Beyond Community Networks: From Local to Global, from Participation to Deliberation

  • Fiorella De Cindio University of Milan, Milan, Italy
  • Douglas Schuler The Evergreen State College The Public Sphere Project
Keywords: community networks, civic intelligence, online deliberation


Both authors have been engaged in the community networking movement and its evolution for many years in an ongoing effort to help create online systems that meet human needs. Community networks are intended to help address shared "public affairs" in geographical areas. Although this goal is important and laudable, community networking communities are often unable to have their voice heard in these matters. To help address this question — and the broader problem of inadequate and marginalized citizen engagement society-wide — we have launched several research / action projects related to community networks and online deliberation. To inform that process we focus on three prominent protest communities in Italy. We find that they must move beyond the community network model and perspective in two profound ways. Firstly, the communities must necessarily work with and integrate local and non-local perspectives. Secondly, the need exists for more purposive modes of communication that we believe can be supported through informed development and use of technology. We take this approach as an useful step in an ongoing process, building on our experiences with community networks as conceptualized in the mid 1990's to help develop and define our requirements for useful online capabilities as they link local and non-local communities in a sustained way that manifests civic intelligence.