should be considered alongside the discussions of SIP, MRT, and social/participatory capital theory, which were offered in the literature and theoretical overview.

  • 3.2 Network theory and Actor-Network-Theory (ANT)

Rogers and Kincaid (1981: p82) define a social network as “…interconnected individuals who are

linked by patterned communication flows." From this perspective, the social is treated as comprised of actors connected via communicative associations (Monge and Contractor, 2003). These communication oriented definitions of social networks are derived from the Castellian (2000a) meta-

theory of the ‘information society’, which emphasises the dominance of information transference

and access in the organisation of modern society:

“Networks constitute the new social morphology of our societies…while the networking

form of social organisation has existed in other times, the new information technology paradigm provides the material basis for its pervasive expansion throughout the entire social

structure”

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The effects of Facebook use on civic participation attitudes and behaviour: A social network study (DPhil research proposal) Candidate number: 70642

(Castells, 2000a: p500).

One way to conceive social networks is therefore in-terms of patterns and types of information flows. However, this definition may be too narrow. Haythornthwaite (1996) views social networks more broadly, as “exchanges of resources among actors” (p323; emphasis added). This definition implies a focus on one or more types of resource, which could be information but, as Haythornthwaite suggests, could be alternatively be any tangible (e.g. capital or goods) or intangible (e.g. information, sentiment, authority/power) entity. Following Castells (2000a) and Delanty (ibid) the proposed research operationalises the idea of networked relations as sentiment expressed via transitive patterns and flows of communication. Thus, whilst relational ties are conceived as sentiment-based, the transference of sentiment and building of relations is affected by the available means of communication (here either face-to-face or Facebook communication).

One implicit criticism that can be levelled against the idea of society as comprised of resource

exchanges, is that in network conceptualisation it is necessary to essentialise both the types of resources being transferred (where patterns of exchange comprise network structure), and the boundaries of the network itself (Haythornthwaite, ibid). Treatment of the social in this way is what

Barnes (1954) terms ‘atomisation’, where for example, the study of an organisation or community

that in reality functions on the transfer of many resource types and is also tied to larger networks, is

reduced to the study of the transfer of a single resource and artificially closed network. As society is not made up of closed networks but endless ties between micro, meso, and macro-levels (Castells, 2000a), which in the process of network research are artificially ‘cut’ by the researcher, all network research is subject to some degree of atomisation and thus limited in its capacity for interpretation and generalisability.

Different branches of network theory treat the study of social relations through different theoretical lenses.

Castells (2000a; in Arsenault, ibid) emphasises the need for network analysts to "…consider the [macro] network, not the nodes or the association between nodes, as the unit of analysis" (p3). Whilst he is not a proponent of technological determinism, Castell’s (2000b: p9) emphasis on the study of macro or entire networks renders his philosophical approach deterministic in nature, with the agency of relative meso or micro networks, or indeed dyadic relations at any level, ultimately determined by the structure or functional goals of the parent network(s). Using (quantitative)

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The effects of Facebook use on civic participation attitudes and behaviour: A social network study (DPhil research proposal) Candidate number: 70642

methods derived from mathematical graph theory or ‘sociometry’ and often discounting formal or institutional relations in favour of “…informal grapevine communications” (Arsenault, ibid: p4),

network analysts adopting the ‘holistic’ Castellian view of networks are concerned with the patterns

of network ties through which resource flows are either enabled or constrained.

The two inversely related, network analytical concepts proposed here, are network tie strength and connectivity or centrality. Tie strength is defined by Granovetter (ibid: p1361) as a “…combination of…the emotional intensity, the intimacy, and the reciprocal services which characterise a tie”, but is here reconfigured to a civic participation context using Putnam’s (1995, 1996, 2000) sentiments of ‘trust and reciprocity’, which are also antecedent to positive participatory attitudes and behaviour. Inversely related to the idea of strong ties is Castells’ (2004) proposition that in a society where social relations are defined by transitive flows of information, power is derived from the capacity to receive and transmit information. Thus “…the capacity for any communicating subject to act on the communication network gives people and organisations the possibility of reconfiguring the network according to their needs, desires, and projects” (p12). Rather than tie strength, what Castells is arguing for here is the importance of tie ‘connectivity’ more generally: the capacity of well- connected or ‘central’ individuals to transmit and receive ideas, which in-turn leads to positive, productive attitudes and behaviour.

