Governance & the Internet: Mailing Lists, Social Capital and Citizen Participation

Duration of Research: 2003-2007

Funding Agency: US-Israel Binational Science Foundation

Gustavo S. Mesch (P.I.)
Ilan Talmud (P.I)
Keith Hampton (P.I.)

Project Description:
The proposed study examines the link between Internet connectedness, sense of community, social capital, empowerment, and political participation in the USA and Israel. We explore how individuals in the USA and Israel sharing knowledge and community information in two distinct locally-based mailing lists, develop a sense of community, in comparison with those who are not users of these Internet community sites. The objectives of this research project are to I) examine the relationship between Internet use and the size and composition of people's social networks, and ii) explore the potential for new information and communication technologies to expand social networks, social capital and community involvement at the local level.

This project proposes a longitudinal survey of the residents of two local communities in Israel (Modiin and Bet Shemesh) and four Boston area neighborhoods. The study examine the role of Internet use on the composition, structure and supportive content of personal and neighborhood social networks. Then we will examine the impact of Internet use on residents' social networks, and their involvement in neighborhood and community activities. We hypothesize that Internet users have larger, more diverse social networks, and that they are more active communicators on and off line. Further, we hypothesize that Internet complements and expands one's networks, rather than reduce it.

Mesch, Gustavo (Forthcoming). Online Communities in R. Cnaan and C. Milofsky (eds.). Handbook of Community and Community Organization. New York: Springer Press. (approximate 30 pages).

Mesch, Gustavo S. and Yael Levanon. (2003). "Community Networking and Locally Based Social Ties in Two Suburban Localities". City and Community 2:335-351.