Abstract

ESM have created new opportunities for groups of individuals to create networks of connections, including previously unknown others inside the same organization. The formation of social capital in the context of ESM is inherently affected by the visibility affordance of these tools, resulting in either visible or invisible groups. As such, ESM offered a unique opportunity to assess the effects of visibility on group processes, specifically in the context of social capital formation. Given that past research has had a strong positivity bias with respect to the role of visibility on organizational processes, we developed and validated a framework that incorporated both visibility and invisibility and suggested that social capital formation can emerge within both visible and invisible groups, yet, that the exact form of social capital—i.e., bonding or bridging—are shaped by the visibility settings of the group and the level of discussions ongoing in the group. Therefore, as researchers of ESM technologies, we must be cautious in generalizing about the unequivocal effects of visibility and instead must be sensitive to the idiosyncrasies of visible versus invisible groups and their emergent network structures. Implications for theory and practice are discussed.

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