Civic Engagement From a Communication Infrastructure Perspective

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1 Communication Theory ISSN ORIGINAL ARTICLE Civic Engagement From a Communication Infrastructure Perspective Yong-Chan Kim 1 & Sandra J. Ball-Rokeach 2 1 Department of Telecommunication and Film, College of Communication and Information Sciences, The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL Annenberg School for Communication, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA The purpose of this study is to articulate the concepts and assumptions of communication infrastructure theory (CIT) in its present stage of development and validation. As an ecological approach to communication and community, CIT claims that access to storytelling community resources is a critical factor in civic engagement. When embedded in a neighborhood environment where key community storytellers encourage each other to talk about the neighborhood, individual residents are more likely to belong to their community, to have a strong sense of collective efficacy, and to participate in civic actions. CIT framework offers a way to examine the ecological processes that concern the effects of communication resources on civic community. doi: /j x Scholars have long sought to understand the conditions under which people, individually and collectively, are willing and able to engage as members of communities, as participants in civil society. An underlying assumption of most attempts to address this issue is that there is a strong connection between the fabric of community life and the people s engagement. Different fields of inquiry tend to focus upon different fabrics, whether they be the political and economic infrastructures (Verba, Schlozman, & Brady, 1995), physical ecologies (Park, Burgess, & McKenzie, 1925; Sampson, Morenoff, & Earls, 1999) and people s patterns of movement within them (Castells, 2000), cultural formations and orientations (Appadurai, 1996), demographic dynamics (Allen & Turner, 1997), or social formations and structures (Wellman, 1990). The purpose of this study is to articulate the concept of a communication fabric, or the communication infrastructure of community, and to examine its importance with regard to civic engagement. Although communication processes, such as mass communication, are common features of other perspectives, we suggest that there is much to be gained by positioning communication structures and processes at the Corresponding author: Yong-Chan Kim; An earlier version of this article was presented at the Voice and Citizenship conference at the University of Washington in April Communication Theory 16 (2006) ª 2006 International Communication Association 173

2 Communication Infrastructure Perspective Y.-C. Kim & S. J. Ball-Rokeach center of the inquiry into civic engagement. We have developed communication infrastructure theory (CIT), a theoretical framework that differentiates local communities in terms of whether they have communication resources that can be activated to construct community, thereby enabling collective action for common purpose. Our theoretical endeavor focuses on conceptualizing the communication structure that promotes specific social actions: storytelling local community. We further theorize that storytelling local community is an essential communication process in the development and sustenance of civic engagement. This theory development effort is situated in an ongoing research project called Metamorphosis: Transforming the Ties that Bind (http://www.metamorph.org). The Metamorphosis project is an in-depth examination of the transformation of urban community under the forces of globalization, new communication technologies, and population diversity. Based on data drawn from about a dozen ethnic and geographical communities in Los Angeles, we have cumulatively developed the concept and study of communication infrastructures for civic engagement in contemporary urban spaces (Ball-Rokeach, Kim, & Matei, 2001). Built upon what we have learned from the works of the Metamorphosis project, this study extends and expands the published CIT model of belonging to the more expansive phenomena of civic engagement. In the front sections of this article, we articulate the concepts and assumptions of CIT in its present stage of development and validation, review the theory and research literatures that constitute the intellectual origins of CIT, and discuss the communication infrastructure in terms of its two major components: the neighborhood storytelling network (NSN) and the communication action context (CAC). Joining metamorphosis research with other civic engagement studies in the later sections of the article, we develop and articulate a storytelling model of civic engagement that conceptualizes dynamic relations among multidimensional aspects of civic engagement. We conclude with a discussion of theoretical issues that require study in future research. Communication and civic engagement The new communication environment brought about by macrolevel forces for example, globalization, new communication technologies, and population change presents both opportunities and challenges to civil society. There are at least two contrasting views on the present state of civic society in the midst of such transformations. The first, put forward by one group of scholars, popular commentators, and journalists, emphasizes the erosion of community and, more specifically, the decline in civic engagement. They point to research evidencing a decline in party loyalty and political membership across generational cohorts (e.g., Aldrich, 1996); the evisceration of linkages between political parties, institutions, and communitybased organizations (e.g., Walker, 1991); market-driven journalism at the expense of the public interest (e.g., McChesney, 1999); public distrust of government and 174 Communication Theory 16 (2006) ª 2006 International Communication Association

