Project

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The neighborhood in the cloud: How on- and offline location-based social networks shape individual life chances

English title The neighborhood in the cloud: How on- and offline location-based social networks shape individual life chances
Applicant Zangger Christoph
Number 201694
Funding scheme Ambizione
Research institution Institut für Soziologie Universität Bern
Institution of higher education University of Berne - BE
Main discipline Sociology
Start/End 01.02.2022 - 31.01.2026
Approved amount 1'000'151.00
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All Disciplines (4)

Discipline
Sociology
Political science
Social geography and ecology
Education and learning sciences, subject-specific education

Keywords (5)

Neighborhood Effects; Spatial Econometrics; Survey Experiments; Data Mining; Social Networks

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
Menschen bewegen sich in unterschiedlichen räumlichen Kontexten und Netzwerken. Mit wem man darin interagiert, welche Ressourcen man vorfindet und welche Entscheidungen man in der Konsequenz trifft, beeinflusst dabei den weiteren Verlauf des eigenen Lebens. Räumlich divergierende Möglichkeiten und Restriktionen für die Entfaltung der eigenen Tätigkeit und Wünsche tragen somit wesentlich zur (Re-)Produktion sozialer Ungleichheiten bei.
Lay summary

Inhalt und Ziele des Forschungsprojektes

Das Forschungsprojekt nimmt sich der übergeordneten Frage an, wie sozialräumliche Strukturen – von der Region bis hin zur Nachbarschaft – die Lebenschancen von Menschen in der Schweiz prägen. Dabei wird untersucht, wie sich nachbarschaftliche Netzwerke ausbilden und durch welche Mechanismen die Bildungschancen von Kindern sowie die Erwerbs- und Partizipationschancen von Erwachsenen durch räumliche Netzwerke und Strukturen beeinflusst werden. Darüber hinaus beschäftigen wir uns erstmalig mit dem Ausmass, in welchem solche sozialräumlichen Netzwerke sich auch online manifestieren und wie diese wiederum auf das Leben und die Kontakte zwischen Menschen rückwirken.

 

Wissenschaftlicher und gesellschaftlicher Kontext

Um die unterschiedlichen Aspekte des Projektes adäquat zu untersuchen und um möglichst robuste Ergebnisse zu generieren, kombinieren wir unterschiedliche Datenquellen und komplementäre Methoden. Hierzu zählen neben einem längsschnittlichen Survey insbesondere auch Surveyexperimente und die automatisierte Sammlung und Analyse von Online-Netzwerken. Dieses Vorgehen ermöglicht nicht nur ein genaueres Verständnis der zugrundeliegenden sozialen Prozesse, sondern bietet darüber hinaus Anknüpfungspunkte zur Behebung sozialer Ungleichheiten.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 27.08.2021

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Abstract

Neighbors matter and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic highlights this truth quite drastically: Neighborhoods are important sources of help and support in times of crisis. But neighborhoods also have an enduring effect in normal times. From educational attainment and job market integration to political participation or the everyday help elderly people receive (e.g., Bayer, Ross, and Topa,2008; McClurg, 2006; Nieuwenhuis and Hooimeijer, 2016; Seifert and König, 2019): Neighborhoods, localized social networks, and other geographic contexts shape individual behavior by offering opportunities and imposing restrictions. Although the family and school context are often taken into account when examining educational outcomes (e.g., Hedman, Manley, and van Ham, 2019;Wodtke and Parbst, 2017), the role of other social networks (e.g., professional networks formed at one's working place) has so far been largely neglected in the study of neighborhood effects (Petrovic, Manley, and van Ham, 2019; Van Kempen and Wissink, 2014). More importantly, the role of localized online social networks is completely absent in the literature on neighborhood effects. At the same time, the stunning increase in neighborhood help initiatives during the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted not only the importance of such localized networks but also demonstrated that they are increasingly organized online (Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 2020).The aims of this project are twofold: On the one hand, it assesses the simultaneous effects of multiple, often overlapping contexts and networks on people's educational and labor market chances, political participation, and everyday support. This allows us to put neighborhood and other contextual effects into a broader perspective. On the other hand, as the first of its kind, the project assesses how localized social networks (i.e., among neighbors) also manifest in online networks and interactions. Can such location-based online communities provide support and resources that have previously mainly been accessible through face-to-face interactions? The internationally unique project will provide us with a comprehensive picture on how different on- and offline location-based networks shape life chances and inequalities in different spatial entities.To rigorously test how localized on- and offline networks shape individual life chances and inequalities, new sources of data are needed. This is why a unique longitudinal survey will be set up to evaluate people's neighborhood, work, and friendship networks. Using modified position generators, the survey will also assess to which extent place-based networks manifest themselves online across different geographic contexts. To model the interactions in small-scale, bespoke neighborhoods of door-to-door neighbors, participants are chosen by means of a stratified cluster random sampling (Zangger, 2019a). Moreover, choice experiments and factorial surveys allow for the causal investigation of the underlying social mechanisms. Although the survey yields information on people’s use of location-based online networks, the extent of such networks and how information and resources diffuse therein is evaluated using web scraped data from public Twitter and Facebook posts and groups in Switzerland (Russell and Klassen, 2018). This approach will yield data that complement the insights on place-based online interactions obtained from the survey and provide first insights on how neighborhoods ``in the cloud'' also shape attitudes, decisions, and inequalities.Combining traditional survey research with innovative methods, including modified survey experiments and big data approaches, the project will provide a comprehensive picture of neighborhood effects on people's life chances. Simultaneously assessing the influence of different, often overlapping contexts and networks (e.g., friends, at one's workplace), the project is unique in its direct assessment of the underlying social mechanisms of neighborhood effects and provides first intuitions on the role of location-based online interactions. Moreover, since data are collected in different geographic contexts, the project also broadens the narrow focus of existing neighborhood effects studies that focus on urban areas. The potential and relevance of the project become even more apparent against the background of the multifold spontaneous neighborhood help initiatives during the COVID-19 pandemic, which were partly organized online. The project will make internationally valuable and unique contributions for the study of context-dependent individual life chances and inequalities. This knowledge and understanding could not have been more timely, relevant, and useful and will provide invaluable insights for location-based policy interventions.
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