Concepts such as tie strength and centrality succumb to a further criticism levelled against quantitative network analysis, that through focussing ‘non-descriptively’ on informal, macro network

structure, agent-led impositions of power at the micro level are simply ignored. ANT (see Callon and Latour, 1981; Callon, 1986a, 1986b, 1987; Latour, 1991) is a rejection of the idea that network

research should be oriented towards the whole or ‘macro’ network, and focuses instead on the

negotiations of power that occur between focal actors in the process network construction. As a constructivist branch of network theory, ANT grants more powerful actors or ‘monads’ the agency to influence networked reality and structure through their negotiations with less powerful actors.

Central to ANT is Latour’s (ibid: p103) idea that “…in order to understand domination we have to turn away from an exclusive concern with social relations and weave them into a fabric that includes non-human actants, actants that offer the possibility of holding society together as a durable whole.” Uniquely therefore, ANT does not differentiate between humans and non-humans as prospective agents within networked reality. Non-human actors or ‘actants’ can be either tangible

17

The effects of Facebook use on civic participation attitudes and behaviour: A social network study (DPhil research proposal) Candidate number: 70642

(e.g. a computer) or intangible (e.g. a sentiment or idea), with their agency derived from ideas or discourses that are ‘frozen’ (Walsham and Sahay, 1999: p42), often immutably in their construction.

In the present context, ANT provides remedy to the otherwise uncritical notion that civic participation occurs within a power vacuum. As discussed previously, the empirical evidence indicates that negotiations are likely to occur between the ideas of citizens and the (albeit structurally imposed) agency of service professionals. ANT (Callon, 1986a) provides a theoretical lens through which to view this process of negotiation or translation’, which broadly conceived is the four stage 16 process by which an ‘actant’ (for example, a policy idea or initiative) is transformed from its initial state by the power negotiations that occur during construction of networked reality.

  • 4 METHODLOGY, RESEARCH DESIGN, AND RESEARCH METHODS

    • 4.1 Research context

Bearing in mind the previous discussion, methodological operationalisation of the networked context of Putnam’s (1995, 1996, 2000) reciprocity and trust antecedents of civic participation, requires the artificial setting or atomisation of ‘network boundaries’ (Ibarra and Andrews, ibid). That is, in order to gather network data it is necessary that respondents are connected (or networked)

according to the aim(s) of the research. Thus, where the aim of the proposed study is ‘to establish

the extent to which Facebook communication fosters networked relations conducive to civic

participatory attitudes and behaviour’, it is proposed that network boundaries are defined as

follows:

  • 1. All valid research participants must be registered members of the same PPI public service initiative.

  • 2. All valid research participants must meet face-to-face on matters relating to the PPI public service initiative.

  • 3. There must also be an option for participants to communicate on matters relating to the PPI public service initiative via Facebook.

Bearing in mind these preconditions, an as yet unspecified Local Involvement Network (LINk) is proposed as the context for the proposed research. LINks were introduced under the Local

16 ‘Problematisation’, ‘interessement’, ‘enrollment’, and ‘mobilisation’ (see below also).

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The effects of Facebook use on civic participation attitudes and behaviour: A social network study (DPhil research proposal) Candidate number: 70642

Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 as a mechanism to allow “…communities to engage with health and social care organisations” (NHS, 2007: p8), and with the aim of giving “…citizens a stronger voice in how their health and social care services are delivered” (NHS, 2010).

LINks epitomise a current model of PPI in local authority policy and service development, which employs web 2.0 communication as a means of growing and strengthening civic participation networks. Although there is some variation between the local authority areas in which LINks are established, members typically numbering between 50 and 100 meet once to twice a month in face- to-face working groups to discuss local health and social care issues, and may also choose to communicate between meetings using a group Facebook page (see Sheffield LINk (2011) for an overview of this process and a link to the Sheffield Facebook page).

As for all network studies (including those detailed in the literature review), the capacity of the proposed study to produce universally generalisable findings is compromised by the specificity of the LINk. Thus, whilst LINks may provide a useful networked context for research into the effects of web 2.0 communication on civic participation, this does not mean that findings can automatically be applied to all areas of civic participation. What follows, should be approached with this reflexive point in mind.

  • 4.2 A mixed methods approach to network analysis

The following section operationalises the proposed theoretical framework, drawing on a mixed methods quantitative and qualitative approach to research in response to a criticism made of network studies by Arsenault (ibid), who, referring to quantitative network analysis on one hand and qualitative ANT on the other comments, “…unfortunately, there is little interaction between these different bodies of thought. The left hand makes little reference to what the right hand is doing. The question remains: how can we integrate theories of networks as subjects of analysis with studies of nodes embedded within those networks?” (p19; emphasis added).