3 Y.-C. Kim & S. J. Ball-Rokeach Communication Infrastructure Perspective politics (e.g., Cappella & Jamieson, 1997); and the growth of interest group politics and narrow issue conflicts in urban communities (e.g., Warren, 1998). As for the second, contrasting view, other scholars argue that rather than a decline, we are seeing a restructuring of civil society (e.g., Skocpol, 1993). Researchers have offered alternative indicators of civic engagement, such as increased numbers of soccer leagues, evangelical church movements, and alternative political activities (e.g., Paxton, 1999; Verba et al., 1995). Researchers have also discussed new types of civic engagement that are made possible by new communication technologies (e.g., Thompson, 1995), such as participation in global civil society (e.g., Teheranian, 1999) or virtual community (e.g., Matei & Ball-Rokeach, 2002). CIT offers a third model of civic engagement that focuses attention on the communication structures and processes that negotiate 21st-century conditions of urban life. Building on the rich tradition of research on communication and civic engagement, 1 CIT provides a theory-driven guide to assess the capacities of community communication infrastructures for building and maintaining civic communities in the contemporary urban environment (Ball-Rokeach et al., 2001; Kim, Ball-Rokeach, Cohen, & Jung, 2002; Matei & Ball-Rokeach, 2002). Rather than claiming an overarching trend of either a declining or a reconstituting civil society, CIT focuses on various communication opportunity structures, or communication infrastructures, that make it either easy or difficult for residents of a local community to build community. A basic assumption of CIT is that some communities have rich and strong infrastructures for civic engagement and others have poor and weak infrastructures. Such community-level differences produce different capacities for addressing outside forces like globalization, new communication technologies, and new population dynamics. Focusing on the contextual effects of communication environments on community-building processes/outcomes, CIT provides a theoretical framework and a methodological tool for researchers and practitioners to articulate and to empirically unveil communication infrastructures in diverse urban communities so that they may be better used, or so that their weaknesses may be identified and strengthened. Theoretical components of CIT Our conception of the communication infrastructure of local community is informed by previous models of public opinion (e.g., Wyatt, Katz, & Kim, 2000), community integration (e.g., Friedland & McLeod, 1999), rhetorical action (especially, Fisher, 1989), collective identity (especially, Anderson, 1991), and information infrastructure (Star & Bowker, 2002). In particular, the communication infrastructure approach extends the scope of media system dependency (MSD) theory s focus on the relation between the mass media and the individuals to the interplay between communication environments, individuals, and communities. 2 Individuals and communities are conceptualized as actively seeking to achieve goals of survival and growth through connections to communication resources (Ball-Rokeach, Communication Theory 16 (2006) ª 2006 International Communication Association 175

4 Communication Infrastructure Perspective Y.-C. Kim & S. J. Ball-Rokeach 1998). Connecting to a communication resource is important because it generates connections to other types of resources, including social, political, cultural, and human capital (Bourdieu, 1986; Coleman, 1988). Individuals and communities are situated in different environments some environments afford easy connections to necessary and useful communication resources, but others make it difficult to access resources to achieve individual and community goals. CIT offers an account of how differences in connections to communication resources influence civic outcomes for example, gaining voice, efficacy, and active belonging. CIT provides a specific way of understanding an ecological relationship between a communication environment and communicative actions by articulating and empirically unveiling the communication infrastructures of diverse urban residential environments. A communication infrastructure is a neighborhood storytelling network (NSN) set in its communication action context (CAC) (Ball-Rokeach et al., 2001, p. 396). It consists of everyday conversations and neighborhood stories that people, media, and grassroots organizations create and disseminate (NSN) and the resources of residential areas that promote communication between residents (CACs, e.g., parks, safe streets, libraries, schools, etc.) (see Figure 1). In this section, we unfold the major concepts and assumptions of CIT and embed the discussion within the relevant and informing research literatures. Storytelling community Scholars have discussed the power of storytelling in different aspects of social, institutional, and personal life, for example, the power of storytelling for identity Work Conditions Resources for Families/Children Healthcare Resources Goods & Services Area Appearance Social Control Schools Geo-Ethnic Media Residents Neighborhood Storytelling Network Public Spaces (Libraries, parks, etc.) Community Organizations Communication Action Context Transportation Ethnic/ Cultural Diversity Street Safety/Fear Figure 1 Communication infrastructure: Neighborhood storytelling network set in its communication action context. 176 Communication Theory 16 (2006) ª 2006 International Communication Association

