Community building through online social networks: evolution and engagement

Summary

With the advent and constant evolution and application of interactive Web2.0 technology, online social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter have fostered development and maintenance of online social networks (OSN). OSN may be viewed as a paradigm shift for change in recreating the traditional public sphere (marked by bureaucratic and organizational barriers) towards new forms of public platforms that are more accessible and more inclusive to the public who are willing to add value to public policy and community building.  However, research on OSN is still relatively new and a review of the literature finds lack of conceptual and empirical research on the potential role of OSN in community building. Moreover, the effect of the structure of OSN on how communities evolve over time is an interesting topic that requires significant attention. Such understanding is crucial for understanding social and organizational outcomes such as knowledge exchange, disaster management, group dynamics and so on. The overarching goal of this research is, therefore, to examine the structure of OSN to understand emerging citizen online communication and engagement patterns, using longitudinal data collected from a case study of Australian state government initiated OSN for voluntary citizen engagement towards community building. The motivating questions for the research are as follows: (1) Can OSN contribute to community building, civic, cultural engagement & therefore address the democratic deficit? (2) If so, what kinds of OSN structures are conducive to or emergent in OSN that contributes to community building and civic and cultural engagement? and (3) How can we measure civic and cultural engagement in the form of social capital in the context of OSN?

Supervisor(s)

Dr Kenneth Chung

Research Location

Civil Engineering

Program Type

Masters/PHD

Synopsis

The goal of our study is to explore how to build a community (e.g. an innovation community, a collaborative community, etc.) and to get a better understanding about the role participating users and their innovative contributions play for the creation of a lively online virtual community. Social Network Analysis (SNA) will be applied to study structure, patterns, evolution, and dynamics of interactions among individuals in order to identify key members, who play critical roles in the success of community building.

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Keywords

Community building, social network, Web 2.0, Social media, civic engagement, community networks, e-government

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 1382

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