Identification of the Functions of Using Virtual Social Networks in Promoting Social Capital
The purpose of the study was to identify the functions of using virtual social networks (VSNs) in promoting social capital. The research method used was exploratory mixed. In the first stage (qualitative), semi-structured interviews with phenomenological approach were conducted with 18 research participants including professors of communication sciences, media experts, officials of media organizations and professors and experts in the field of social sciences and sociology, and the results were extracted using Colaizzi's seven-step method. Then a focus group consisting of 10 scholars and professors was used to determine the dimensions of qualitative research findings related to the research topic and effective in promoting social capital. The dimensions obtained from the focus group indicated that the most important functions of using VSNs in promoting social capital are the possibility of mass communication and dialogue, increasing sociopolitical participation, the possibility of interaction between people and government by VSNs, promoting norms in virtual space, user access to transparent information, creating solidarity, social cohesion, and so on.
Then for the other purpose of the study - ranking (prioritization) of these functions according to the users - quantitative approach was used and a questionnaire was developed based on the dimensions extracted from the qualitative part of the study. While confirming the validity and reliability of the questionnaire, and after distributing it among the population - 384 citizens over 15 years of age in Isfahan and based on Friedman test and analysis of the responses in SPSS - the results showed that the role of media literacy has the highest and accountability towards users' doubts and questions the lowest ranks in promoting social capital.