University of Maryland

An event-driven community in Washington, DC: Forces that influence participation

Preece, J. (2009). An event-driven community in Washington, DC: Forces that influence participation. Handbook of Research on Urban Informatics: The Practice and Promise of the Real-Time City. Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference, IGI Global.


This chapter describes a small networked community in which residents of an apartment building in Washington, D.C., USA supplement their face-to-face social interactions with a Yahoo e-mail listserver. Analysis of over 460 messages that have been archived since July 2000, when the list began, reveals that the issues driving participation on the list also drive participation off the list. Threats to safety, high rent increases, and changes in management practices, such as parking regulations and access to facilities, motivate communication on and offline. Furthermore, those who are most active online are typically most active offline. Activity on the list is strongly fuelled by interest and discussion around local events, hence the term event-driven, and is promoted by activist tenants. Friendly notes about new restaurants, bird observations and other niceties may help a little to create a sense of overall community, but they do little to motivate online participation.