5 Y.-C. Kim & S. J. Ball-Rokeach Communication Infrastructure Perspective formation (Appadurai, 1996; Shaw, 1997), teamwork (Housley, 2000), building and maintaining organizations (Boje, 1991), socialization (Miller, Wiley, Fung, & Liang, 1997), community building (Ball-Rokeach et al., 2001; California Council for the Humanities, 2002), and democracy and civil society (Habermas, 1989). Stone (1988) said that storytelling is not a luxury to humanity. It s almost as necessary as bread. We cannot imagine ourselves without it because each self is a story (p.75). Clarke and Gaile (1997) illustrate how each local community responds to the globalization process by different storytelling strategies. Figueroa, Kincaid, Rani, and Lewis (2002) presented a sequential model of community dialogue or storytelling that underlies successful community change. Among the many commentators on the significance of storytelling in our society, Habermas works (1962/1989, 1981/1987) have been most notable in articulating the power of storytelling in building and maintaining civil society (Friedland, 2001). Habermas discussed how civil society and communicative actions rely on each other. He differentiated lifeworld and system as two parts of modern societies and explained the possibility of civil society in the area of lifeworld where individuals come together to talk about personal and shared problems. Lifeworld is built and maintained on communicative actions or storytelling oriented to mutual understanding. It is the horizon within which communicative actions are always already moving (Habermas, 1981/1987). Along the same lines, Habermas viewed the crisis of modern society as a crisis of lifeworld or a crisis of opportunities to conduct communicative actions freely. He claimed that as advanced capitalist societies have developed, the core integrative function of communication has been increasingly disabled or colonized. In other words, the colonization of the lifeworld reduces the sphere in which reflective storytellers operate and take collective actions to solve problems. Habermas communicative action is largely limited to rational discourse. Fisher (1989) suggested looking beyond rational discourse and proposed the narrative paradigm, the idea that (a) people are storytelling animals at heart, (b) human communication is largely a storytelling process, and (c) one should test the narrative rationality of stories told (Fisher). The narrative paradigm views the story as a fundamental form in which people express values and reasons, and subsequently make decisions about action. Fisher s works prompt consideration of a broad range of everyday communicative action as a meaningful basis for discussions, reflections, and actions in the building of civic community. The most basic premise of CIT is that local communities are based on resources for storytelling about the community. Without any resources for constructing stories about the local community and sharing them with others, it is impossible to build a community. Community is built on shared discourses about who the community members are their identities, desires, and shared lived experiences what their most important opportunities, obstacles, and issues are, and what/how they should do to address them (Offe, 1980; Tilly, 1978). Neighborhood storytelling is a generic process of constructing and reconstructing discourse about community identity, issues, and action strategies. Communication Theory 16 (2006) ª 2006 International Communication Association 177

6 Communication Infrastructure Perspective Y.-C. Kim & S. J. Ball-Rokeach CIT defines neighborhood storytelling broadly as any type of communicative action that addresses residents, their local communities, and their lives in those communities (Ball-Rokeach et al., 2001). Unlike limited ways of defining storytelling as, for example, a folk tale that has a certain narrative structure, storytelling in the CIT framework can take any communicative mode while being limited only by its referent. That is, it can be oral or written, electronic or nonelectronic, synchronous or asynchronous, positive or negative, or prearranged or emergent narrative; the storytelling, however, has to be about the local community. In our studies and in the work of other community researchers, we find numerous and varied illustrations of neighborhood stories, neighborhood storytellers, and a variety of contexts in which neighborhood stories are told. Neighbors who meet and greet over the proverbial backyard fence, at a local park, at a block party, in line for the movies, or at a local grocery store talk about such things as the need for speed bumps to slow down nonresident traffic in the area, a newly opened store, preschool, or restaurant in the area, or community resources under threat a health facility, childcare center or senior center. Neighbors with children talk about school and recreational events in the area. Families are also neighborhood storytellers, such as when they talk about changes in street safety in their area or about upcoming events in the neighborhood. Neighborhood storytelling can occur in a more formal context, such as in town hall meetings reported in the Cupertino Community Project in Cupertino, California (Pearce & Pearce, 2000), neighborhood councils in Los Angeles studied by Musso, Weare, and Cooper (2004), or community/police dialogues (Farrell, McDevitt, & Buerger, 2002). Local media can be neighborhood storytellers. For example, Hardyk, Loges, and Ball-Rokeach (2005) examined a public (KPCC-FM) and a commercial radio station (KKBT- FM, the Beat ) in the Los Angeles area. Neighborhood stories are frequently found in such programs as KPCC s Talk of the City or Air Talk where the hosts regularly go on-site to talk with activists and stakeholders about local issues, and KKBT s Steve Harvey Show where the host addresses neighborhoods and issues of particular concern to African American communities. Producers of ethnic media targeted to new immigrants tell a lot of back home stories, but they also seek to address the adjustment challenges of their readers, listeners, and viewers with locally oriented legal, cultural, social service, financial, and other stories. Finally, community organizations are potentially important neighborhood storytellers. Community art organizations, such as LA Commons or the California Stories Project of the California Council for the Humanities create artistic expressions of community histories and contemporary stories of neighborhood its people and issues. Advocacy, community building, and religious organizations tell stories that speak to residents need to come together to address shared problems and opportunities. In all of these examples, the key element is that the neighborhood is the referent. They are stories about us in this geographic space, the cohabitants of an area. Such stories are the building blocks of the ability to imagine an area as a community (Anderson, 1991). 178 Communication Theory 16 (2006) ª 2006 International Communication Association

