Community Networking and Civic Participation: Surveying the Canadian Research Landscape
AbstractThis paper explores the relationship between new ICTs and civic participation by examining the role played by specific kinds of ICT-enabled community organizations, namely community networks, in fostering civic participation in local, geographically-based communities in Canada. Existing research and anecdotal evidence suggest that community networks foster civic participation in the emerging information society by providing access to new ICTs for those threatened by digital exclusion, and by providing, via training and other services, opportunities for their effective use within communities to promote communication, information sharing, community involvement, social development and local learning. The paper documents community networkings achievements in civic participation by reviewing the growing research literature on community networks, and by examining a number of case studies from an on-going research project of the Canadian Research Alliance for Community Innovation and Networking (CRACIN). Early results from CRACINs research reveal a number of noteworthy successes, while raising questions for future research as well. The paper also finds that community networks in Canada currently face a number of challenges that jeopardize their ability to sustain, let alone advance, the gains made in recent years.
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