Online Neighborhood Networks: The Relationship Between Online Communication Practices and Neighborhood Dynamics

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

Online Neighborhood Networks: The Relationship Between Online Communication Practices and Neighborhood Dynamics

  • Ben Robaeyst imec-mict-UGent, Ghent University, Belgium
  • Bastiaan Baccarne imec-mict-UGent, Ghent University, Belgium
  • Jonas De Meulenaere Hoplr, Belgium
  • Peter Mechant imec-mict-UGent, Ghent University, Belgium

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Abstract:  This article builds upon communication infrastructure theory and investigates how communication practices on online neighborhood networks (ONNs) relate to the social cohesion of neighborhood communities. Specifically, we study the hyperlocal social media platform Hoplr, which provides ad-free ONNs in which neighbors can communicate with one another. Local governments can subscribe to Hoplr to communicate with their residents and engage them for community and public participation purposes. This study is based on an online survey of Hoplr members (N = 3,055) from 150 randomly selected ONNs. Social cohesion is disentangled as a combination of social support, a sense of community, reciprocal exchange, and social trust. We investigated social cohesion differences at the neighborhood level in relation to self-reported types of ONN communication practices (shared interest, supportive communication, and both tangible and informational support mobilization). The results reveal the limited value of quantified behavioral data to explain differences in neighborhood social cohesion. However, interesting patterns are revealed between different communication practices and neighborhood social cohesion, such as the importance of trivial storytelling and information exchange practices for enhancing trust, reciprocal support, and a sense of community. At the same time, a reversed relation appears when ONNs are considered explicit information exchange platforms. With these insights, we enhance the theoretical understanding of ONNs in relation to neighborhood social cohesion and within a broader repertoire of neighborhood communication infrastructures.

Keywords:  communication infrastructure theory; neighborhood social cohesion; online neighborhood networks; social cohesion


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© Ben Robaeyst, Bastiaan Baccarne, Jonas De Meulenaere, Peter Mechant. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.