Abstract paper presentation CIRN Prato 2013

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Published on: 30/10/2013

Mapping an emerging field: local memory websites

The last decade has shown a growth in the number and extent of local memory websites. These platforms for online collecting of local memories by neighborhood residents are readily claimed in most literature to be a driving force of empowerment processes at individual, group and community level. Yet, the focus on institutional interventions in present research leaves aside questions about the wider presence of these websites, their online affordances and the way they are organized. Moreover, institutional contexts contain a number of issues which often result in the absence of online participation whereas the presence of this very aspect is in fact crucial to substantiate the claims with respect to empowerment, especially at group and community levels. Starting from these issues, we develop six dimensions and five propositions in order analyze a comprehensive number of such sites, examining in particular their organizational and online participatory features. On the basis of a cross-sectional design including 80 cases from the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and various other countries, we show that despite the variation in these underlying features, three types of websites can be distinguished. We label these types as “residents’ initiative”, “institutions’ initiative” and “associations’ initiative”. In addition, comparing the propositions with the results leads us to the conclusion that, independent of type, online participation depends mainly on characteristics that translate into autonomy and authenticity, as two sides of the same coin. Furthermore, online participation is considered to be high in 13 cases. On the one hand this proves that online data is present for further analysis in terms of empowerment, but on the other hand this moderate number contrasts with the claims in the existing literature.

[Please email me if you want to read the paper; it will be online at the Prato CIRN site soon/]

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