Resolve to Arsenault’s question comes by approaching the proposed research from a pragmatic ontological perspective, which views both structure and agency as prevalent forces acting within and upon networked social reality (Cherryholmes, 1992). Once networks are approached pragmatically, structural network analysis which requires quantitative data, and constructivist ANT which requires

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The effects of Facebook use on civic participation attitudes and behaviour: A social network study (DPhil research proposal) Candidate number: 70642

qualitative data, become mutually supportive approaches for the examination of structurally determined and agent-led negotiations of power respectively, which both occur within networks.

  • 4.3 Quantitative network analysis

    • 4.3.1 A sociometric approach to data collection

Whilst following Putnam (1995, 1996, 2000), there is broad acknowledgement that participatory attitudes and behaviour are formed within a networked context, methodological treatment of this context is uncommon. The strongest implication of this discrepancy is a discontinuity between the conceptual and methodological stages of research, where participatory attitudes and behaviour are conceived of initially as a function of interdependent networked relations, but then treated methodologically as a product of individual action or sentiment (see particularly Wellman et al., ibid 17 ).

By employing a network theoretical base to the study of civic participation, correction of the discontinuity of previous literature is provided through implicit methodological operationalisation of all three of Putnam’s (1995, 1996, 2000) antecedent predictors of civic participation: networks, as well as reciprocated norms and trust.

Methodologically, the empirical treatment of network ties rather than individuals requires collection of sociometric data, which “…consist of one (or more) relations measured among a set of actors”

(Wasserman and Faust, 1994: p43). Contrary to typical quantitative data collection that focuses on individual respondents, sociometric data necessarily treats actor dyads, triads, or subgroups as single units of observation. The rationale for this is clear if one considers that by definition, a social tie exists only on the basis of input from two or more actors: even if one actor ‘rejects’ a social tie, this is still a form of negative input. If, as per the proposed research, one is to treat the network antecedent of participatory capital empirically, then focus necessarily moves from individual

expressions of trust and reciprocity towards the presence of such sentiments as they exist in ties, here between LINk participants.

17 Also Blanchard and Horan, ibid; Kavanaugh et al, ibid; Calhoun, ibid; Kotus and Hławka, 2010; Stern and Dillman, 2006.

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The effects of Facebook use on civic participation attitudes and behaviour: A social network study (DPhil research proposal) Candidate number: 70642

  • 4.3.2 Quantitative variable definition

    • 4.3.2.1 Communications usage data and variable definition

Operationalisation of SIP and MRT as exogenous determinants of network tie strength and connectivity requires the collection of sociometric data pertaining to the communication tendencies of dyadic LINk ties. For the proposed research, three sociometric measures are required to gauge the communications behaviour of any particular tie: Frequency with which Facebook is used for tie communication; frequency of face-to-face tie communication; frequency with which richer or leaner Facebook media is used for tie communication.

The key point to note here is that for each measure, the variable construct must represent a

measure of media usage for both actors in the dyadic tie. The media usage variable will then represent a network tie rather than individual measure, which can be positioned exogenously against the sociometric tie measures of reciprocity and trust. By treating variables in this way, we are implicitly operationalising the ‘network’ component of Putnam’s (1995, 1996, 2000) antecedents of

participatory capital, focussing on interdependent rather than independent expressions of reciprocity and trust, and correcting the methodological discontinuity of previous empirical work.

Thus for each of the three measures of media usage, each variable construct must incorporate both a measure of frequency of media use (or frequency of richer or leaner Facebook media use for the third variable) and account for the difference in scores between dyadically tied actors.

To account for discrepancies in frequency of media usage scores within dyadic ties, we simply divide the summed scaled scores of both actors and divide by the difference in those scores. We would also need to +1 to the denominator to avoid dividing by zero when scaled scores are in perfect

agreement. For example, where ‘actor A’ reports a Facebook usage frequency score of ‘5’ in their communication with ‘B’ , and ‘actor B’ reports a score of ‘3’ in their communication with ‘A’, the

overall score for that tie would be calculated as: ; alternatively, where ‘actor C’ reports a

Facebook usage frequency score of ‘2’ in their communication with ‘D’ , and ‘actor D’ reports a score of ‘1’ in their communication with ‘C’, the overall score for that tie would be calculated as:

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The effects of Facebook use on civic participation attitudes and behaviour: A social network study (DPhil research proposal) Candidate number: 70642

. For any dyadic tie, assuming the use of five-point likert scales, the maximum possible

score would be 10

and the lowest, 1

.

