Embedding the Net: Community Empowerment in the Age of Information

Embedding the Net: Community Empowerment in the Age of Information

Brian D. Loader, Barry Hague, Dave Eagle
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-878289-69-8.ch004
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Throughout the world millions of people are getting online to the Internet to exchange information and communicate with each other to form what Howard Rheingold has famously described as ‘virtual communities’ (1994). The revolutionary potential of the new Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs), currently epitomized by the Internet and other Web-based technologies, to transform social relations has not surprisingly grasped the imagination of the media, academics, politicians, businesspeople and members of the public more generally. It has produced an extensive and often fierce debate about the possible beneficial consequences of such technological developments for social interaction which is based more around common interests rather than spatial proximity. Such optimistic visions have also been matched by alternative dystopian depictions of the new media facilitating the emergence of surveillance societies (Lyon, 1994; Davies, 1996). Yet, in whatever form the arguments are couched, their emphasis on remote communication often acts to disassociate individuals from the everyday experience of the communities they live in. It is as if there is no place for localized face-to-face interaction between people in the Information Age. Whilst we do not preclude ‘communities of interest’ and recognize that the term community itself can be used in many ways, our own approach to community informatics (CI) has been shaped by the desire to reconnect locally spaced communities to the wider electronic network of cyberspace.

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