Media Capital; The State without a Chief: A New Understanding of the Role of Bridging Social Capital in the Process of Social Changes

Saturday, 21 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Muna ALGHURAIBI, King Saud University, Saudi Arabia, The University of Sydney, Australia
“alphabets were confiscated. words were suffocated in our throats. We have been deprived of writing, but now we have Twitter”(Alhodhaif . Human Right Activist)

This paper undertakes a closer examination of the concept of social capital and its three components: the social networks, trust, and reciprocity. Some scholars claim that formal and informal social networks are important for civic action. Based on the assumption that social media rests a proper environment for bridging ties in collective societies. This paper claims that bridging social capital generated from interactions throughout social media has an equal importance of face-to-face interpersonal social capital in shaping individuals’ choice of participating in collective action. However, being a witness of two different cases in reality arises a puzzle whether social media can influence the formation and maintenance of social capital to stimulate civic engagement in a collective society that classified as an autocratic and conservative society such as Saudi Arabia.

This paper discusses how social media played a significant role in directing a meaningful transformation of people’s civic participation in Saudi Arabia. More specifically, through documentary materials, I subsidize the localized and grounded evidence of the capability of social media in a collective society to act as a tool of social changes by adhesive the bridging social capital through generating a “public sphere” where the public can freely discuss and identify societal problems, and through that discussion influence political action. In this context of this paper, I attempt to outline the significance of utilizing social media as a tool of empowerment that creates the power of popular, which promotes a continuous tension on the government to change their policies to promote serious and timely social reforms.