Saturday, July 08, 2006

Returns to Social Capital -- Avoiding a Jail in Dubai Edition

The title of this NYTimes article says it all, "That's What Friends in High Places Are For." It details how music producer Dallas Austin avoided jail in Dubai thanks to sharing an entertainment lawyer with Sen. Orrin Hatch and being friends with people like Quincy Jones and Lionel Ritchie.

Also on the social capital front, both the NY and LA Times ran stories this morning describing how the internet, by dramatically reducing the costs of social connection, increases social connections and strengthen social ties among both distant and close friends.

First, the LATimes describes the success of an online "preunion" for the Claremont, CA high school class of 1976. A simple yahoo group started by one class member grew to include half of the class of 500 and has passed 10,000 messages over the past few months and led to the creation of variety of new social ties (as well as the re-establishment of old ones).

Second, the NYTimes describes how the internet keeps soldiers stationed overseas connected to their families back home:
From 6,000 miles away, Sergeant Grelak, 35, drew flowers with Sara, Katie's older sister, and witnessed, almost in real time, her first day of preschool. The soldier and his wife, Jennifer, 26, even bought a house in Baltimore together, e-mailing pictures and appraisals back and forth. Through instant messaging, they discussed the new landscaping and camping equipment as if they were sitting just across the kitchen table from each other.
This represents a remarkable leap forward in social relationships. Soldiers are able to enjoy many of the benefits of their previous social investments and slow the depreciation that naturally accompanies spending time far away by maintaining their involvement in their lives at home. I am curious to know if the availability of such technology has improved the relationships of soldiers serving today relative to soldiers in past conflicts. E.g., are soldiers today less likely to suffer divorce, etc. then similar soldiers who lacked these technologies?

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