Online Participation in a Community Context: Civic Engagement and Connections to Local Communication Resources

Katherine Ognyanova, Nien-Tsu Nancy Chen, Sandra J. Ball-Rokeach, Zheng An, Minhee Son, Michael Parks, Daniela Gerson


This article investigates community-oriented Internet participation and its association with traditional predictors of civic engagement. The analysis poses larger questions about the democratic potential of digital media in diverse communities. Taking a communication infrastructure approach, the study explores the relationship between online and off-line forms of local involvement. The analysis is based on data from a phone survey conducted in 2010 with the residents of a demographically diverse city in the United States. Structural equation modeling is used to evaluate the importance of local media consumption, organizational membership, and interpersonal discussion as drivers of online participation. Community-oriented Internet activities are found to promote off-line civic engagement and intergroup dialogue. A disconnect between online participants and traditional local media suggests a need to rethink the role of community news sources in the context of underserved multiethnic residential areas.


civic engagement, online participation, journalism, new media, communication infrastructure theory

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