Abstracts Track 2023

Area 1 - Sustainable Computing and Systems

Nr: 2

The Influence of Community Platforms in Fostering Social Cohesion and Integration within Multi-Generational Neighborhoods


Sabrina Hoelzer and Christian Erfurth

Abstract: In recent years, the emergence of smart cities and other related initiatives has prompted a growing interest in the role of digitalization in the housing sector. Housing cooperatives are increasingly exploring new and innovative concepts of community living and social connectedness within neighborhoods. In the context of the research project "Multi-Generation Smart Community" (mGeSCo) we are investigating and testing digitization in various dimensions using a living lab approach in the "Smart Quarter" Jena-Lobeda. In cooperation with different stakeholders, network partners and residents, interdisciplinary solutions are being developed and explored in the dimensions of work, living, housing and caring. The neighborhood residents can obtain benefits from a diverse range of digital amenities. In order to enhance acceptance and effectiveness while improving the well-being of the community, both analog and digital methods of participation and communication are being integrated. A community platform designed for a neighborhood can improve well-being by fostering community, social support, trust, engagement, and comfort with smart technology in homes. Within the scope of our research project, we started to design a pilot platform, considering local specificities. To meet the requirements, various community platforms and neighborhood social networks were evaluated but found to be inadequate. It was essential to integrate the unique characteristics of the heterogenous neighborhood and the living conditions, and to ensure that the platform reflects the community's trust and locality. This can be achieved through involving residents in the design process and collecting their feedback to tailor the platform accordingly. The platform includes basic social networking features such as chats, group formations, posts, events, and offering articles. Additionally, it should reflect the neighborhood's unique characteristics, such as a virtual housing inventory for lending/borrowing, support services within the community, facilitation/booking of local services such as shared community spaces and mobility offerings. In addition, the platform should offer convenient access to relevant neighborhood information and notifications. Our concept for the initial phase involves a higher level of team involvement to encourage greater participation. Over time, we aim for the community to be self-managed and shaped by the users. This will help to understand and investigate the extent to which the use of the platform and the community building in such a neighborhood is dependent on an external component (e.g. community manager). To facilitate this, gamification concepts will be employed, allowing users to engage with each other in a virtual space. Through a combination of survey and qualitative research methods, we explore the ways in which the platform promotes community building, enhances the sense of belonging, and supports residents in their daily lives. With our research, we aim to create a comprehensive and structured overview of a platform that can be utilized in projects with similar goals. We aim to gain a better understanding of the characteristics that a platform must have in order to provide benefits for residents and achieve high acceptance rates. The focus is on exploring the contribution that digital platforms can make to social and real networking within a multi-generational neighborhood.