Social capital is a concept that originated in sociology and refers to the benefits that individuals or groups can derive from their social networks. These benefits can include access to information, resources, and opportunities, as well as emotional support and a sense of belonging. Social capital is not just about the quantity of connections that a person has, but also about the quality of those connections. For example, a person who is part of a close-knit community where people trust and support each other is likely to have higher levels of social capital than a person who has many acquaintances but no close friends.
There are three main components of social capital: structural, relational, and cognitive. Structural social capital refers to the actual connections between people, such as the size and diversity of a person's social network. Relational social capital refers to the quality of those connections, such as the degree of trust, reciprocity, and shared norms that exist between people. Cognitive social capital refers to the shared knowledge, language, and cultural values that exist within a particular group.
In the context of an online community, social capital can refer to the benefits that members of the community derive from their connections to other members. These benefits can include access to information, emotional support, and a sense of belonging. Online communities can facilitate the development of social capital by providing a platform for people to connect with others who share similar interests or experiences. However, the quality of those connections and the degree of trust and reciprocity that exists between members can vary greatly depending on the community. Building strong relationships and fostering a sense of community can be important for developing social capital within an online community.