Sunday, October 18, 2009

Lab #18


We came up with this message after much deliberation. We didn’t want to be offensive or pessimistic because we agreed that that was not a way in which we wanted to communicate with people. While deciding what our message should be we found ourselves talking about how there are different ways that people try to be active in what is important to them. There are protesters who bring attention to what they are unhappy with without actually doing anything and then there are activists who actually do something about what they are unhappy about and take matters into their own hands.

Our message was based on the saying actions speak louder than words, and is attempting to call people to action and to do something to help a cause that they care about because while hope is nice, nothing will get done if all we do is hope. We live in the present and if we never do anything, nothing will ever change in a positive way.

Our group decided very carefully to use we instead of you in our message because we indicates a group of people. If people are active in groups, their bonds become stronger and they are more likely to succeed in what they are trying to get done, in other words, social capital.

Lab #12

After reading the two articles on social networking websites and their role in building and bridging social capital I began to see social networking websites a little bit differently. I just recently got a page on facebook so I kept my own experiences on facebook in mind as I read these articles.

One of the first things that Thomas Sander says in his blog “Does facebook enhance your friendships “ is how “facebook cheapens the currency of friendships.” Calling people who are really just acquaintances “friends” online, though nice is not as valuable as if it were to be given in real life. I do believe that this is true. If most of us were to call all of our facebook friends in need of a ride home or help, less than half would respond positively. In a true community, one that is filled with social capital, this would not be the case, since a community is based on trust and commitment.

However, I do know that I (and I am sure, others) are not good with correspondence of any kind, whether it be with someone I barely know or someone I see every day. Facebook has helped me remain in touch with people it would be easy to fall out of touch. I also know that almost everyone has facebook “friends” with whom they never talk. In this way I think that facebook can save and maintain social capital.

I do believe, however, that if social capital was tangible, facebook would cause major inflation, lessening the quality of relationships in exchange for quantity of relationships. Taking depth from our local community and creating a thin sheet of virtual connections that spread over large areas and distances.

Lab #15

Mary Margaret, Hannah, and I went bowling to explore Robert Putnam’s assertion that the level of the social capital is declining. His book Bowling Alone" suggests such a decline is even reflected at bowling alleys where the level of social capital was once considered quite high. Putnam claims that people today are bowling alone more then ever before. Despite our expectations, we found the bowling alley full of families and even a birthday party. Granted we went to the bowling alley once on a Sunday afternoon, however, the level of social capital was very high. The building was full of people just happy to be spending time with each other.

Among all of the families and the birthday party, we only found one man bowling alone. We spoke to him as he was leaving and he explained to us that he didn’t normally bowl alone, but it was his birthday, so he had some free time. He also mentioned that his wife and kids were at the mall. We found this arrangement interesting because people generally spend their birthdays with their family.

Finally, we spoke with one of the employees. We asked him about the trends of the bowling alley such as if more people bowled alone on particular days. He answered that he rarely saw anyone bowling alone and that the few people that were alone were competitive bowlers practicing. In this case, we all agreed that the bowling alley’s social capital was still quite high and concluded Putnam’s assertion regarding bowling to be false.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Lab #4

Kiera and I went to Thruway Shopping Center today to investigate the level of TRUST amongst Americans. Our first experiment, the "Drop a Dollar" test, didn't work out as we had intended. We walked around Borders, which was fairly busy, and dropped a dollar in various locations to see if anyone would return the dollar to one of us. We actually found after dropping the dollar several times, that no one even noticed. The shoppers were typically either sitting in a comfortable leather chair, engrossed in a book, or perusing shelves, their eyes focuses on something other than our $1 bill. From this point, we decided that this wasn't an accurate depiction of trust because people were neither responsible nor irresponsable. They simply did not notice.

We moved on to a second experiment that we thought would more accurately reflect the level of trust: "Could I borrow your cell phone, please?"

This experiment proved to be an interesting measure of trust. Not to our surprise, we received an overwhelming number of negative responses, and only a couple of willing participants. The following are some of our experiences with the local shoppers:

Participant: Older woman
Initial Reponse: "No"
Afterwards: She said that she lets strangers use her cell phone if it's an emergency. We also talked to her husband who said that he "never lets anyone borrow his cell phone" and that "people can't be trusted."

Participant: Two older women
Initial Response: "No"
Afterwards: They said that they "knew we would have had cell phones" and that "we didn't look like we had an emergency situation."

Participant: Young woman
Initial Response: She didn't even hesitate! She immediately pulled out her cell phone.
Afterwards: She said that she wanted to help us and she trusted us.

Participant: Mom with 2 kids
Initial Response: "Yes"
Afterwards: She told us that if we had been men, she would not have let us use her cell phone (Interesting!)

We concluded that for the most part, people don't trust strangers. Most of our participants said that even if they let someone use their cell phone, they would dial for them, but would not let them hold their cell phones. We also noticed that the older participants were the most stubborn about not lending their cell phones to a stranger, while younger participants, particularly moms, were the least hesitant.