Theory, practice, social capital, and information and communications technologies in Australia

Tom Denison, Graeme Johanson, Larry Stillman, Don Schauder

Refereed paper at Many Voices, Many Places – Electronically Enabling Communities for An Information Society: A Colloquium, Monash Centre, Prato Italy, 15-16 October, 2003
Theory, practice, social capital, and information and communications technologies in Australia (peer reviewed paper)

This paper discusses connections between community informatics and social capital in theory Australia. It is argued that an adequate theoretical analysis of the character of community informatics as a recognizable form of social institution or practice has not occurred. A theoretical location can be found in Giddens’ structuration theory and more recent derivative work concerned with information and communications technology (Giddens 1984). Some speculative comments about community-based organisations are presented to demonstrate the usefulness of structuration theory. To appreciate the recursive significance of contemporary Australian cases of community uses of information and communication technologies (ICTs), under the aegis of Giddens, we argue that communities and ICTs interact and potentially sustain each other in a range of newly-identified ways.

Our main propositions (enumerated below) are contentious, yet in themselves serve to provide some sign of the direction and locus of community informatics debate at present. They involve the use of terms that may not be familiar to those without exposure to Giddens’ theories.

1. Many community networks are created by ICTs, while at the same time ICTs reinvent community in networks.
2. Community network structures reproduce and modify memory traces for multiple knowledge-sharing agents.
3. ICTs are both an outcome of and vehicle for social practices in community networks.
4. ICTs can foster structural cohesion: members of community networks act out their social norms via ICTs.
5. ICTs provide evidence of rules-based behaviour in community networks, rules about trust, value, worth, performance, and other key features.


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