New book published: Community action in the net

Book cover for Acción comunitaria en la Red

Some months ago, professor in Social Pedagogy Xavier Úcar approached Francesc Balagué and I and told us he was very worried: after many years working in the field of community action, the Internet had come and changed every definition we had on what a community was, and changed every definition we had on what interaction (or action) was too. He had just found out that community action might be lagging behind the pace of times. And he invited us to write a book on the new communities and how did they interact on the net, so that he and his colleagues could use it to catch up with new scenario after the digital revolution.

An appealing invitation as it was, we had grounded reasons not to accept it: one of us is a pedagogue specialised in instructional technology and the other one an economist specialised in the impact of ICTs and development. Thus, we knew almost nothing about community action, and only had a chaotic approach to new expressions of communities working together in the most different types of ways and goals. That is precisely the point, stated professor Úcar.

Hence the heterodoxy of the inner structure of the book that has just seen the light. Acción comunitaria en la red (Community action in the net) is neither a book on community action nor a book with very clear ideas. It is, but, a book that invites the reader to think, to elaborate their own conclusions, and to find out which and whether these conclusions can be applied and how to their own personal or professional cases.

The full book has been written by 15 authors and presents 8 case studies that depict and analyse how a specific community used the Internet and its different tools and platforms to share information, communicate amongst them, organize themselves and coordinate actions in order to achieve their particular goals. The structure of the chapters analysing the cases was totally free, but some relevant questions had to be answered somehow:

  • What were the history, motivations, goals of the community?
  • What led the community to use the Internet? How was the community articulated digitally? what provided the Internet that could not be found offline?
  • How was the process of adoption of digital technologies, what tools and why?
  • What happened to the sense of membership, identity, participation?
  • What was the role of the mediator, facilitator, leader and how does it compare with an offline leadership?
  • Is self-regulation possible? How was conflict handled?
  • How is digital knowledge, experiences and learning “brought back” to the offline daily life and put into practice?

The cases are preceded by two introductory chapters, a first one on the social web and virtual participation, and a second on digital skills, as we thought some common background would help the reader to better understand some digital practices (and jargon). The book closes with what we, both authors, learnt during the preparation of the book and from reading other people’s chapters. This concluding chapter can be used too as a guideline for the preceding cases.

Table of contents

From the official page of the book Acción comunitaria en la red at Editorial Graó.

  1. Introduction, Francesc Balagué, Ismael Peña-López.
  2. What is the Web 2.0? New forms of participation and interaction. Francesc Balagué.
  3. Brief introduction to digital skills. Ismael Peña-López.
  4. APTIC. A social networking site for relativos of boys and girls with chronic diseases and conditions. Manuel Armayones, Beni Gómez Zúñiga, Eulàlia Hernández, Noemí Guillamón.
  5. School building: new communities. Berta Baquer, Beatriu Busquets.
  6. Social networking sites in education. Gregorio Toribio.
  7. Networked creation and the Wikipedia community. Enric Senabre Hidalgo.
  8. Social networking sites in the Administration: the Compartim programme on collaborative work. Jesús Martínez Marín
  9. Local politics, organizations and community. Ricard Espelt
  10. Towards cyberactivism from social movements. Núria Alonso, Jordi Bonet.
  11. Mobile phones, virtual communities and cybercafes: technologicla uses of international immigrants. Isidro Maya Jariego
  12. Concluding remarks. Ismael Peña-López, Francesc Balagué

Acknowledgements

There is a lot of people to be thankful to for making the book possible.

The first one is Xavier Úcar. I have only seldom been granted such a degree of total confidence and trust, not only in my work but in myself as a professional. He was supportive and provided guidance to two ignorants in the field. He totally gave us a blank cheque and one of my deepest fears during the whole process was — and still is — to have been able to pay him back with a quality book. I really hope it has been so.

The authors of the case studies were just great. Some of us did not know each other and I can count up to three people which I still have to meet personally (i.e. offline). They also trusted in us and gave away a valuable knowledge and work that money won’t pay. Many of them won’t even make much use of adding a line on their CVs for having written a book chapter. I guess this is part of this sense of new communities that the whole book is talking about.

My gratitude (but also apologies) to Antoni Garcia Porta and Sara Cardona at Editorial Graó. I am fully aware that we made them suffer: we succeeded in transferring some of our chaotic lives to them when they had not asked to. Being an editor today must be both a thrilling and a difficult challenge. We all gave away time in the making of the book but the published they represent invested money too, and that is something that we quickly forget these days.

Last, but absolutely not least, it has been a real pleasure working with Francesc. I think we only met once during the whole process: when Xavier invited us to coordinate the book. Francesc then packed and went around the world for 14 months. Luckily he took his laptop and would connect every now and then. Our e-mail archive and Google Documents can testify that almost everything is possible if there is the will to do it.

And it was fun too. Oh, yes it was!

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