My last post was titled Social Capital in the Blogosphere and dealt with the experiments we are conducting into the social capital found in blog networks. When you saw the title, some of you probably wondered social capital...what's that? I do not claim to be an expert on social capital, but I have a fair idea of what it is and how it is useful. Interpretations vary, but our idea of social capital has been motivated by that of Robert Putnam, author of Bowling Alone who came and spoke here at BYU last year.
In many realms who you know may matter just as what you know. The value represented by these connections in a social network is known as the social capital of that network. In our work, we compute the social capital of a blog network by using a mathematical formula that takes into account both the actual and potential bonding (connectons with similar people) and bridging (connections with dissimilar people) of blog networks. A more detailed description of this formula can be found in this paper. Matt also recently posted about other ways of measuring social capital. His findings can be found here and here. The social capital of a network can then be used to determine how much value furthering connections in that social network would have. In our example, it would tell you whether or not you should attempt to establish a place in a certain blog network. Thanks for your comments, hopefully this gives you a good intro to social capital in the context we are using it.