How Do Different Internet Use Functions Affect Bridging and Bonding Social Capital? an Empirical Study of the Chinese International Students in Japan

By Guo, Yu; Li, Yiwei et al. | International Journal of Cyber Society and Education, June 2014 | Go to article overview

How Do Different Internet Use Functions Affect Bridging and Bonding Social Capital? an Empirical Study of the Chinese International Students in Japan


Guo, Yu, Li, Yiwei, Ito, Naoya, International Journal of Cyber Society and Education


INTRODUCTION

With the rapid development of information communication technology (ICT), new media research has occupied an important position in the area of computer mediated communication (CMC) (Miyata & Kobayashi, 2008; Steinfield, Ellison, & Lampe, 2008). Researchers are focusing on the consequences of Internet use, which makes the topics concerning its influence on individuals, communities, and the society more popular. Discussions about such consequences are hotly debated by cyber-pessimists and cyber-optimists. According to early studies, the influence of Internet use cannot be easily summarized with positive or negative results, but may depend on individuals' different Internet use behaviors (Miyata & Kobayashi, 2008; Steinfield et al., 2008; Williams, 2007), or the specific social environments and life situations they are facing (Ye, 2006). In this study, we focus on Internet use effectiveness and consider social capital, which has been commonly applied in related works, as the dependent variable. Although there is a considerable number of studies on Internet use and its influences on social capital using local or domestic college students as objects, little attention has been paid to international students. As sojourners in a host country, international students may encounter numerous difficulties in adjustment due to language barriers and cultural differences. Japan has become a popular destination among Chinese students since the 1970s (Nyíri & Savelev, 2002). However, the geographical and cultural proximity of China to Japan did not lessen the anxiety of Chinese international students during their acculturation. With such easy access, the Internet breaks down the geographical restrictions and connects people with different social and cultural backgrounds. Using the Internet may help Chinese international students in Japan to create more social ties and support in the intercultural context. Therefore, the Internet may function in a particular way among international students. Considering this, Chinese international students in Japan become candidates for answering the research question regarding how Internet use influences the social capital of Chinese international students during their cross-cultural adaptation in Japan.

LITERATURE REVIEW

Defining Social Capital

Social capital is considered as an important resource in a social system (L. Zhao, Lu, Wang, Chau, & Zhang, 2012). Nowadays, social capital theory has been widely employed in social science studies. The multidimensional concept of social capital has been used to explain a broadening range of topics such as civic participation (Shklovski, Kraut, & Rainie, 2004), public health (Norstrand & Xu, 2011; Sum, Mathews, Pourghasem, & Hughes, 2008), and youth behavior problems (Valenzuela, Park, & Kee, 2009).

Coleman (1988) described social capital as the accumulation of interpersonal relationships and a concept paralleling financial capital, physical capital, and human capital. Unlike the financial capital emphasizing material goods and benefits, social capital has been construed as some psychological outcomes (Bargh, McKenna, & Fitzsimons, 2002; Bhattacharya, 2011), like emotional support, mutual trust, and the ability to mobilize others. Therefore, social capital provides a broadened view towards social life, which becomes one of the reasons for its popularity (Thompson, 2009). Similar to Coleman's (1988) statement underlying the social capital was inherent in the structure of relations and "not lodged either in the actors themselves or in physical implements of production", Bourdieu (1986) saw social capital as "the aggregate of the actual or potential resources which are linked to a durable network or a member group" (p.21) by focusing on the vertical social relationships among social classes.

Putnam (2000) agreed with the connotation of social capital as the relations within a social structure. …

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