An Event-Driven Community in Washington, DC: Forces That Influence Participation

An Event-Driven Community in Washington, DC: Forces That Influence Participation

Jenny Preece (University of Maryland, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-152-0.ch006
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Abstract

This chapter describes a small networked community in which residents of an apartment building in Washington, D.C., USA supplement their face-to-face social interactions with a Yahoo e-mail listserver. Analysis of over 460 messages that have been archived since July 2000, when the list began, reveals that the issues driving participation on the list also drive participation off the list. Threats to safety, high rent increases, and changes in management practices, such as parking regulations and access to facilities, motivate communication on and offline. Furthermore, those who are most active online are typically most active offline. Activity on the list is strongly fuelled by interest and discussion around local events, hence the term event-driven, and is promoted by activist tenants. Friendly notes about new restaurants, bird observations and other niceties may help a little to create a sense of overall community, but they do little to motivate online participation.
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Introduction

People join online communities for many different reasons: they want to meet new people and make friends by social networking; get and exchange information; find support; debate and persuade others to take action or adopt their point of view; work and learn together; explore ideas; take on new personas; avoid being alone; play games; hang-out with like minded people and many more. Networked communities are a particular type of online community which is typically geographically based but which utilizes the Internet to distribute information, coordinate activities and mobilize people. Networked communities therefore operate within both physical and virtual places.

Depending on the purpose of the community and members’ personal motivations for joining the community, different kinds of technical infrastructure are needed by these communities. If the community’s focus is to provide another medium for communication for people who live locally and share local facilities, as in this study, the motivation of its members and their patterns of usage will be different from those in online communities with only a virtual common place. Foth (2006a, 2006b) and Foth and Hearn (2007) distinguishes between collective interaction which involves many-to-many interactions that tend to be structured and are sometimes formal and associated with community associations and groups that hold discussions about place-based interests such as rent increases and street rejuvenations, and networked interaction that involves peer-to-peer interactions that tend to be transitory and informal, in which the interaction is not limited to place-based interests.

Increasingly, however, many researchers are noting the blurring between place-based community interaction and virtual interaction. (Wellman & Haythornthwaite, 2002; Mesch & Levanon, 2003; Maloney-Krichmar & Preece, 2005; Boase, Horrigan, Wellman, Rainie, 2006). This trend is particularly pronounced with the increased use of cell phones and other mobile devices with Internet capability and the ubiquitous role of the Internet in many people’s lives, particularly among teens, college students and young adults under thirty-five years of age in many parts of the world.

Another trend that researchers observe is that many communities use the online space in ways that are unintended by the community software developer or technology owner. Community members tend to take advantage of affordances available through the software design to fulfill their own needs regardless of the purpose for which it was developed (Lefebvre, 1991). For example, the owner of the community discussed in this chapter intended the community to be much more socially-oriented, whereas it turned out to be strongly focused on activism geared towards combating the activities of the apartment building managers.

In addition to participants that actively contribute to online discussions, many people join virtual community spaces and do not post, a concept variously referred to as lurking, visiting, or participating silently (Nonnecke and Preece, 2000). There are several reasons why people fail to participate online, and chief among them are: getting what they needed without having to participate actively (also known as lurking or social loafing); thinking that they were being helpful by not posting because what they were going to say had already been said; wanting to learn more about the community before diving in; not being able to use the software because of poor usability; not liking the dynamics that they observed within the group and feeling that they did not fit in the community (Nonnecke and Preece, 2000; Selwyn, 2003; Preece et al., 2004; Nonnecke et al., 2006; Bishop, 2007).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Social Capital: Refers to connections among individuals to form social networks and the norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness that arise from them.

Motivation: The psychological literature on motivation is extensive with many definitions. In this chapter the word motivation is used to describe an event or desire that encourages activity among the community members.

Sociability: In this context sociability refers to the social interaction that occurs via the Internet medium.

Social Interaction: Informal communication that typically involves one-to-one or a small group discussing social issues of importance to them.

