Internet studies have largely focused on long-distance information sharing among people. Less is known about how Internet has changed the way that people access and disseminate locally relevant information. The goal of this project is to understand the characteristics of local information ecosystems and their impact on their communities.
To investigate local information ecosystems, we began by studying the online and offline information about local events. Local events foster community pride, cohesion, and community attachment. City governments, local institutions and residents organize events to give residents opportunities for leisure activities and civic engagement. There are a number of websites, traditional media outlets, and government and private organizations that advertise those events. Our questions are how does the local events information ecosystem looks like? Is it easy to find this kind of information? Does it affect the residents’ perception of their communities?
We studied the online event information landscape for four neighborhoods in Pittsburgh, PA, over nine months in 2011. Overall, the traditional media sources offered a considerably limited subset of the events covered in the aggregate by other online local sources. Access to the full range of websites, including social media outlets, increases scope and diversity of the advertised local events. However, while local event information can be found online, it is highly fragmented, decentralized, and has low rates of duplication across sites. This places substantial burdens on individuals seeking to keep up with events in their community and event organizers trying to reach their targeted audiences. Together, these results highlight the complex nature of a local information ecosystem.
We are currently conducting several follow-up studies. In an attempt to compare different local ecosystems, we have collected event information from websites associated with qualitatively similar neighborhoods in Washington, DC and Pittsburgh, PA during the same period of time. To complement this online sample, we have also collected information posted in physical bulletin boards in the same neighborhoods in Pittsburgh, PA. Our ultimate goal is to design metrics to measure the quality of local information infrastructures, and to propose guidelines to improve access to locally relevant information.
If you are interested in our work or want to collaborate with us, please send an email to Claudia López (cal95 at pitt.edu)
- Claudia López
- Brian Butler
- Peter Brusilovsky
- Chi Young Oh