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Social Capital through Social Media


Social Capital Creation Through Social Media

In a country as diverse and complex as India is, a properly restructured and prioritized social media can act as a catalyst for the creation of the social capital in step with the creation of the economic capital, synergetically reinforcing each other 

Social media means different things to different people. It can be used for hobby or as a serious and effective business tool. Behind every organizational success story in this media is a lot of patient planning and a sharp focus on getting things right – putting all the right elements in the right way in the right place at the right time. Like any other technology or facility, social media technology or facility too becomes good or bad depending on how it is used. In this article we forecast the evolutionary path likely up to the year 2020 for the ICT -ambience as well as the social media shaped by it and show how the enhanced or new features of this media can be well utilized to create social capital in the process of socio-economic development of the country. 

Evolution of ICT-Ambience For Social Media 

Formal technology forecast exercises carried out by the author in the past four years had predicted the IT-ambience supporting the social media, among others, up to 2020 in terms of Converged Mobile Handset  (CMH), Bandwidth Enablers, Fourth Generation Long term Evolution (4G-LTE), Nanotechnology, web 3.0, Mobile Intelligent Agents (MIA), Cloud Computing and Reusable Component Software. These are briefly outlined below :  

Converged Mobile Handset 

By 2020 there will not be a Personal Computer (PC) hardware industry as we know today. The evolution of Smartphone and tablet is poised for a Convergence into a single ‘Converged Mobile Handset’, which will incorporate in it full mobile phone functions as well as high end PC compute functions. Asterisk type creative PBX will result in an open source telephony platform which will be highly customizable with a wide compliance with standards and include service features of voicemail, hosted conferencing, call queuing and music on hold. This will be scalable from a few to a few hundred phone users. 

The compute power of a high end PC will be actuated by callable apps depending on the problem environment on hand. All the seven more important intrinsic features required for a ubiquitous social media will be available: processing power, quality and power of graphics, broadband multimedia, full internet access, content handling and organizing capability, real time multimedia transaction ability, portability and affordability. 

Eventually every citizen will own a CMH if we target for the use of ICT for evolution of a nationwide utilitarian social media. 

Bandwidth Enablers 

While promoting a nationwide social media, one of the technological hurdles encountered will be the availability of bandwidth. First and foremost, economy of bandwidth utilization requires a phased but sure transition from analog to digital, eventually digitalizing every conceivable application touched by the network. The second imperative will be the utilization of the bandwidth with least wastage. The third is the broad-basing of the spectrum outside the essential defense spectrum. The fourth and more difficult one to enforce is the prioritization of applications. 

Many approaches are evolving along different technologies for addressing these problems. We will, in the next few years, have a mature technology in the Ultra Wide Band (UWB) with EM waveforms of instantaneous fractional energy bandwidth using radiating pulses that are very short in time and transmitted using an ‘impulse radio’. In the context of a large social media, an efficient ‘Medium Access Control (MAC)’ can be introduced to allow multiple users to share a common resource. Another attractive technology is the optical wireless communication which does not need spectrum allocation. 

Fourth Generation Long Term Evolution 

The 4G-LTE can work on 1.2 Mhz to 20 Mhz as well as GSM frequencies with carrier frequencies in the range 20-160 Mhz. It is based on Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplex (OFDM) modulation, which is highly resistant to multipath interference. A new antenna technology called MiMo increases the throughout several times. The 4G-LTE utilizes the allotted spectrum without waste. 

4G-LTE enables the users to take the centre stage by fulfilling most of their needs at low cost. Using this, an adaptive, universally accessible, and easily configurable social media network can be built which can cope with unprecedented complexities through self-organized local controls. Though the network elements may vary considerably in type and characteristics, we can host highly interdependent and integrated applications. Despite the variety of network technologies and services using them, seamless mobile communication can be made by the user, for reaching personal services anywhere anytime over all access networks and devices. The user can be guaranteed adequate security and privacy of communication and transaction. With the availability of such facilities, the user can build context and situation awareness, personalization and semantic services into their applications along with a proactive service provisioning, which are essential for a nationwide social media. 

