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Problematising the role of online communities and social networking sites
Governance, Participation and Civil Society theme
Wednesday 26th April @ 1.10 pm
G3 Llandinam, DGES
‘I administer over 100 groups’: problematising the role of online communities and social networking sites, Taulant Guma, DGES
Much of scholarly debate on online communities in the last two decades has revolved around two key conceptual dichotomies: ‘virtual/real’ and ‘online/offline’. At the same time, the field has been largely dominated by the often unchallenged narrative of ‘network thinking’ (Castells 2003).
As a result, a great deal of scholarly analysis has tended to focus on users/members of online communities, thus paying little attention to the views and perspectives of individuals who create and maintain these groups and networks. This presentation attends to this gap in the existing literature. It is based on qualitative interviews with administrators and facilitators of Facebook groups and online communities created for and used by EU migrants in Wales.
The presentation starts with an overview of these groups and their intended roles, before moving to consider how these groups challenge not only well-documented socio-spatial forms of virtual/real, online/offline but also other established dichotomies such as private/public, transnational/local, formal/informal. It is argued that exploring the motivations behind the creation of these communities and social networking sites opens up a discussion that allows for a more nuanced and critical understanding of the roles played by these groups. The presentation concludes with a reflection on the implications of these findings for notions of community, belonging as well as with regard to policy making.