AHRC Connected Communities Scoping study
Society Perspective (SP) researchers, Graeme Mearns and Ranald Richardson, together with colleagues from the Creative Media team, are currently carrying out a cross-disciplinary scoping study funded under the AHRC’s Connected Communities Programme. Within this, our particular concern is whether and how social media are implicated in community formation, maintenance and challenge. We also ask how the term ‘community’ should be conceptualised within the context of the ‘information society’ and the ‘digital economy’. We are particularly interested in whether and how creative uses of social media can extend agency for community building, but we adopt a ‘critical’ approach, paying attention to structural issues such as existing power relations. Drawing on a range of literatures from arts and humanities, social sciences and computer sciences, we challenge some recent popular accounts of the societal impact of social media, and of digital technologies more generally. As social scientists we are interested in the differentiated societal contexts within which new media come into play. As geographers and urbanists we are particularly concerned with ‘place’, i.e., how these new technologies play out in specific cultural contexts. In doing so, we challenge ideas such as the ‘placeless’ nature of the Internet and the binary division between online and offline worlds. The scoping study will be supplemented by a three-day symposium being hosted at the CultureLab in September 2011.