Impact of Nanotechnology 

If nanotech development accelerates at the current level, it will have substantial impact on ICT, many of them conducive to the social media. Current capital investment in nanotech is over $2 Billion, but R&D investment is ten times this. The world wide nanotech product industry exceeds $ 30 billion. Indian nanotech export is now about $ 100 million with over 50 companies actively involved in it. 

Nanotech operates on the scale of molecules and molecular clusters and so will reduce the size and power consumption of ICT systems substantially. In ICT, its impact will be more on memory and storage devices, displays, central processing unit parts and sensors. Wireless devices and Wireless Communication systems are expected to experience its profound impact by increasing the speed and memory several times and decrease energy consumption. Both CMH and Wireless Systems will experience a positive impact. Though toxicity concerns are there, solutions are in sight. 

Web 3.0 and Beyond 

Some of the major limbs of Web 2.0 are: social book marking, social networking, content aggregation, wikis, mashups and cloud computing.  

Here, we had a new media paradigm-Social Networking and a new technology paradigm- Microblogging. Social networking is a social structure made of individual and/or organizations, which are connected by one or more specific types of social interdependencies such as friendship, membership, likes, dislikes, common interests, beliefs, knowledge and the like. It increases the level of interactions between like-oriented people. Micro blogging is a multimedia blogging that enables one to send brief text updates or micro media and publish them for viewing by anyone if public, or by a restricted group of one’s choice if private. 

In Web 3.0, the CMH, the email and the TV could all produce feedback that can be conveniently incorporated on any blogging platform, thereby giving a seamless integration that can give access to blogging for the masses in the society as a necessity and not only as a hobby. Live blogging will become common place and bring the world of conferences and gatherings wherever you are and whenever it is convenient to you, with just a CMH in your hand. This will make the conductors of such meetings & conferences to bend their back to attract their virtual crowd.  

Web 3.0 expands the web 2.0 features while it introduces new features like the semantic web in which the meaning, i.e. semantics, of information and services on the web is defined, making it possible for the web to understand and respond to the request of people and automatic gadgets to use the web content. With semantic features of the 4G-LTE, the 4G & Web3.0 evolutions will take place synchronously. 

With CMH becoming a universal object of possession by everyone, carried with them at all times, several new creative services will become possible. For example, the services of mobile devices, Geographical Positioning System (GPS) and web-based data can be combined in a convenient manner like the Location Based Services (LBS). LBS can identify the location of a person or object like a friend, associate or a nearest facility like ATM, including the ready display of a properly oriented local map. 

Access to real-time data including real-time events of your interest happening will become prevalent on Web 3.0, which can become a valuable asset in social networking. Real-time search is also possible in which the data being searched is updated almost instantly or very frequently, including soft search like opinions of a selected group or popularity indexes apart from hard searches which are based on hard established facts. 

If more relevant individual experiences are crucial in the social media, more personalized information is called for, thereby impinging, sometimes, on the identity and privacy of individuals, especially when such data can be linked and correlated through a Universal Identity (UID) system like Aadhar. Web 3.0 has technological solutions to obviate the need for ‘throwing the baby along with the bath water’. For example, open ID is a Web 3.0 type concept similar to Aadhar which provides a single digital identity for users that can be used all over the Web. Over 50,000 Web sites, including Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Face book permit users to sign in using open ID. The present levels of security that apply to online banking innovation including ‘Online Paperless Money Transfer’ is getting incorporated into Web 3.0 to give the required secure, convenient, seamless web experience. 

Web 3.0 will move well beyond simple keyword searches by increasingly making use of semantic technologies to give a smarter search environment suiting the volume and complexity of the social databases. The earlier success with Search Monkey of Yahoo, Rich Snippets of Google, Bing Semantic Engine of Microsoft, among others, have encouraged the evolution of more powerful search engines on Web 3.0. 

