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Community Networks in a Generational Perspective: The Change of an Electronic Medium Within Three Decades

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Since the inception of electronic community networks in the USA in the 1970s, their goal has remained the provision of support to help the organization of communities at a local level. Despite major commonalities, the authors of this paper identify three generations that coincide roughly with the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. They are clearly differentiated in terms of technology, applications, organization and key actors. This analysis of the US experience of community networks draws on Karl Mannheim's sociological concept of generations to help understand change and adaptability in sociotechnical systems. It is the combined influence of the respective zeitgeist, the advent of a new technology, the influences of technical predecessors, and the appearance of new groups of actors that lead to a generational change. Options for the future of not-for-profit community networks and the possible emergence of a fourth generation are presented which, in the opinion of the authors, lie in a return to their roots. A brief overview of community networks in Europe is also provided.
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Keywords: A; ADAPTATION; CHANGED; COMMUNITY NETWORKS; COMMUNITY ORGANIZING; DIFFUSION OF COMPUTER MEDIA; ENVIRONMENT; SOCIAL GENERATIONS; SOCIOTECHNICAL SYSTEMS; TO

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2002

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