Neighboring in Netville: How the Internet Supports Community and Social Capital in a Wired Suburb



What is the Internet doing to local community? Analysts have debated about whether the Internet is weakening community by leading people away from meaningful in-person contact; transforming community by creating new forms of community online; or enhancing community by adding a new means of connecting with existing relationships. They have been especially concerned that the globe-spanning capabilities of the Internet can limit local involvements. Survey and ethnographic data from a “wired suburb” near Toronto show that high-speed, always-on access to the Internet, coupled with a local online discussion group, transforms and enhances neighboring. The Internet especially supports increased contact with weaker ties. In comparison to nonwired residents of the same suburb, more neighbors are known and chatted with, and they are more geographically dispersed around the suburb. Not only did the Internet support neighboring, it also facilitated discussion and mobilization around local issues.