Pew’s new report, “Social Isolation and New Technology: How the internet and mobile phones impact Americans’ social networks,” really is required reading for those interested in the intersection of local community building and online tools. (See other posts for additional points: one and two.)
One of the most interesting sections vis-a-vis Front Porch Forum concerns neighborhood-level online offerings…
A small number of Americans – 4% (N=103) – reported that they belonged to a neighborhood email list or internet discussion forum for their neighborhood… Although this suggests that only a small fraction of neighborhoods are using the internet for local communication and information sharing, those who do adopt this technology benefit from high levels of neighborhood engagement.
Well… this is huge. If reliable, this is more evidence in support of what we’ve seen with Front Porch Forum. People join FPF often to get some direct result (“Seeking lost cat!”) and along the way meet more nearby neighbors (online, via phone and/or face-to-face). This often seems to awaken more interest and awareness in local goings-on, and FPF postings from neighbors fuel the fire (“Park clean-up this Sat.”). Over time, this resident becomes a citizen, engaged in the civic life of his/her community.
Indeed, one independent survey of FPF users found 93% of respondents claiming increased civic engagement since signing up for the service. You can see why FPF fans often ask “how can we get Front Porch Forum in all neighborhoods everywhere?”