Connected neighbors – Researching the social impact of digital media

Two friends using mobile device and drinking tea after harvesting in the garden, London, UK, Europe,morning.

Digitalisation is considered one of the most significant societal developments of the last decades. The wide range of social media platforms, in particular, is transforming communication habits and possibilities, and thus also social relations and the political culture of debate. These processes of change are affecting all levels of society, right down to people’s immediate social spaces. There are now a number of digital platforms (e.g. nebenan.de) with the aim of improving networking among neighbours

In parallel to the growing popularity of social media and digital platforms with a connection to specific social spaces, increasing importance is also being attached to the neighbourhood in its common, analogue definition. In the course of globalisation, individualisation, and digitalisation, neighbourhoods serve as local points of orientation where community is experienced and political participation is possible. Whereas the accelerated exchange of information and global networking has come to be experienced as normal, the social effects of digitalisation on the local level have been less discussed thus far. 

The goal of the research project Vernetzte Nachbarn (translation: Connected Neighbors) is thus to generate knowledge and empirical data on this relatively little-studied field. The focus is on the question of what effects social space-oriented digital platforms and social media have on community building and local democracy in neighbourhoods. Do they have the potential to initiation new forms of community building? If so, what quality and which impacts will these have?

To answer these questions, adelphi is gathering empirical data in two selected neighbourhoods, is promoting exchange of knowledge and experience on the topic, and will communicate the project’s insights to a broader audience via an interactive project website. This online platform will not only serve as an information platform, but will also serve to network and activate relevant actors, e.g. by including them in the research via a crowd-mapping tool.

The project employs a range of qualitative methods, including social space analysis, expert discussions, participatory observation, and user surveys. adelphi will provide for an exchange of knowledge and experience among the relevant actors in the form of an expert workshop and moderated online discussions. The results are to be applied in municipal practice and contribute to academic discourse. 

adelphi is leading the project and coordinating the work of the project partners. The project is being carried out in cooperation with Zebralog, an agency for cross-media civic participation. adelphi is also in charge of the project’s research activities.  

Publications of this project