Inter-organizational digital divide: Civic groups' media strategies in the Trinity River Corridor Project Page: 2
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While a number of studies have explored the effects of the Internet on citizens' participation in
political organizations (e.g., Hara, 2008; Hara and Estrada, 2005), little research has been done
on civic groups' strategic decisions regarding the Internet and new media. Instead, most research
on the effects of the Internet on participatory politics uses surveys to investigate the effects of
levels of ICT use on individuals' decisions to join civic groups or engage in protest actions.
Several early survey-based studies found that the Internet had an individualizing effect on users
that led to decreased participation in politics (e.g., Stoll, 1995; Turkle, 1996; Kraut, et al., 1998;
Nie and Erbring, 2000; Dahlgren, 2001; Diani, 2000; Ward, et al., 2003), while other research
found that the Internet facilitated participation in politics by providing users with knowledge
about local and national issues (Shah, et al., 2001; Johnson and Kaye, 2003; Weber, et al., 2003;
Wojcieszak, 2009). While survey-based studies have produced valuable insights, by focusing on
individuals at the expense of organizations, the literature on ICTs and civic activism has missed
important aspects of the interplay of information technology and local politics. Studies that have
investigated how ICTs affect citizens' likelihood of participating in existing civic organizations
have implicitly treated civic organizations as though they were themselves untouched by new
communications technology and new media such as blogs and social media. Yet it is clear that
ICTs have led to major changes within civic organizations themselves. Diani (2000) has
summarized the effects of ICTs on such organizations in terms of their effects on organizations
that mobilize mainly 'professional' versus 'participatory resources,' and on transnational
organizations. Other research shows that ICTs have altered civic groups' organizational tactics,
including recruitment tactics  and interorganizational networking (Ayres, 1999; Cleaver,
1998; Scott and Street, 2000; Van Aelst and Walgrave, 2002). ICTs can help civic groups to
build a collective identity , reinforce existing social networks, and contribute to a sense of
community (Brainard and Siplon, 2000; Elin, 2003; Norris, 2004; Oostveen, 2010). Other studies
have expanded on Diani's (2000) analysis of how ICTs can expand the transnational reach of
social movements (Castells, 1996; Cleaver, 1998; Van Aelst and Walgrave, 2002; Cordoso and
Neto, 2004; Russell, 2005; Hwang, et al., 2006).
This study focuses on local civic groups, and asks how leaders of such groups make decisions
about ICTs and new media. Specifically, because ICTs can potentially lower barriers to
participation and build collective identity and a sense of community, we ask why some civic
groups may choose to use some ICTs but not others, why they may choose not to use ICTs at all,
and why they may invest scarce resources in ICTs rather than in other forms of political
communication. Our study is guided by two theoretical questions. The first is whether new media
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Ignatow, Gabriel & Schuett, Jessica Lynn. Inter-organizational digital divide: Civic groups' media strategies in the Trinity River Corridor Project, article, November 7, 2011; [Chicago, Illinois]. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc78305/m1/2/: accessed July 26, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT College of Public Affairs and Community Service.