Local Community Groups and Internet Use: Examining Contents of Local Community Groups’ Websites

By B. Joon Kim, Andrea Kavanaugh and Karen Hult.

Published by The Technology Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Local voluntary groups are important players in democratic society. Through group activities and discussion, group members are linked to citizens with common attributes or interests that can advance collective concerns. As information technology and high speed Internet access have become cheaper and easier to use, citizens have been turning to the Internet to communicate with fellow citizens and to access information. As part of this trend, people have also been sharing information at the local community group level. We have been examining the use and impact of these technologies on community groups as part of a larger study of public deliberation. We used content analysis and interview data to investigate web-based communication and information exchange among members of community groups in Blacksburg, Virginia. As part of the larger analysis, we investigated use of new web technologies such as blogs, e-forums, and RSS feeds to understand current state-of-the-art media that affect group communication, online public discussion and civic participation as mediated by local community groups. The content analysis and interview data showed areas of convergence and divergence. There is a downside to the optimistic views about the potential of the Internet to strengthen civil society. We explore both sides of these arguments. We link the findings to prior research on civil society and information technology.

Keywords: Internet, Social Participation, Local Community Groups, Blog, Empirical Research, Web Contents Analysis

The International Journal of Technology, Knowledge and Society, Volume 2, Issue 7, pp.207-222. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.368MB).

B. Joon Kim

Doctoral Student / Graducate Research Assistant, Center for Public Administration and Policy, Center for Human Computer Interaction at Virginia Tech, Center for Public Administration and Policy at Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, USA

B. Joon Kim is a PhD candidate in the Center for Pubic Administration and Policy at Virginia Tech, and a Graduate Research Assistant with the Digital Government project at the Center for Human Computer Interaction in the Department of Computer Science at Virginia Tech. His research interest is the use and social impact of information and communication technology for citizen interaction and collaboration on local governance.

Andrea Kavanaugh

Senior Research Scientist, Center for Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), Department of Computer Science at Virginia Tech, Department of Computer Science at Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, USA

Andrea Kavanaugh, a Fulbright scholar and Cunningham Fellow, is a Senior Research Scientist in the Department of Computer Science at Virginia Tech. She is also the Associate Director of the Center for Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). Her research lies in the areas of social and educational computing, communication behavior and effects, and development communication. Prior to joining the HCI Center in 2002, she served as Director of Research for the community computer network known as the Blacksburg Electronic Village (BEV) from its inception in 1993. Kavanaugh holds an MA in Communication from the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania, and a PhD in Planning from Virginia Tech.

Prof Karen Hult

Professor, Department of Political Science, Center for Public Administration and Policy at Virginia Tech, Department of Political Science at Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, USA

Karen M. Hult is Professor of Political Science and a core faculty member at the Center for Public Administration and Policy at Virginia Tech. She also has been on the faculty at the Claremont Graduate University and Pomona College, where she directed the Program in Public Policy Analysis. Her primary research interests are the U.S. executive, organization theory and institutional design, and social science methodologies. Hult is the author of Agency Merger and Bureaucratic Redesign and the co-author (with Charles E. Walcott) of Empowering the White House: Governance under Nixon, Ford, and Carter; Governing the White House: From Hoover through LBJ; and Governing Public Organizations. Her articles have appeared in Administration and Society, American Journal of Political Science, American Review of Public Administration, Polity, Congress & the Presidency, Presidential Studies Quarterly, and other scholarly journals. Hult was a member of the Advisory Board for the White House 2001 Project funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts; among the grants she has received grants are those from the AAUW Educational Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Science Foundation, and the Governance Institute. She serves as book review editor for the Presidential Studies Quarterly and is on the editorial board of Rhetoric & Public Affairs. Hult holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Minnesota.

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