Virtual Neighbourhoods, Virtual Nations
Local Councils Making Communities

NET 24 - Case Study - Jo Byron
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Virtual neighbourhoods are increasingly appearing on the Internet, in many different formats. This presentation looks at the changing role of local council websites and the ways in which their net presence has metamorphosed into a "space" which allows for the growth of a valid online community. The presentation also looks at the types of services offered, ways in which the sites are presented and the depth of interactivity on the site. These items are all

necessary foundations which need to be in place in order for a virtual community to evolve.

One of the major criticisms of Internet technology and its applications, is that it encourages the isolation of individuals instead of face-to-face (f2f) communication. One of the major assumptions of the Internet is that its main value lies in its ability to connect people who are distanced, geographically. Local council sites which have become community builders, dispel both these concepts and executed properly, the sites provide a "living" platform through which the community grows.

However, virtual neighbourhoods are not without their critics. Like anything, there are pros and cons regarding online neighbourhoods developed by local councils. It could be argued that the very medium they are using excludes the older sections of the community, some people with disabilities and also those in the lower socio-economic bracket. Ironically, these are probably the people who would most benefit from more focused council services and a more cohesive community (Collinge 2002). However, it is also true that people who live in rural areas or who are otherwise isolated (people who are physically handicapped or have psychological conditions which prevent normal mingling with the community) can become more of a part of the community, via the local council's website.

This presentation looks at how different councils tackle the issue of online neighbourhoods.

All pages © Jo Byron, Sydney, 2004.