2 posts categorized "Spotlight Article"


Spotlight Article from Forum for Social Economics: Grabner-Kräuter & Bitter, "Trust in Online Social Networks: A Multifaceted Perspective"

ForumThe editors of the Forum for Social Economics are proud to announce their first Spotlight Article for 2015, which Taylor & Francis has made freely available: Sonja Grabner-Kräuter & Sofie Bitter, "Trust in online social networks: A multifaceted perspective" (Forum for Social Economics, 44/1, pp. 48-68). The abstract follows:

In recent years, online social networks (OSNs) have gained great popularity and are now among the most frequently visited sites on the Web. Although security standards and practices are an increasing focus of attention, participants still reveal great amounts of sensitive information in the Web 2.0 environment. Obviously, online social networking takes place in a context of trust. However, trust is a concept with many facets and dimensions. To facilitate trust research in OSNs this article aims at clarifying the role of trust and the relevance of facets of trust, social capital and embeddedness in OSNs. First, the focus is on the individual's decision to trust and on processes through which trust actually emerges. Subsequently, trust is viewed as a structurally embedded asset or a property of relationships and networks that helps to shape interaction patterns within OSNs. A conceptual framework is developed that integrates theoretical concepts from the trust literature, social network and social capital theory, and helps to map different trust-related issues in OSNs.

In addition, Associate Editor Cecilia Winters has written the following introductory comment on Grabner-Kräuter and Bitter's article:

Online Social Networks: Trust or Treachery?

There may be some baby boomers in the modern industrialized world who remember a time without home or office computers and, therefore, no social networking.  Since the mid-90s, however, well after the digital revolution was underway, online social network sites (OSNs) began to appear and proliferate. The fact that OSNs constitute part of a social structure that now exists, in many cases, without a functioning arbitrator, has introduced exciting research opportunities. The editors of Volume 44, Issue 1, of the Forum for Social Economics, which focuses on the theme of well-being, happiness, and trust, are delighted to present, among an array of fascinating articles, the one we have deemed will most stimulate thought, discussion, and future research.

We invite you to read “Trust in online social networks: A multifaceted perspective” by Sonja Grabner-Kräuter & Sofie Bitter. Despite the flourishing number of instances, statistics, and stories of cyber bullying, internet trolling, and public shaming that are now also part of our wired world of social networking, the authors assert that social networking does indeed take place in a context of online trust. Having said that, they assert that trust is a concept with many facets and dimensions in which their research attempts to clarify the role of trust and the relevant facets of trust, social capital, and embeddedness in OSNs. Embeddedness refers to the extent to which economic activity is constrained by social institutions, and the authors view trust as a structurally embedded asset or a property of relationships and networks that help to form behavior in OSNs. The authors note that previous research on OSNs has not extensively considered the relationships among trust, social capital, and social networks in the Web 2.0 environment. The Web 2.0 environment is the second stage of development of the Web characterized by the change from static web pages to dynamic or user-generated content and the growth of social media. 

Two research questions emerge from the above:

  • What are the types and sources of trust in OSNs?
  • How is trust in OSNs related to social capital? 

It is within the context of the above questions that the rest of the paper is framed as the authors provide background to social networks and discuss types of trust in online social networks. They note that trust can be treated in a situational construct but also can be characterized as a cross-situational, cross-personal construct encompassing the unique personality of the trustor. 

The authors move on to the bases of trust in online social structures in which they helpfully point out the similarities between diverse terminologies across the research. Interestingly and perhaps controversially, they regard trust as a powerful substitute for formal governance mechanisms that allow the formation of exchange relationships and attempt to control opportunism. The reader may wonder the following: if trust is a substitute for governance, what is the role played by treachery? Given the dichotomy, does treachery imply anarchy and the potential rule of the mob in an environment where there is little accountability by individuals? The section concludes with the admonition that because micro and macro perspectives influence each other, research should take a multilevel approach, bridging both micro-macro level perspectives. However, the preceding questions are left unexplored.

Finally, a framework summary is provided that links the different bases of trust as a dynamic concept within the structural and relational dimensions of OSNs. The roots of trust and benefits to the user of OSNs are closely related to the structural position held in the OSN, the types of relationships formed, and the mode of social capital enhancement chosen. The authors conclude that research approaches must borrow from multiple disciplines to improve our understanding of the factors that influence the use of social network sites. This contribution to the literature on social networking is a step towards an overall conceptual understanding of the role of trust and the relevance of facets of trust and social capital in OSNs that encourages multi-level and multi-dimensional approaches of research problems. The role of treachery, while mentioned briefly at the onset, does not figure largely in their conceptualization of OSNs, but its absence provides an issue for readers to ponder.

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Spotlight Article from Forum for Social Economics: Vernon Smith on Adam Smith

Vernon smithTogether with the editors of the Forum for Social Economics, this blog is pleased to offer the first of a series of Spotlight Articles, which our journal publisher Taylor & Francis has graciously made available free of charge to allow wide discussion among readers (including readers of this blog). This feature was inspired by the blog PEA Soup and their similar arrangement with the journal Ethics and, more recently, Politics Philosophy and Economics. We hope to feature one article from each issue of the Forum to encourage open discussion in the comments section this blog.

From Forum for Social Economics, volume 42, issue 4 (2013), we feature a paper by Nobel Prize laureate Vernon L. Smith titled "Adam Smith: From Propriety and Sentiments to Property and Wealth":

“Why return to Adam Smith?” Because we learn that he had fresh-for-today insights, derived from a modeling perspective that was never part of economic analysis. Smith wrote two classics: The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759; hereafter Sentiments); and An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776; hereafter Wealth). In Sentiments it is argued that human sociability in close-knit groups is governed by the “propriety and fitness” of conduct based on sympathy. This non-utilitarian model provides new insights into the results of 2-person experimental “trust” and other games that defied the predictions of traditional game theory in the 1980s and 90s, and offers testable new predictions. Moreover, Smith shows how the civil order of “property” grew naturally out of the rules of propriety. Property together with what I call Smith's Discovery Axiom then enabled his break-through in Wealth that defined the liberal intellectual and practical foundation of two centuries of Western economic growth.

Also available free of charge are three comments on Smith's article from prominent members of the social economics community:

Sentiments and Motivations in Adam Smith and Vernon Smith, Jonathan B. Wight

Vernon Smith (VS) discovered Adam Smith (AS) late in his professional career, and has adopted ideas from The Theory of Moral Sentiments to explain findings in experimental economics. Most important is the theorized link between moral sentiments and the evolution of property rights and law as foundations for commerce. VS's encounter with AS, while not new, provides a compelling look at the modern laboratory of social science through the lens of the Enlightenment, and cannot easily be encapsulated within a utilitarian framework. This paper provides an overview and commentary on VS's approach.

From Propriety to Property, or is it the Other Way Round?, Paolo Ramazzotti

If we acknowledge that Adam Smith's two major works are related, we will be better equipped to appreciate the features of the economy we live in. The shift from a close-knit community to a more extensive range of economic relations, however, involves qualitative changes that question Vernon Smith's linear causation from propriety to property and human betterment.

Vernon Smith's Explanation of Moral Sentiments, B. Jane Clary

This paper argues that while Vernon Smith is correct in his analysis that Adam Smith's theory of human nature, as expressed in The Theory of Moral Sentiments, provides a much more accurate model of behavior than does that of utility maximization, Vernon Smith's analysis can be much enriched by including a more complete explanation of Adam Smith's model of human behavior to include an analysis of prudence, justice, beneficence, and self-command.

Please enjoy the free access to these Forum articles; we look forward to a vigorous and insightful discussion in the comment section below!