The three key measures of tie media use can therefore be calculated as follows:

  • 1. Frequency with which Facebook is used for tie communication:

(

)

(

)

(

) = frequency of Facebook communication between LINk actors

and

= sum of the Facebook frequency score that LINk actor

provides referring to LINk

actor

and that LINk actor

provides referring to LINk actor

= difference in Facebook frequency scores between LINk actors

and

  • 2. Frequency of face-to-face communication in tie communication:

(

)

(

)

(

) = frequency of face-to-face communication between LINk actors

and

= sum of the face-to-face communication frequency score that LINk actor

referring to LINk actor

and that LINk actor

provides referring to LINk actor

provides

= difference in face-to-face communication frequency scores between LINk actors

and

  • 3. Frequency with which richer or leaner Facebook media is used for tie communication:

This third variable is more complex in its construction than the former two. Prior to aggregative treatment as per the previous two variables, a weighted index is constructed to reflect the frequency with which dyadically tied LINk actors communicate using richer or leaner Facebook media. Here,

Cormode and Krishnamurthy’s (ibid: p18) classification of Facebook applications by communication

activity is combined with Daft et al.’s (ibid) continuum of lean to rich media, the latter taking its

polar opposites from the capacity of media to transmit verbal and non-verbal cues:

Fig 2: Facebook application richness continuum

Clicks & connections

Comments

Text communication

Content creation

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The effects of Facebook use on civic participation attitudes and behaviour: A social network study (DPhil research proposal) Candidate number: 70642

LEANEST APPLICATION
LEANEST
APPLICATION
RICHEST APPLICATION
RICHEST
APPLICATION

By assigning each classification of Facebook media a weighting according to its position on the richness continuum, where ‘actor A’ reports for example that, in their communication with ‘B’, he or she uses ‘clicks and connection’ very infrequently (1), ‘comments’ somewhat infrequently (2), ‘text communication’ very frequently (5), and ‘content creation’ very infrequently (1), the sum of frequency scores multiplied by their respective richness weightings will give an indexed ‘frequency of richer or leaner Facebook media use’ score for that actor. This process is illustrated in FIG 3:

Fig 3: Frequency with which richer or leaner Facebook media is used for tie communication: Index construction (example)

The effects of Facebook use on civic participation attitudes and behaviour: A social network study (DPhil

Thus, ‘actor A’s’ score is calculated as:

; and ‘B’s’

score as:

. To obtain an average frequency of rich

media score for tie

, we simply take the mean of the two scores:

. Thus, where

the maximum possible index score for the frequency with which richer or leaner Facebook media is

used for tie communication is 5, and the lowest is 1, tie rich media.

appears to be a ‘moderate’ user of

This variable can be notated as follows:

(

)

(∑

)

(

) = frequency with which richer or leaner Facebook media is used for communication

between actors

and

= sum of Facebook media use frequency scores multiplied by

respective richness weightings for directed relations

and

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The effects of Facebook use on civic participation attitudes and behaviour: A social network study (DPhil research proposal) Candidate number: 70642

Derivative communications usage variables (individual LINk participants)

The following variables notate the communication usage scores of individual LINk participants and are constructed from simple mean averages of summed frequency of use scores per actor. Thus, the ‘frequency with which Facebook is used by individual LINk members to communicate with other members’, is a simple mean average of the summed frequency of Facebook use scores reported in tie maintenance by actor :

= frequency of Facebook use for LINk actor = sum of the frequency of Facebook use scores reported in tie maintenance by LINk

actor = number of ties reported by LINk actor

‘Frequency with which face-to-face communication is used by individual LINk members for communication with other members’ is therefore also expressed as follows:

= frequency of face-to-face communication for LINk actor = sum of the frequency of Facebook use scores reported in tie maintenance by LINk

actor = number of ties reported by LINk actor

The final derivative communications variable represents a measure of the frequency with which LINk individuals use richer or leaner Facebook media for tie communication:

(∑

)

= frequency with which richer or leaner Facebook media is used for communication by

actor = sum of Facebook media use frequency scores multiplied by respective richness weightings for actor = number of ties reported by LINk actor

  • 4.3.2.2 Reciprocity, trust, and strong tie data and variable definition

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The effects of Facebook use on civic participation attitudes and behaviour: A social network study (DPhil research proposal) Candidate number: 70642

Hanneman and Riddle (2005: p12) suggest that, in a network context, reciprocity and trust are assessed by “…asking each actor in a dyad to report their feelings about the other”. In an identical treatment to the previously detailed communication variables, to establish a measure of trust and reciprocity under a network theoretical framework, a metric is required for both variables that accounts firstly, for the ‘total amount’ of sentiment within a tie and secondly, the degree to which that sentiment is expressed by both rather than just one actor.