7 Y.-C. Kim & S. J. Ball-Rokeach Communication Infrastructure Perspective Multilevel community storytellers CIT differentiates macro-, meso-, and microstorytelling agents (Ball-Rokeach et al., 2001) in terms of their primary storytelling referent and their imagined audience. Macrostorytelling agents such as mainstream media tell stories primarily about the whole city, the nation, or even the world, where the imagined audience is broadly conceived as the population of the city, county, or region. Mesoagents are more focused on particular sections of the city (e.g., Westside or South Central in Los Angeles) or specific communities. The residents in their family, friend, and neighbor networks are the microstorytelling agents. When residents talk about their community in neighborhood council meetings, at a neighborhood block party, at the dinner table, or over the fence with neighbors, they become local storytelling agents participants in an active imaging of their community. CIT focuses on meso- and microstorytellers. This is because, in the contemporary metropolitan urban environment in the United States, macrostorytellers including mainstream newspapers, radio stations, and TV channels have failed to play the role of community storyteller (Bagdikian, 1997; McChesney, 1999). There are two key mesolevel storytellers: geo-ethnic media and community/nonprofit organizations. Geo-ethnic media refer to those media that either target specific geographical areas or specific populations (such as new immigrant minorities). These run the gamut from a newsletter, to a freebie, to sophisticated commercial print or electronic media. When geo-ethnic media are generating stories about a specific neighborhood, then there is a storytelling resource that individuals or community organizations can rely on to elaborate or construct their local community stories. Researchers have found that geo-ethnic media as community storytellers promote individual residents civic participation and sense of belonging (Finnegan & Viswanath, 1988; McLeod et al., 1996; Moy, McCluskey, McCoy, & Spratt, 2004; Rothenbuhler, Mullen, DeLaurell, & Ryu, 1996). Finnegan and Viswanath reported that use of community media such as community weekly, metro daily, and community cable system is related to various aspects of community ties. In particular, they found that a connection to community newspapers is more likely to increase the level of integration into local communities than a connection to metro papers what we call macrolevel storytellers. Recently, Moy et al. (2004) also reported that it was a connection to local newspapers rather than network TV stations that address nonlocal news that promotes political participation in their Seattle study areas. In their study in Iowa, Rothenbuhler et al. (1996) reported that local newspaper reading is a significant factor in both community attachment (sense of belonging) and involvement (based on keeping up with local news, having ideas for improving the local community, and getting together with people ). In their study in Madison, Wisconsin, McLeod et al. found that attentive use of local news media has a significant effect on knowledge, interest, and participation in community affairs. The second key mesolevel community storyteller is community organizations, all the way from informal grassroots formations to formal nonprofit organizations. Several scholars have focused on the functions of storytelling for organizations (Boje, Communication Theory 16 (2006) ª 2006 International Communication Association 179

