Social Capital and the Chief

Jeff presented this paper (before it was finished) at the Ethnography of the Unviersity Initiative Conference on 11.29.2007. He does not plan to continue his work with content analysis, but you should contact him if you're interested in his data.

Authored by Jeff Ginger with special thanks given to Elena Chiappinelli
Keywords and tags: Facebook, social capital, race campus climate, social movements, social change, Chief Illiniwek
Revision 1 | Last updated 12.2007 | docx | pdf


                In light of increasing racial tensions in recent years on the University of Illinois campus, the Ethnography of the University Initiative and Diversity Research Project have called for new assessments of campus climate in regards to race.  This paper explores a new but crucial space of race related discourse that plays an important role in the everyday lives of undergraduate students:  Social networking services extend social capital by impacting individuals and groups and Facebook in particular has amplified student support of Chief Illiniwek, the now deposed symbol of the University of Illinois.  The pro-Chief social movement is a powerful example of the way Facebook can potentially be abused for a misguided cause.  The Chief represents a myriad of issues relating to racial tensions, including disrespect and inappropriate representation of a racial minority group as well as a topic that provokes responses exemplary of colorblind racism or discrimination.  Therefore Facebook is an environment where we need to establish sufficient and effective advocacy and empowerment as a method of social change.  This paper draws upon previously established survey data (Ginger 2008) and exploratory qualitative content analysis (manifest and latent) to paint a picture of the contemporary and historical usage of Facebook related to the Chief.  Student perceptions in regards to campus climate, actions taken in accordance with the Chief are examined in parallel with the character of groups surrounding the topic.  Ultimately the findings and discussion render the suggestion to include more administrative and educator awareness and utilization of the same digital venues for social capital in Facebook for social change as well as a call for better communication processes (dialogue) between participants.  Given the necessity to alter preferences in order to cause lasting effects on perceptions of race and the high caliber emotional content encountered in Chief-related groups it would seem these digital spaces are an crucial tool and context for actors leading social movements to understand and engage.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
    1. The Chief and Campus climate at UIUC
    2. The History and Salience of Facebook
    3. History of the Chief
    4. Sociological importance
  2. Theory and Literature Review
    1. Growing up Along Side The Internet
      1. Facebook as an Integral Part of the College Experience
      2. Implications of Hyper-personal Communication and Anonymity
      3. Student Interpretations of the Web: From Self to Community
    2. Social Capital and the Web
    3. Social Change
      1. Riding the Waves
      2. Making the Right Moves
    4. Bringing it Together
  3. Research Questions
  4. Study Design and Methodology
    1. The Facebook Project 2007 Survey
    2. Content Analysis
  5. Findings
    1. Establishing context – Individual Perspectives
    2. Personal Actions
    3. Group Behaviors
    4. Facebook as a Digital Space
    5. Discourse Analysis
  6. Discussion
    1. Limitations
    2. Future Research
    3. Connecting Social Capital to Social Change
      1. Advocacy
      2. Empowerment
  7. References