Selection of scales with which to measure reciprocity and trust is unproblematic. Harper (2002: p6) defines reciprocity as the “…willingness [of participatory network actors] to co-operate for mutual benefit”. ‘Mutually beneficial co-operation’ implies a need for contextual specificity in measurement, thus in the present context the reciprocity of ties within a LINk would pertain to the willingness of dyadically tied actors to co-operate with each other in their functional LINk activities. Such activities might include suggesting a healthcare issue for LINk deliberation, putting forward a formal proposal to the LINk board, or organising a working group (Durham LINk, 2008; UNISON, 2011). Similarly, trust scales can be adapted from Mishra’s (1996; in Luo, 2005) four-item taxonomy of trustworthiness, with some fine-tuning to reflect the LINk context: ‘I think that he/she is honest’; ‘I think that he/she is competent at his/her job’; ‘I think that his/her behaviour is stable’; ‘I think that he/she is concerned about my interests’. Employing these or similar statements, Hanneman and Riddle (ibid) suggest that ordinal scales can be used to measure the extent to which both actors express a degree of trusting or reciprocal sentiment towards the other (i.e. where 1=strongly disagree and 5=strongly agree).

  • 1. Bearing the previous treatment of the communication variables in mind, mutual trust can therefore be calculated as follows:

(

)

(

)

(

) = trust score of tie between LINk actors = sum of the trust scores that LINk actor provides referring to LINk actor

LINk actor

and provides referring to LINk actor

= difference in trust scores between LINk actor

and

*+1 is added to

in order to make zero difference scores divisible

and that

  • 2. Similarly, mutual reciprocity can be calculated as follows:

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The effects of Facebook use on civic participation attitudes and behaviour: A social network study (DPhil research proposal) Candidate number: 70642

(

(

)

(

)

(

)

) = reciprocity score of tie between LINk actors = sum of the reciprocity scores that LINk actor

and provides referring to LINk actor

that LINk actor

provides referring to LINk actor

= difference in reciprocity scores between LINk actor

and

and

Summed ‘strong tie’ variable

As has been discussed, trust and reciprocity are treated here as the sentiments that comprise strong network ties. Thus, combining the trust and reciprocity variable scores on any given LINk tie will produce a measure of the strength of that tie.

Assuming that both reciprocity and trust are weighted equally, the composite strength of any particular tie can be notated as follows as:

(

and

(

)

) = strength of tie between LINk actors

and

= summation of the reciprocity and trust scores of tie between LINk actors

Derivative strong tie variable (individual LINk participants)

The following variable represents an individual’s number of strong LINk relational ties. Given the previous ‘summed strong tie variable’, which represents a composite summation of reciprocity and trust scores that have both been previously aggregated across a series of five-point likert items, the strongest possible outcome of ( ) would be 10 and the lowest 1. Making an entirely subjective judgement, we could state therefore that any tie with a composite strength 5 could be considered a strong tie. An individual’s number of strong LINk relational ties can therefore be represented as a summation of the number of dyadic ties to which he or she is party, if and only if the ‘summed strong tie variable’ score is 5:

(

)

= number of strong LINk relational ties for LINk actor

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The effects of Facebook use on civic participation attitudes and behaviour: A social network study (DPhil research proposal) Candidate number: 70642

(

)= number of LINk relational ties in which actor

only if’ the ‘summed strong tie variable’ score is

5

is involved ‘if and

  • 4.3.2.3 Centrality data and variable definition

As detailed in both the review of empirical literature and theoretical outline, it was suggested that relational connectivity as well as tie strength may have a positive effect on participatory attitudes and behaviour. It is therefore proposed that connectivity, irrespective of tie strength is tested in its capacity as a predictive variable. Methodologically, this idea can be tested using the network concept of degree centrality, which is a summation of all direct ties that the focal actor ( ) has to other actor ( ) (Freeman, ibid):

= centrality of LINk actor

= LINk actors (

) to which

is directly connected

  • 4.3.2.4 Network effects data and variable definition

In non-network studies, typically the absence of an exogenous variable from a regression model simply leads to a less powerful value for the model, relative to extraneous variance. However, when conducting research within networks, sampling of participants is inherently non-random due to the prerequisite that network actors be linked by some form of resource exchange. It follows that failure to account for the influence of the attitudes and behaviour of proximate actors on that of ‘ego’, will lead to autocorrelation or systematic error upon regression of any networked-derived vectors (Peters, 1998: p33).

