Thursday, 20 August 2009

Maybe neighbourhood blogs reflect neighbourhood demographics? A week back the ever-alert Nick Booth linked to this article claiming that 'Neighborhood blogs drive participation in city planning'. (Thanks to Hugh for nudging me onto it). The city of Seattle has been encouraging residents to fill out a survey to provide their feedback on the growth plan for each of their neighborhoods. How sensible. And it turns out that those neighbourhoods with a high level of responses 'already have a really strong blog presence in the neighborhood'. “There’s a lot of people already engaged in neighborhood issues through the blogs, and I think that’s what’s driven a lot of people to respond.” A reasonable assumption - so let's all jump to the conclusion that having a local online presence results in increased civic participation. Lots of us would like to believe it. But wouldn't it help to step back and think about the degree to which populations predisposed to offline civic participation (this is often closely associated with educational attainment) were getting active in neighbourhood online networks? Could it be that those more likely to be active in civic affairs are more likely to be active in neighbourhood blogs? To put it another way, isn't it just possible that people in the areas where a higher proportion are less affluent, less connected and less accustomed to having influence, might have neither the time and motivation to establish neighbourhood blogs nor the collective confidence or readiness to engage with civic structures? Just curious.

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