The quality of life in a community can be seen as the nexus of 'social capital' and civic engagement (Putnam 1993, Coleman 1988). `Social capital' accumulates through dense social networks and trust, and the norms of mutual reciprocity that these trusted relationships foster (Putnam 1993). This paper explores the relationship between computer networks, social networks and civic engagement in a geographic community using survey and interview data collected among residents over a three year period (1996 through 1999). Social relationships are the basis of social networks. Relationships form through interaction among individuals, whether face-to-face or mediated by communication technology (telephone, computer networks). Computer networks, like the telephone, can reinforce existing social networks. In fact, according to Wellman (1996), when computer networks link people as well as machines, they become social networks. The evidence described in this paper shows that computer networks are ..
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