To compensate for autocorrelative error, Ibarra and Andrews (ibid) propose an exogenous network- effects variable, which is "the only currently available method that directly models the social influence effect, taking into account the network relationships between individual respondents that result in non-independent values [autocorrelation] for the dependent variable" (p288). The exogenous is a correlation coefficient (rho) of two vectors: the first, , is a product of an adjacency matrix-vector multiplication, where the network binary adjacency matrix is multiplied by the vector of scores on the dependent variable (in this case the participatory attitudes and

27

The effects of Facebook use on civic participation attitudes and behaviour: A social network study (DPhil research proposal) Candidate number: 70642

behaviour of LINk actors). is a vector of mean averages of the vector product of the matrix-vector multiplication. An rho coefficient of the average adjacent attitudes vector and the attitudes of will represent a measure of the weighted degree of influence that the attitudes and behaviour of all those tied directly to actor exert on ’s participatory attitudes and behaviour.

  • 4.3.2.5 Participatory attitudes and behaviour data and variable definition

The final variable construction pertains to LINk participatory attitudes and behaviour. It is suggested that this endogenous variable is formed from a composite index of five-point likert scale items

adapted from the ONS (2000) ‘neighbourhood and community involvement survey’, for example: ‘I am well informed about LINk affairs’; ‘I feel I can influence decisions that affect health and social care

in my area’; ‘I have taken action through the LINk to solve a local problem’. The participatory capital of any given LINk actor thus becomes a summation of their response to each scale item multiplied a weighting component:

= participatory capital (attitudes and behaviour) of LINk actor = sum of attitudinal and behavioural scales multiplied by respective weighting components for LINk actor

  • 4.3.3 Preliminary hypotheses and regression model responses

Having defined the variable constructs, it is now possible to operationalise the theoretical framework with hypotheses drawn from the literature overview and statistical procedures to test those hypotheses. As indicated previously by Fig 1, the main body of the proposed project can be divided into two halves, the first concerns the effect of media usage on LINk relational ties, and the second tests the effect of those LINk ties on participatory attitudes and behaviour.

Hypotheses pertaining to the effect of Facebook use on LINk relational ties

H1. Frequency with which Facebook is used to engage with LINk members positively predicts an

individual’s number of LINk relational ties.

= centrality of LINk actor

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The effects of Facebook use on civic participation attitudes and behaviour: A social network study (DPhil research proposal) Candidate number: 70642

= frequency of Facebook use for LINk actor

H2. Frequency with which Facebook is used to engage with LINk members either has no effect or

decreases an individual’s number of strong LINk relational ties.

= number of strong LINk relational ties for LINk actor = frequency of Facebook use for LINk actor

H3. Strong LINk relational ties are more likely to be initiated offline (face-to-face) than via the LINk Facebook page. Hypothesis 3 will be tested using a t-test for independent samples and compare the mean tie strength of ties initiated offline vs. the mean tie strength of ties initiated via Facebook.

H4. Frequency of face-to-face contact positively predicts an individual’s number of strong LINk relational ties.

= number of strong LINk relational ties for LINk actor = frequency of face-to-face communication for LINk actor

H5. Where LINk relational ties are strong, frequency of Facebook use in the maintenance of those ties positively predicts tie strength.

(

(

( ) = strength of tie between LINk actors

)

(

)

and

(

)

)

(

)= frequency with which richer or leaner Facebook media is used

for communication between actors

and

‘if and only if’ the ‘summed strong tie variable’ score is

 

5.

H6. Where LINk relational ties

are strong, frequency of use

of richer Facebook media in the

 

maintenance of those ties positively predicts tie strength.

 

(

( ) = strength of tie between LINk actors

)

(

and

)

(

)

(

)

(

) = frequency with which richer or leaner Facebook media is used

for communication between actors

and

‘if and only if’ the ‘summed strong tie variable’ score is

 

5.

29

The effects of Facebook use on civic participation attitudes and behaviour: A social network study (DPhil research proposal) Candidate number: 70642

H7. Frequency with which richer Facebook media is used to engage with LINk members positively

predicts an individual’s number of LINk relational ties.

= centrality of LINk actor = frequency with which richer or leaner Facebook media is used for communication by

actor

Hypotheses pertaining to the effect of LINk relational ties on participatory attitudes and behaviour

A

single,

‘network

effects’

regression

equation

is

proposed

to

respond

to

the

final

three

hypotheses 18 :

 

H8. The overall number of LINk relational ties that an individual has is a positive predictor of that

individual’s LINk participatory attitudes and behaviour.

