Modern local communities as ubiquitous social ecosystems: Disentangling the contribution of social media to community experiences and interactions

Webinar with Flora Gatti, May 12, 2022, 4.30 PM (CET)
Discussant: Alexander P. Schouten

Please register here

About the webinar

In modern times, citizens’ experience of their local communities of belonging (that is, neighborhoods and cities) has complexified. On the one hand, such communities have become increasingly spatially and socially closed (Gatti & Procentese, 2020), with consequences in terms of opportunities for citizens to experience their social dimensions. On the other hand, the widespread use of location-based social media as integral parts of everyone’s daily life has made them more complex social ecosystems which include social interactions, dynamics, and opportunities related to both online and physical environments (Tonkiss, 2014).

Thanks to their features, these technologies can make the boundaries between online and offline social dynamics, relationships, and interactions permeable, favoring their integration (Gatti & Procentese, 2020a, 2021; Van De Wiele & Tong, 2014). In this vein, their affordances make them suitable for answering individuals’ social and community-related needs (Gatti & Procentese, 2020b; Van De Wiele & Tong, 2014) and enriching citizens’ local community experience (Gatti & Procentese, 2020a, 2021; Hsiao & Dillahunt, 2017).

Within this framework and by relying on the results from four studies, I will address how modern local community experience is shaped by the interplay of (a) citizens’ self-in-community (Pretty et al., 2003), (b) the physical and social features of their neighborhoods and cities, and (c) their use of ubiquitous, locative, social media with community-related aims. The community-related uses of two mainstream platforms (Instagram and dating People-Nearby Applications) will be deepened as to (a) the needs underlying them and (b) the paths through which they can enhance users’ tie to their local community.

Overall, the complexities related to modern local community experience clearly emerge, suggesting that social media could provide citizens with new opportunities and resources to be activated within the local communities of belonging. Becoming aware of these complexities and of their implications allows opening new perspectives for further research as well as for innovative practices and interventions to be implemented.


About the presenter

Flora Gatti is a post-doc research fellow at the Department of Humanities of the University of Naples Federico II. She achieved her Ph.D. in June 2021 at the University of Naples Federico II. Her research interests revolve around the interplay of online and offline social environments in shaping citizens’ local community experience, the impact of social media use on interpersonal and community relationships, and collaborative social and urban regeneration processes. Currently, she is involved in the development of the Italian local case in the EU-funded project “YouCount – Empowering Youth and Cocreating Social Innovations and Policymaking Through Youth-Focused Citizen Social Science” (Horizon 2020).


About the discussant

Alexander P. Schouten is an associate professor of Business Communication & Digital Media at the Department of Communication and Cognition, Tilburg University. His research and teaching interests include social media use, online collaboration, and online impression management. Within these areas, he is specifically interested in how different media capabilities affect the way in which people and organizations can effectively use new media technologies to communicate, to market, to work together, and to present themselves. Specific topics of study include the social psychology of online communication technology, social and digital media, identity management, social influencers, online dating, IT & organizations, virtual & augmented reality, qualitative and quantitative research methodology.