From Facebook to the Neighbourhood: Infrastructuring of Hybrid Community Engagement
In recent years, social media have increased the resources that individuals and organizations are able to mobilize for the development of socially innovative practices. In this article, we engage with a naturally occurring development in a Trentinian neighbourhood to examine the cooperative interactions amongst members of a local community. The first author and local residents of the neighbourhood participated in online discussions, decision making, and physical activities that led to material changes in the area. The interventions are motivated by and based on the concept of Social Street that combines online interactions in a closed Facebook group with face-to-face meetings seeking to practically engage the collective in accomplishing certain immediate or ongoing needs. Over the course of two years, we studied this local instantiation of Social Street in Trento, Italy by way of an action-oriented (digital) ethnography. Through this work, we demonstrate how urban neighbourhoods might benefit from hybrid forms of community engagement that are enacted through a constant back and forth between online and face-to-face interactions. We further argue that the infrastructuring of local urban collectives should follow strategies that pay attention to the multiple issues in urban neighbourhoods and people’s attachments to them. Overall, the paper reflects upon the challenges and configurations of participation that this form of community-work entails.