H9. The number of strong LINk relational ties that an individual has is a positive predictor of that

individual’s LINk participatory attitudes and behaviour.

H10.

The participatory attitudes and behaviour of LINk members connected to an individual will positively predict the participatory attitudes and behaviour of that individual.

= participatory capital (attitudes and behaviour) of LINk actor = centrality of LINk actor = number of strong LINk relational ties for LINk actor = network effects coefficient

  • 4.4 ANT: Narrative theory approach

18 As noted by Ibarra and Andrews (ibid: p289), “…because the endogenous variable (in this case, ) appears as both explanatory variable and outcome, this model cannot be solved numerically. To estimate the model,

iterative maximum likelihood techniques are used.”

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The effects of Facebook use on civic participation attitudes and behaviour: A social network study (DPhil research proposal) Candidate number: 70642

Employing the ANT theoretical framework, the qualitative stage of the proposed research will operationalise a narrative based methodological approach. The applicability of this approach is clear when one considers the transformationary process of ‘translation’, which ANT posits as a necessary series of actions undertaken by all ‘actants’ (here a LINk policy idea or initiative) in the process of social construction.

Callon (1986a) suggests that as it moves through the network of membership boards, OSC’s, and executive councils, the participatory input (i.e. the agency) of any LINk member will, at each bureaucratic stage, undergo a four-stage negotiation process: Problematisation’ is initial definition by the focal actant (here, the idea itself) of the ‘problem to be solved’ (Callon, 1986a: p70), to which it presents itself to a network of actors (i.e. the LINk board, OSC members, and council) as the best solution or ‘obligatory passage point’ (Callon, 1986a: p70). “Interessement involves convincing other heterogeneous actors that the interests defined by the focal actor for them are, in fact, consistent

with what their own interests should be” (Sarker, et al., 2006: p55), and is therefore concerned with

the retention or relinquishing of power by (in the present case) the LINk board and OSC members, and council. ‘Enrollment’ is said to have occurred (Callon, 1986b) to the extent that the focal actant’s proposal is both altered and accepted. A fourth translation element - mobilisation’ – concerns the extent to which the interests of all parties are represented throughout translation negotiations.

Immediately obvious is that any methodological approach employed to interpret translation must be capable of capturing process (Scott and Wagner, 2003): in this case, the temporal change of the LINk idea as it is negotiated by actors within the bureaucratic network; and also the sense-making activities of those divergent actors as they negotiate their own positions or identities (Walsham, 1993; Klein and Myers, 1999; in Scott and Wagner, ibid).

In response to these requirements we might consider Bruner’s (2002) etymological deconstruction of narration: “…‘to narrate’ derives from both ‘telling’ (narrare) and ‘knowing in some particular way’ (gnarus) - the two tangled beyond sorting” (p27). ‘Narrative’ is thus formed from a composite of ‘telling’, which infers description, and more specifically the telling of ‘particular knowledge’, which

suggests a knowledge that is personally meaningful to the narrator (Corzatti, 2001).This idea of subjective meaning is central to constructivist ANT, which “…does not adopt a position of realism

ontologically

...

[viewing]

data not as objective evidence supporting or falsifying an assertion but as

texts and text analogues, whose meanings, when read hermeneutically, can go beyond the original intentions and meanings attributed by their sources" (Sarker et al., 2006: p53). A narrative based

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The effects of Facebook use on civic participation attitudes and behaviour: A social network study (DPhil research proposal) Candidate number: 70642

methodological approach will therefore satisfy ANT’s epistemological demand for subjective data or “…stories of personal experience” (Denzin, 1970: p188).

Furthering Bruner’s definition, Riessman (2008) conceptualises narratives as ‘stories’, which “…have a sequential and temporal ordering, but also as texts that include some kind of rupture or disturbance in the normal course of events, some kind of unexpected action that provokes a

reaction and/or adjustment” (p6). This definition not only satisfies ANT’s demand for methodological subjectivity, but also aligns narrative methodology to Callon’s (1986a, 1986b) translation process, where the four stages of translation - ‘problematisation’, ‘interessement’, ‘enrollment’, and ‘mobilisation’ – constitute Riessman’s (ibid) ‘sequential and temporal ordering’, and where the degree to which ‘enrollment’ – a ‘reaction and/or adjustment’, in this case, on behalf of the LINk board, OSC, and councillors - is considered to have occurred, is indicative of the ‘rupture or disturbance in the normal course of events’.

