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Accepted Paper:

Designing a digital platform with engaged neighbours in Vienna. Vicinity, anonymity and racist violence in online platforms at neighbourhood level  


Daniele Karasz (ENSA Paris La Villette)

Paper short abstract:

The paper focusses on the development of a digital platform at neighbourhood level. In this context, the interplay of physical vicinity and online anonymity exposed engaged neighbours to racist campaigns. I discuss the positioning of engaged media Anthropology in the field of social housing.

Paper long abstract:

In 2011, I started to develop a digital platform for the Viennese neighbourhood "Monte Laa" in cooperation with an initiative of residents. Financed by the municipality, the project should foster the living together of neighbours with different background in an area of subsidized estates. We conceived a system of online platforms including a digital museum of the neighbourhood, an online forum, etc. Since 2019, I am, finally, involved into the renewal of the platforms on behalf of a housing association. As applied research, both projects did pursue policy goals, such as social sustainability and social mix.

The paper first describes the experiences of engaged neighbours that were especially involved into the development of the local online platforms. I will discuss how the digital platforms became a possibility for them to organize activities, such as festivities and language courses. At the same time, the platforms entailed risks, linked to the interplay of physical vicinity and digital anonymity. Active neighbours exposed themselves in their direct residential environment. Especially if stigmatized as migrants, they were confronted with anonymized, violent, racist campaigns against their open engagement for an active, diverse neighbourhood (according with the policy goals). In the light of this experience, I will discuss the difficult positioning of engaged media Anthropology in the field of social housing. While much work in digital ethnography focusses on the overcome of physical distance in social relations, the field of housing offers specific challenges, due to the growing importance of digital communication for explicitly localized social relations.

Panel P015
Engaged media anthropology in the digital age [Media Anthropology Network]