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) pioneered the ‘Linked Data Project’ to link together Web-based resources, that were not linked previously or were inaccessible as part of a Open Data Movement, exemplified by Wikipedia. The potential importance of this and similar projects to sociological analysis and research hardly needs emphasis. This is one of the tools in the initial efforts linking several hundreds of data sources on the social, economic and demographic descriptors of the cities, towns and villages of India. This will assist researchers working on the creation of social capital through policy frameworks and inclusive development initiatives. The pioneering projects of W3C are supporting our efforts by shaping Web 3.0 with the objectives of : Web for everyone, Web content accessibility as openly as possible, providing web security as much as an individual desires, enabling a web on everything, providing an expanding coverage of mobility, providing interactive expanding convergence on semantic paradigm over the web. This will metamorphose websites into web services which is sine qua non of the feasibility of our goal. 

Web 3.0 is already there but evolving the features outlined above among others and steadfastly galloping towards 2020. 

Mobile Intelligent Agents 

The volume and complexity of information content in society is staggering because we are dealing with individuals and groups of individuals with enormous diversity with highly time-dependent changes. To cope with this, web 3.0 provides what is called ‘Intelligent Agents’, which are software programs that operate unattended, usually on the internet. They are called ‘bots’ which make copious use of artificial intelligence (AI) and mimic human behaviour, but with a speed of several orders of magnitude higher. They can learn, make decisions and interact with other intelligent agents autonomously. They can employ ‘data mining’ techniques intelligently for searching and discovering basic facts and relationships from a large mass of data. 

MIA proffers a new paradigm to internet itself. In general, MIA are programs that can migrate from host to host in a network autonomously time-wise and location-wise. A mobile code provides a single general framework in which distributed, information-oriented applications can be implemented effectively and conveniently affording the provider the flexibility to provide their users with more useful applications and features. Availability of a mature, flexible and useful enough MIA is slated only near about 2020.  

Evolving Features of the Social Media 

The social media ecosystem comprises of interactions, activities, transactions, and behaviours among a group of individuals with certain common identities and interests who can be together called a ‘Community’. They share online opinions, information and knowledge utilizing conversational media like brief texts, pictures and audio and video clips. In as much as the social media and web 2.0 were closely related, though not synonymous, Web 3.0 evolution described above already characterizes the social media tools, services and applications that are evolving - with the traditional categories of engagement : Communication, collaboration, Education and Entertainment. The social media categories enabled by these categories of engagement on Web 2.0 that we are already familiar with, viz., social networking, Web publishing, microblogging, live casting, virtual reality constructs, Mobility, Interpersonal Transaction, Sharing and Creation of Still Pictures andAudio-Video Clips, Content Aggregation, Content Search, Really Simple Syndication (RSS) of Content and Gaming, are not only made more versatile, user friendly, ubiquitous and powerful for creative applications and services in Web 3.0, more social media categories are getting added, each with their own characteristics, strategies and tools. 

Mobility combined with compute power in the CMH is enabling all these categories in the social media ecosystem to be accessed via the CMH, spawning more powerful and versatile tools than Jott,, air-G, Brightkite, CallWave and the like which we presently use. 

Not only the traditional web publishing of texts like e-mail, web pages, blogs and wikis, but also texts, audio and video in combination can be done using the CMH. There are apps for professional editing and formatting in numerous fonts including mathematical symbols. Several people in a community can collaboratively publish a common theme to professional standards. For example, you can go to the sophistication of collaboratively creating a documentary movie using only the CMH and Web 3.0  

Micro blogging, a cross between blogging and text messaging, which expresses your thoughts short and purposeful, is an economy of communication that Web 3.0 will continue to encourage but with greater facility through semantic features and AI-supported ‘help’ to make it short while being more purposeful. Reactions from a number of followers will be reverse-tweeted automatically as gists again by AI & semantic supported tools & can be automatically broadcast to all responders almost instantly creating an environment for a sophisticated Delphi-type approach. This can be a very effective decision-making tool to the limits of transparency. 