  • 4.5 Data collection, sampling, and final points

The proposed research will employ two data collection tools: quantitative sociometric data will be collected via a survey, whilst qualitative narrative data will be collected through semi-structured interviews.

  • 4.5.1 Quantitative data collection and sampling

As discussed previously, network analysis requires the collection of sociometric data, where the same subset of relational and structural data is provided by each participant in response to closed, scaled questions pertaining to their relationship with every other named network alter. As “*s+urvey design provides a quantitative or numeric description of trends, attitudes, or opinions of a population” (Creswell, 2009: p145), it is particularly well suited to the collecting of sociometric data.

Two specific issues arise in the administering of sociometric surveys:

Firstly, responses must be provided for named network alters. That is, respondent

is required to

answer questions pertaining specifically to

and

(and vice versa). Thus, a preparatory stage of

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The effects of Facebook use on civic participation attitudes and behaviour: A social network study (DPhil research proposal) Candidate number: 70642

survey design will require the agreed 19 acquisition of a sampling frame, which could be a LINk membership list or register of all members who attend the bi-monthly meetings. Once a LINk has

been identified, quantitative data will be collected from all members because “…no generally accepted techniques have been developed for sampling within a network” (Rogers and Kincaid, 1981; in Ibarra and Andrews, ibid: p286).

Secondly, if one considers that for a LINk of , assuming each participant were required to respond to 10 likert items about every other member, those members who were more central may be required to respond to nearly 500 items. With a questionnaire of this length, it is likely that response rates may suffer (Roszkowski and Bean, 1990). Monge et al. (1983; in Stork and Richards, 1992) find that response rates to lengthy sociometric questionnaires can be improved through group rather than individual administration, which suggests that (assuming access is agreed) it may be pertinent to administer the instrument over the course of several LINk meetings.

As a final point pertaining to quantitative data collection: It is important that a significantly large

LINk network is selected for the study

in order

to satisfy

Cohen’s (1988; in Field, 2009: p223)

requirement that statistical tests, as far as possible, meet a 0.8 power benchmark. That is, if as is the

case for several of the predictive models, we have circa three exogenous variables and expect a small effect size of around (Cohen, 1988; in Miles and Shevlin, 2001: p120), then we

would need a sample of around LINk participants to stand an 80% chance of finding a significant result ( ). is both impractical and impossible, as LINk’s tend to comprise around 50-100 members. Whilst it is logical to select the largest LINk that is accessible for study, in

order to decrease the required

we can also improve the predictive strength of the following

models by adding relevant control variables. Whilst the control variables are not detailed in the proposed models, education, income, age, race, place of residence, work status, and gender have been found to be the strongest determinants of both web use and civic participation (see Putnam,

1995, 1996, 2000; Wellman et al., ibid).

If, by operationalising these (or similar) variables the

estimated effect size of the following models was raised to around , then a 0.8 power level

could be achieved with a practically realisable LINk size of (

).

  • 4.5.2 Qualitative data collection and sampling

19 This may be subject to ethical clearance and the guarantee of anonymity / changing of actual names in analysis and reporting.

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The effects of Facebook use on civic participation attitudes and behaviour: A social network study (DPhil research proposal) Candidate number: 70642

Regarding qualitative data collection, a semi-structured interview approach will accommodate both the temporally sensitive, processual data that is constitutive of ANT translation narratives, and the range of responses offered by divergent actants within the LINk (Lindlof and Taylor, 2002: p19). Unlike a standardised survey the semi-structured interview format is able to fulfil the subjective epistemological requirements of ANT, allowing for limitless variation in response whilst deriving its semi-structure (and analytical coding structure) from the four-stage translation framework.

Scott and Wagner (2003) suggest an iterative or ‘snowball’ approach to respondent sampling under an ANT framework, ‘referring to…narrative accounts *to+ set the agenda guiding…the next round of interviews’ (p294). A snowball approach to respondent sampling makes good sense here, as in the ‘following’ of a LINk policy idea or initiative (the ‘actant’) on its translative journey through the hierarchical decision-making network, the proposed study will need to identify specific actors with which the idea enters into negotiation. Whilst the general ‘direction’ along which all LINk policy ideas pass between inception and implementation will be fairly similar - i.e. from LINk board to OSC to executive council - the specific actors involved in the negotiation of different ideas may vary. A snowball approach to sampling will allow for the iterative identification of each subsequent actor in the decision-making chain “…by someone who knows that a certain person has the necessary experience or characteristics to be included” (MacNealey, 1999: p157).

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5

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