Saturday, 01 January 2011

ʻDoes William Rose make faggots?ʼ Neighbourhoods seen through online timeslices A few months ago, as part of our research for the Online neighbourhood networks study, Hugh Flouch and I began trying to find a way to assess the diversity of content of our case study sites (Brockley Central, East Dulwich Forum and Harringay Online). We established three 'timeslices' - different six hours periods on separate weekdays during the research period - and examined most of the content that was posted within those times. Even though we are both familiar with thriving local websites - and Hugh is the founder of Harringay Online - we were struck by the diversity of material that came out. The results are summarised in our latest paper, ʻDoes William Rose make faggots?ʼ We organised the material into thirteen categories, as follows: Built and green environment: streets, fencing, vermin, litter and recycling Transport and travel Local services, facilities and shops; monitoring and campaigning Homes and houses Exchange, lost and found Looking after children Governance and politics Disturbances and irregularities: antisocial behaviour and violence Entertainment and recreation Local news, local people and local history Wider world politics and current affairs Homespun philosophy: distractions that are not time-sensitive Meta-interactions and moderation. No-one familiar with neighbourhood networks will be surprised at this range, and some may be able to suggest other categories not captured by our process. Nonetheless it is revealing - matters as serious as shootings, stabbings and rapes are as much the matter of the digital conversations we monitored as are local history, jokes, stories or indeed the question of what the local butcher can conjure from offal. In our view it is this diversity of material, more than any single area of interest, that makes these sites rewarding to participants. This is what ensures that the sites flourish as local communication ecologies - environments sensitively managed which encourage growth and diversity, which are always changing while also, so far, remaining independent and sustainable.

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