With Web casting, which broadcasts information online, you can create live content on CMH and distribute or stream over internet or Broadband Community networks more dynamically on Web 3.0 than ever before, even in 3D or Virtual Reality form. 

Syndication with a single click can send your content to your followers soon after publication with vastly superior media aggregators and social bookmarks supporting you. With semantic and AI-based search engines, we will have the means to cope with the Information and knowledge explosion. It is with this that the complexity and diversity of the society, so characteristic in our country, can be addressed. The Web 3.0 based social Media is an appropriate and adequate tool for the creation of social capital and hence social wealth through development which respects inclusion, individual capability maximization, optimum utilization of scare resources, appropriate and timely decision making and bottom-up planning. 

Instrument for the Creation of Social Capital 

These social media features can give new applications and instrumentalities which can create social capital in a variety of ways. To understand this, we redefine social capital in a delimited manner suiting the context of the social media. 

The definition of social capital in general can be nebulous. We can narrow the context to the optimum use of the Web 3.0 based social media with an illustrative subset of applications : inclusion, capability maximization and bottom-up planning in a socially complex & diverse environment. In this context we can narrowly, but with more clarity, define social capital as a function of Negentropy connoting the magnitude of disorder to order transition with ‘order’ denoting sustainable shared knowledge & norms of reciprocity, trust and positive values in a network of relationships between individuals and/or communities which shape the quality and quantity of interactions. Here, we consider social capital as a function of only the human capital consisting, among others, of knowledge, skills and attributes creating personal, social and economic wellbeing as well as the Network capital qualifying interactions which increase community wellbeing. From the development vantage, we consider the components as communitarian, Institutional, Network and also Synergy integrating the previous two. For our delimited applications we can consider social capital as bridging the social and economic perspectives so as to give a better direction for development. 

The levels of social capital that can be considered are: Individual Informal Social Groups, Formal organizations, Communities and National. 

Within the further delimited context of social media, we use, people and content to find each other through efficient searches afforded by Web 3.0 and make the best use of its tools for the management of content. 

Social media on Web 3.0 as an enabler of inclusive education and training for information, knowledge and skill acquisition will also give a new meaning to e-learning and life-long learning, the essential paradigms of the knowledge age. Semantic Web based e-learning will drive distributed computing, collaborative intelligent filtering and 3D (and 4D with time added) visualization and interaction based on CMH amenable to multitouch screen technology. Self-organization and personalization features will be emphasized. Mashup and cloud-computing integrated into Web 3.0 will make e-learning more independent of centralized institutional websites. This will make any-time any-place virtual class room and virtual teacher based e-learning a reality with smart solutions to web surfing, content management, and learning management. On top of all these the cost of education and national human resource development will plummet down. 

Combined with cloud computing and Reusable component software technologies, the above Web 3.0 based e-learning tools can also lead to the assessment of intrinsic capabilities of all citizens, design a personalized capability enrichment programme and deliver it on the CMH. In general this can be used for a widespread Human Resource Mobilization scheme to empower all citizens inclusively. 


In a country as diverse and complex as India is, a properly restructured and prioritized social media can act as a catalyst for the creation of the social capital in step with the creation of the economic capital, synergetically reinforcing each other. While acknowledging that the concept & definition of the social capital can be nebulous & daunting a well delimited contextual definition is possible, as illustrated here with reference to the social media. The by and large predictable developments in ICT to the end of the decade are likely to transform the social media into a social network capable of handling India’s diversity and complexity to the extent we can intelligently mobilize it through technological innovation and development which are germane to our social problems and applying these to grass root necessities with proper a priori analysis of ground realities. 

Social media can decrease the social capital through entropic applications or can increase it through negentropic applications. Controlling the media cannot give sustainable gains in the long run. But, putting into the stream of social media far more applications which increase the social capital than those that decrease it, however, can.
By: N Seshagiri  The author is the founder Director-General of National Informatics Centre, founder Chairman of NIC Services Inc, and former Special Secretary to GOI in Planning Commission.


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