Conceptualizing Communication Capital for Changing Environment

Document Type



civic engagement; communication capital; communication theory; political communication; social capital

Identifier Data



Taylor & Francis Online

Publication Source

Communication Quarterly, 61(5), 539-563


With rapidly evolving technologies, boundaries between traditional modes of communication have blurred, creating an environment that scholars still describe from viewpoints as researchers in interpersonal, organizational or mass communication. This manuscript looks at the social capital literature and argues for conceptualizing “communication capital” to help understand the impact of communication phenomena in a changing environment. The literature has treated interpersonal communication variables as components of social capital and mass communication variables as factors affecting social capital, but scholars long ago recognized their reinforcing nature, leading us to develop a concept of communication capital merging symbolic activity across domains in its potential for impacting civic engagement, defined as persistent communication patterns that facilitate social problem solving in the community. Analysis of survey data shows that 4 dimensions of communication capital explain variance in civic engagement beyond that accounted for by traditional measures of social capital, media use, neighborhood communication, and efficacy.