The talented combo of Hugh Flouch and Kevin Harris from Networked Neighbourhoods have published the beginings of their research for London Council’s on very local online media. At this stage (there’s more to come) it comes in two parts: A list of the types of sites found in London, how they work, who they reach and what they are for . They offer 8:
- Civil Social Networks, such as Haringay Online or Alum Rock Neighbourhood (a bit quiet)
- Local Discussion sites, such as forum’s for a neighbourhood, like Balsall Heath Online.
- Placeblogs – like Kings Cross Environment or Pit n Pots (these sites are very focused on holding power to account for a place)
- Blogazines – are like placeblogs but less focussed on holding power to account – example might include
- Public Social Spaces – these are areas created on facebook etc to bring together local material
- Local action groups online – specific local pressure orgs using the web, one like Greener Leith are both focussed on an issue and a neighbourhood.
- Local Digital News (commercial)
- Multiples and listings sites (these are big sites that present information locally too)
Interesting way to divide things up. As I’m certain Hugh and Kevin know many sites are many things. Ventnor Blog is a placeblog, a blogazine and a forum at the very least – probably also Local Digital News.
There are also other forms of local media – most of which come in the shape of tools. Postcode search on google maps, fix my street is clearly a local site and often Help Me Investigate is a contributor to the local digital environment in a number of places.
Likewise the combination of a placeblog or two, blogazines, a local listing and the input from local online campaigns forms a more realistic understand of what loal digital media is in any one place.
Of course Hugh and Kevin get this:
As our research review indicates, there have been very few studies of specific local sites and the movement barely registers in the local government world. Many sites are growing and changing rapidly. It follows that any classification has to be subject to ongoing revision.
It is good to see the structure helping people understand that his is not neccesarily a substitute for mainstream media, more a movement with it’s own cahracteristics. So, as the start of a means for prevailing structures to picture and understand local online activity, this break down is a great help.
Their other report on the research context is a really useful overview of what has already been written avout the net, localness and civic action – reminding us that the web as been at this for as long as we’ve been using the web. I applus thei conclusion
In our view, the area where we should look for impact is in conversational democracy and the mundane politics of the everyday, and how this is converted into civic action. It would be a mistake to expect impact in terms of conventional political processes.
I find myself repeatedly urging local authorities not to think of the web as a way to get more people to engage with their structures and meetings, but as a new opportunity to find other ways to get involved with the people who care about the places where they live.