Networking Serendipitous Social Encounters in Urban Neighbourhoods

Networking Serendipitous Social Encounters in Urban Neighbourhoods

Marcus Foth (Queensland University of Technology, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-196-4.ch005
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In Australian urban residential environments and other developed countries, Internet access is on the verge of becoming a ubiquitous utility, like water or electricity. From an urban informatics perspective, this chapter discusses emerging qualities of social formations of urban residents that are based on networked individualism and the potential of Internet-based systems to support them. It proposes that appropriate opportunities and instruments that are needed to encourage and support local interaction in urban neighbourhoods. The chapter challenges the view that a mere re-appropriation of applications used to support dispersed online communities is adequate to meet the place and proximity-based design requirements that community networks in urban neighbourhoods pose. It argues that the key factors influencing the successful design and uptake of interactive systems to support social networks in urban neighbourhoods include the swarming social behaviour of urban dwellers, the dynamics of their existing communicative ecology, and the serendipitous, voluntary and place-based nature of interaction between residents on the basis of choice, like-mindedness, mutual interest, and support needs. Drawing on an analysis of these factors, the conceptual design framework of an “urban tribe incubator” is presented.
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Technical Affordances And New Social Formations In The Context Of Networked Individualism

The Internet has found its way into many households of urban dwellers in Australia and other developed countries, to the extent that Internet access is on the verge of becoming a ubiquitous utility like water, gas and electricity. The Internet has advanced to become a communication tool that co-exists with other established communication devices such as the telephone, short message service (SMS), new media and face-to-face interaction. E-mail, instant messaging, online chats and other online applications are now instrumental in establishing and maintaining social ties with family, friends, co-workers and other peers, thus creating a private ‘portfolio of sociability’ (Castells, 2001, p. 132).

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