The implications of networked individualism for social participation: How mobile phone, e-mail, and IM networks afford social participation for rural residents in Taiwan
An extensive research has suggested the positive and capital-enhancing implications of information and communication technologies (ICTs). However, the mechanisms connecting ICT use to capital-enhancing opportunities for users’ social well-being and social participation remain undertheorized. To address this agenda, we examine how e-mail, instant messenger, and mobile phones are used to maintain interpersonal networks and participation in voluntary organizations, along with engagement in community affairs. We analyze survey data collected from a sample of rural Taiwanese residing on an outer island of Kinmen County, finding that different ICTs allow participants to connect to different types of personal contacts and, in turn, encourage social participation in various ways. Respondents with a larger e-mail network tend to be more involved in civic organizations, whereas participants with a mobile phone network, including more close friends, tend to participate more in civic organizations and community affairs. We conclude with a future research agenda for investigating the link between networked individualism and digital inequality.