Community Networks: Infrastructure and Models for Therapeutic Support

Community Networks: Infrastructure and Models for Therapeutic Support

John M. Carroll (Pennsylvania State University, USA) and Mary Beth Rosson (Pennsylvania State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-3986-7.ch010
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The authors present a socio-technical design that illustrates how a community network health intervention can mobilize human resources across social boundaries and enhance health and well-being for people on both sides of the boundary. They specifically address how to reduce the barriers to social engagement experienced by autistic individuals who want more supportive life opportunities. The authors focus on the social milieu of an American college town, on traditional town-gown boundaries, and on possibilities for integrating social resources within this context. Their design adopts community networking to not only connect autistic persons living within an existing social milieu (university undergraduates; local autistic children and their families), but also to integrate individuals across milieus. The key design idea is that facilitating cross-milieu interactions can initiate and sustain a virtuous cycle of being helped by helping others.
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Many researchers have been studying issues related to individuals in the autism spectrum. Much of this work has focused on the problems of reliably diagnosing the presence and level of the disorder. In this brief review, we direct attention to two strands of research most relevant to the work we propose to do: the current understanding of needs by autistic students and their families and Internet-based support opportunities afforded for autistic individuals and their families. We follow this with brief discussions of community networks and the concept of developmental communities – because this forms a base for the therapeutic intervention we are exploring

Key Terms in this Chapter

Collective Efficacy: Specific beliefs of members about collective capacities of a group or community to act and achieve.

Community Informatics: Research and practice directed to support for community interactions including information infrastructure, services, applications, and content.

Developmental Community: A community including member sub-constituencies varying along a dimension or several dimensions of human development in which part of the community activity is deliberately directed to supporting the growth and development of members through interactions among the sub-constituencies. An example would be a community including expert and less expert practitioners in which community activity was deliberately directed to helping less expert members develop into experts.

Community Network: Information infrastructure, services, applications, and content to support the activities of a community; usually implies support for a geo-located and pre-existing community, rather than a purely Internet-based community (as in online community or network community).

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