Keith N. Hampton
Critics have argued that information and communication technologies (ICTs)
disconnect people from their social networks and reduce public participation.
Research in support of this perspective has been biased by two assumptions.
The first is a tendency to privilege the Internet as a social system removed
from the other ways people communicate. The second is a tendency to favor broadly
supportive strong social ties. Survey and ethnographic observations from Netville,
a two-year community networking experiment, suggest that weak, not strong ties,
experience growth as a result of ICTs. By examining a unique and under explored
stage in the lifecycle of a community networking project, the end of a networking
trial, this paper demonstrates how ICTs facilitate community participation and
collective action by: 1) creating large, dense networks of relatively weak social
ties, and 2) through the use of ICTs as an organizing tool.
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