Usability: Interaction across the human-computer interface that is safe, effective, easy to learn and satisfying.

Networked Community: A local community that is strongly associated with a particular geographically located place but which uses the Internet to coordinate and communicate its membership.

Event-Driven Community: Acommunity that becomes active in response to events that typically are initiated by people outside of the community that impact the community.

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Table of Contents
Foreword
Anthony Townsend
Preface
Marcus Foth
Acknowledgment
Marcus Foth
Chapter 1
Amanda Williams, Erica Robles, Paul Dourish
This chapter critically examines the notion of “the city” within urban informatics. Arguing that there is an overarching tendency to construe the... Sample PDF
Urbane-ing the City: Examining and Refining the Assumptions Behind Urban Informatics
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Chapter 2
Jaz Hee-Jeong Choi, Adam Greenfield
Once a city shaped by the boundary conditions of heavy industrialisation and cheap labour, within a few years Seoul has transformed itself to one of... Sample PDF
To Connect and Flow in Seoul: Ubiquitous Technologies, Urban Infrastructure and Everyday Life in the Contemporary Korean City
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Chapter 3
Nancy Odendaal
Recent literature on African cities examines the way in which social networks function as critical livelihood arteries in the ongoing survival... Sample PDF
Creating an Analytical Lens for Understanding Digital Networks in Urban South Africa
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Chapter 4
Wayne Beyea
Community planning is facing many challenges around the world, such as the rapid growth of megacities as well as urban sprawl. The State of Michigan... Sample PDF
Place Making Through Participatory Planning
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Chapter 5
Mike Ananny, Carol Strohecker
In this paper, we describe the design and installation of a new kind of public opinion forum—TexTales, a public, large-scale interactive projection... Sample PDF
TexTales: Creating Interactive Forums with Urban Publics
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Chapter 6
Jenny Preece
This chapter describes a small networked community in which residents of an apartment building in Washington, D.C., USA supplement their... Sample PDF
An Event-Driven Community in Washington, DC: Forces That Influence Participation
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Chapter 7
Fiorella De Cindio
After more than a decade of e-participation initiatives at the urban level, what remains obscure is the alchemy—i.e., the “arcane” combination of... Sample PDF
Moments and Modes for Triggering Civic Participation at the Urban Level
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Chapter 8
Michael Veith
Societies face serious challenges when trying to integrate migrant communities. One-sided solutions do not pay tribute to the complexity of this... Sample PDF
Fostering Communities in Urban Multi-Cultural Neighbourhoods: Some Methodological Reflections
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Chapter 9
Victor M. Gonzalez, Kenneth L. Kraemer, Luis A. Castro
The practical use of information technology devices in domestic and residential contexts often results in radical changes from their envisioned... Sample PDF
Beyond Safety Concerns: On the Practical Applications of Urban Neighbourhood Video Cameras
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Chapter 10
Colleen Morgan
This chapter explores how we may design located information and communication technologies (ICTs) to foster community sentiment. It focuses... Sample PDF
The Figmentum Project: Appropriating Information and Communication Technologies to Animate Our Urban Fabric
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Chapter 11
Barbara Crow, Michael Longford, Kim Sawchuk, Andrea Zeffiro
The Mobile Media Lab (MML) is a Canadian interdisciplinary research team exploring wireless communications, mobile technologies and locative media... Sample PDF
Voices from Beyond: Ephemeral Histories, Locative Media and the Volatile Interface
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Chapter 12
Helen Klaebe
This chapter defines, explores and Illustrates research at the intersection of people, place and technology in cities. First, we theorise the notion... Sample PDF
Embedding an Ecology Notion in the Social Production of Urban Space
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Chapter 13
Vassilis Kostakos, Eamonn O’Neill
In this paper, we describe a platform that enables us to systematically study online social networks alongside their real-world counterparts. Our... Sample PDF
Cityware: Urban Computing to Bridge Online and Real-World Social Networks
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Chapter 14
Katharine S. Willis
In our everyday lives, we are surrounded by information which weaves itself silently into the very fabric of our existence. Much of the time we act... Sample PDF
