Internet and community

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Internet and Community

Internet and communication technologies are becoming increasingly a part of daily life. Especially with the growing popularity of social networking and blogging, the implications of the internet in communities are far-reaching. Because of the inherent ability of the internet to connect humans to one another, grassroots initiatives and community projects have the ability to exist and grow both online and offline.

In broad terms, we find that research on the Internet and community falls into these areas:

  • work with communities in the appropriate placement and use of ICTs and the Internet, often with the goal of increasing the educational, career and commercial opportunities for residents in underserved areas (Bishop & Bruce, 2005; Gurstein, 2000; Schuler, 1996);
  • surveys addressing wide-scale societal impacts of ICTs on communities, including how the presence or absence of education in and use of ICTs and the Internet creates differing social and economic outcomes across regions, countries, and the world—for example, in studies of the digital divide and the spectrum of digital access (Commission of the European Communities, 1084 American Behavioral Scientist 53(8) 2005; National Telecommunications and Information Administration, 2000; Lenhart et al., 2003; Mossberger, Tolbert, & McNeal, 2007; Pew Internet & American Life Project, 2009);
  • analysis of emergent phenomena affecting communities, such as new Internet-based configurations of social, educational, economic, and civic activity, as well as synergies between online and offline interaction, including research on wholly or primarily online communities, uses of Internet-based technologies in support of communal identity, action, and learning, and reconceptualizations of community (based on online and/or offline social network ties rather than shared geography: Haythornthwaite, 2007b; Wellman, 1979; Wellman et al., 1996; originating online rather than offline: Haythornthwaite, Kazmer, Robins, & Shoemaker, 2000; Matzat, 2010 [this issue]; Rheingold, 2000); and, finally,
  • analysis of identity in a mobile, global world, including (a) conflicts among different identity presentations, (b) the maintenance of ethnic, geographic, and online community identity, and (c) the potential and/or shortcomings of technology in the face of physical separation and local interests (Hagar & Haythornthwaite, 2005; Kang, 2009; Kendall, 2007; Lev-On, 2010 [this issue]; Shklovski, Burke, Kraut, & Kiesler, 2010 [this issue]).