8 Communication Infrastructure Perspective Y.-C. Kim & S. J. Ball-Rokeach 1991; Boyce, 1990; Gephart, 1991). For example, Boje introduced and defined the concept of a storytelling organization as a collective storytelling system in which the performance of stories is a key part of members sense making and a means to allow them to supplement individual memories with institutional memory (p. 106). The storytelling function of an organization may apply not only to the transactions among internal stakeholders (i.e., employees at different levels) but also to the relationships with outside stakeholders such as clients, suppliers, competitors, consumers, or even the larger community. Of particular relevance to present concerns is the work of scholars who have discussed the contributions of storytelling community organizations to civic engagement. These researchers have found that community organizations often work as vehicles for individual residents to become politically active (Alford & Scoble, 1968; Olsen, 1970), to develop civic skills (Verba et al., 1995), and to build political self-esteem (Aberback, 1969). Consistent with previous research, community organizations play storytelling linkage roles in the overall communication infrastructure model of civic engagement. Wilson (2001) indicated that the most important role of community organizations in the community-building process is to be. the precipitators and sustainers of neighborhood conversations (p. 12) that imagine viable community. Through their relations with individual members, clients, or participants, community organizations can tell salient stories about institutional and community history, pressing issues, opportunities, threats, and so forth, and these stories may be passed along in neighbor-to-neighbor conversations. Organizations also have their own story to tell, and they can do this not only in communication with residents but also in communication with local media. In a sense, we extend the classical discourse models of public opinion (Price, 1992) that speak to the media role of promoting civic discourse among citizens to suggest that community organizations may prompt local media to tell the organization s stories as they concern the welfare of the neighborhood. The overlap between the organization s stories and the stories of concern to residents is likely to vary, overlap being greatest with organizations that have grassroots or neighborhood-focused missions. Finally, the residents as constituted in family, friend, or neighborhood networks (microlevel) are essential community storytellers. Our conception of the agentic potentials of resident storytelling also is informed by the study of public opinion processes. For example, the importance of everyday political conversation in building democracy was studied by Katz and associates (Wyatt et al., 2000). They found that political conversation, no matter where and how it happens, is positively related to political participation talk about public concerns conducted in private, even among family and friends, has political consequences (p. 89). Pearce and Pearce (2000) suggested that creating certain kinds of talk [that they call public dialogue ] was itself the necessary and sufficient condition of [civic engagement]. In our previously reported work (Ball-Rokeach et al., 2001), we found that individuals talking about the neighborhood with their neighbors is the most potent storytelling force in constructing neighborhood belonging. 180 Communication Theory 16 (2006) ª 2006 International Communication Association

9 Y.-C. Kim & S. J. Ball-Rokeach Communication Infrastructure Perspective An integrated NSN Each of the key neighborhood storytellers mentioned above is an important element for building a civil society. What is unique in the CIT approach is that it focuses not only on the strength of each community storyteller but also on the value added when they form a storytelling network. One important criterion in the measurement of the quality of a storytelling network is the level of integration of the communicative actions of the three community storytellers local media, community organizations, and residents. In an ideal community, meso- and microstorytellers form an integrated network where each storyteller stimulates the others to talk about the local community. In a communication environment with an integrated storytelling network, people are informed about what is happening in their local neighborhood and talk about neighborhood issues and events with their neighbors and do so in a way that motivates participation in community-building activities. On the other hand, when local media talk only about what is happening outside the neighborhood (e.g., country of origin or the diaspora) as in the case of many ethnic or new immigrant media, the potentially dynamic relation between local media and residents as neighborhood storytellers cannot be realized. When community organizations operate in a decontextualized fashion with no neighborhood storytelling connections to local media and residents, community members even those who may seek the services of these organizations miss out on storytelling resources that would help them imagine their community. Previous research offers examples of the benefits of collaborative storytelling. Rogers et al. (1995) examined a case of cooperation between regional media, city governments, and various community organizations working for HIV/AIDS prevention in San Francisco. Communication among the various stakeholders constructed a shared story about HIV/AIDS as a community issue, and this instigated community-level participation in efforts for HIV/AIDS prevention. In their case studies of three Michigan counties, Medved et al. (2001) found that successful change of the health care service structure in a community depended on coordinated participation of stakeholders (residents, organized interests, general and at-risk publics, external sponsors, etc.) in an ongoing, structured, collaborative dialogue about improving access to health services (p. 137). Morrison et al. (1997) illustrated several examples of efforts to build a network of community storytellers to strengthen neighborhoods. These included a community middle school consortium (a network of various agencies associated with middle schools talking about the needs of students, parents, and the community at large) and community policing (neighborhood storytelling between a local police department and the community at large) (Morrison et al.). Civic engagement studies also offer illustrations of the engagement effects of the level of integration among neighborhood storytellers. For example, Knut (1997) reported the case of a community where individuals connections to religious organizations stimulated their connections to media for getting information about local political issues. This is an example of an integrated relation between two mesolevel Communication Theory 16 (2006) ª 2006 International Communication Association 181

