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Selling trust in cyber space: social networking service (SNS) providers and social capital amongst netizens in South Korea

Ingyu Oh, Wonho Jang and Sanghyeon Kim

Asia Pacific Business Review, 2018, vol. 24, issue 2, 196-211

Abstract: Apart from excessive bonding amongst co-ethnics, social capital studies have sparsely discussed the negative effects of social capital, including excessive collective actions towards downward social mobility (e.g. imprisonment of social and political elites). As Bourdieu has noted, social capital can conflate problems of upward social mobility through various glass ceilings in the reproduction of elite power groups. However, it is also important to notice that less fortunate groups can debunk the dominant elite social network by participating excessively in social networking service (SNS) platforms, where they exchange distorted information about the elites to organize collective actions towards their downward social mobility. Gleaned from the recent cases of ferry sinking and candlelight vigilance in South Korea, SNS providers can sell trust in cyber space that can be easily transformed into social capital for collective character assassinations, political demonstrations, and economic sabotages at workplace. Based on the big data gathered from Naver, one of the leading SNS providers in South Korea, we find that Naver provides SNS users with a rare opportunity to encounter myriad opinion groups who will over time converge into one or two similar opinion groups that can be easily mobilized towards collective actions. Selling trust in cyber space on the internet and mobile devices is a unique commercial development in South Korea and its neighbouring countries, including Japan and Taiwan.

Date: 2018
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