Information Places: Navigating Interfaces between Physical and Digital Space
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Chapter 15
Viktor Bedö
This chapter contributes to the ongoing effort to understand the nature of locative urban information by proposing that locative urban information... Sample PDF
A Visual Approach to Locative Urban Information
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Chapter 16
Tristan Thielmann
Car navigation systems, based on “augmented reality,” no longer direct the driver through traffic by simply using arrows, but represent the... Sample PDF
Navigation Becomes Travel Scouting: The Augmented Spaces of Car Navigation Systems
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Chapter 17
Daisuke Tamada
A lot of street view services, which present views of urban landscapes, have recently appeared. The conventional method for making street views... Sample PDF
QyoroView: Creating a Large-Scale Street View as User-Generated Content
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Chapter 18
Hideyuki Nakanishi, Toru Ishida, Satoshi Koizumi
Many research projects have studied various aspects of smart environments including smart rooms, home, and offices. Few projects, however, have... Sample PDF
Virtual Cities for Simulating Smart Urban Public Spaces
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Chapter 19
Andrew Hudson-Smith
Digital cities are moving well beyond their original conceptions as entities representing the way computers and communications are hard wired into... Sample PDF
The Neogeography of Virtual Cities: Digital Mirrors into a Recursive World
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Chapter 20
Laura Forlano
This chapter introduces the role of community wireless networks (CWNs) in reconfiguring people, places and information in cities. CWNs are important... Sample PDF
Codespaces: Community Wireless Networks and the Reconfiguration of Cities
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Chapter 21
Katrina Jungnickel, Genevieve Bell
From WiFi (802.11b) with its fixed and mobile high-speed wireless broadband Internet connectivity to WiMAX (802.16e), the newest wireless protocol... Sample PDF
Home is Where the Hub Is? Wireless Infrastructures and the Nature of Domestic Culture in Australia
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Chapter 22
Andres Sevtsuk
This chapter presents the iSPOTS project, which collects and maps data of WiFi usage on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus in... Sample PDF
Mapping the MIT Campus in Real Time Using WiFi
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Chapter 23
John M. Carroll
We discuss the vision, plan, and status of a research project investigating community-oriented services and applications, comprising a wireless... Sample PDF
Supporting Community with Location-Sensitive Mobile Applications
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Chapter 24
Christine Satchell
Early 21st century societies are evolving into a hybrid of real and synthetic worlds where everyday activities are mediated by technology. The... Sample PDF
From Social Butterfly to Urban Citizen: The Evolution of Mobile Phone Practice
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Chapter 25
Jong-Sung Hwang
u-City is South Korea’s answer to urban community challenges leveraging ubiquitous computing technology to deliver state-of-the-art urban services.... Sample PDF
u-City: The Next Paradigm of Urban Development
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Chapter 26
Dan Shang, Jean-François Doulet, Michael Keane
This chapter examines the development of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in urban China, focusing mainly on their impact on social... Sample PDF
Urban Informatics in China: Exploring the Emergence of the Chinese City 2.0
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Chapter 27
Francesco Calabrese
The real-time city is now real! The increasing deployment of sensors and handheld electronic devices in recent years allows for a new approach to... Sample PDF
WikiCity: Real-Time Location-Sensitive Tools for the City
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Chapter 28
Eric Paulos, RJ Honicky, Ben Hooker
In this chapter, we present an important new shift in mobile phone usage—from communication tool to “networked mobile personal measurement... Sample PDF
Citizen Science: Enabling Participatory Urbanism
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Chapter 29
Mark Shepard
What happens to urban space given a hypothetical future where all information loses its body, that is, when it is offloaded from the material... Sample PDF
Extreme Informatics: Toward the De-Saturated City
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Chapter 30
Roger J. Burrows
Is it still the case that one can symptomatically read the early work of the cyberpunk author William Gibson as a form of prefigurative urban theory... Sample PDF
Urban Informatics and Social Ontology
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