10 Communication Infrastructure Perspective Y.-C. Kim & S. J. Ball-Rokeach storytellers churches as community organizations and local media. Crenson (1978) spoke to a case of a less integrated storytelling network. He reported that residents of a community with close-knit neighborhood friendship ties were less likely to be informed about community organizations in their neighborhood. Lacking storytelling connections to local residents, these organizations did a poor job of representing local interests (Crenson). This is an example of a missing link between microlevel storytellers (i.e., neighborhood friends) and mesolevel storytellers (i.e., community organizations). In our study of neighborhood belonging in seven communities in Los Angeles (Ball-Rokeach, 2001; Ball-Rokeach et al., 2001), we reported on two contrasting cases of storytelling network integration. A high-belonging community has a well-integrated storytelling network where each storyteller stimulates the others to talk about their neighborhood (Figure 2). The low-belonging community (Figure 3) has a fragmented storytelling network. In this community, there is no working relation among the key neighborhood storytellers. For example, community organizations and local media do not help each other articulate local issues or produce and share stories about the neighborhood. In addition, these two mesolevel storytelling agents do not encourage residents to talk with their neighbors about their neighborhoods. Even when neighbors communicate, they may not be neighborhood storytelling; they may be telling stories about events and places outside the neighborhood. Neighbors who communicate can become storytellers of the neighborhood, especially if provoked to do so by stories told by their local media and community organizations. We do not suggest that residents lack independent agency when it comes to storytelling their neighborhoods; they can create resident storytelling networks that have considerable agency when it comes to the symbolic, social psychological, and Home Ownership 0.30 Scope of Connections to Community Organizations Residential Tenure Scope of Mainstream Media Connections Scope of Local Media Connections Intensity of Participation in Neighborhood Storytelling Belonging Figure 2 An example of an integrated storytelling network. Note: From Ball-Rokeach, S. J., Kim Y. C., & Matei S. (2001). Storytelling neighborhood: Paths to belonging in diverse urban environments. Communication Research, 28, 415. Copyright 2001 by Sage. Reprinted with permission. 182 Communication Theory 16 (2006) ª 2006 International Communication Association

11 Y.-C. Kim & S. J. Ball-Rokeach Communication Infrastructure Perspective Home Ownership Scope of Connections to Community Organizations Scope of Mainstream Media Connections Intensity of Participation in Neighborhood Storytelling 0.38 Belonging Residential Tenure Scope of Local Media Connections Figure 3 An example of a less integrated storytelling network. Note: From Ball-Rokeach S. J. (2001). Community storytelling, storytelling community: Paths to belonging in diverse Los Angeles residential areas. Los Angeles: Communication and Community Program, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Southern California. Reprinted with permission. behavioral aspects of civic engagement. In this respect, CIT may go beyond its ancestor model, such as the two-step flow model of media effects (Katz & Lazarsfeld, 1955) or diffusion of news models (Rogers, 2000) that focus more on story dissemination than on story construction. However, when the burden of storytelling the neighborhood falls solely on the residents, this foundation of civic engagement is likely to be unstable and unsustainable as residents tire and/or move out of the area. Integrated storytelling networks of residents, local media, and community organizations might be said to have more carrying capacities capacity to deal with multiple stories over time and capacity to detect new stories as they emerge in a dynamic environment. Connectedness to an integrated NSN We can discuss the storytelling network on two levels: first, on the community level where we observe institutional-level interactions among local media, community organizations, and residents, and second, on the individual level where we address individual residents connections to each neighborhood storyteller. On the community level, an integrated storytelling network represents dynamic relations among neighborhood storytellers that generate and disseminate neighborhood stories. On the individual level, an integrated storytelling network indicates individuals dynamic connectedness to neighborhood storytellers in their everyday lives, that is, a connection to one neighborhood storyteller stimulates connections to the other neighborhood storytellers. Here, connectedness is the concept that captures the linkage between the macrolevel NSN as a neighborhood-level resource and individual-level embeddedness in Communication Theory 16 (2006) ª 2006 International Communication Association 183

12 Communication Infrastructure Perspective Y.-C. Kim & S. J. Ball-Rokeach macrolevel storytelling resources. The concept of connectedness in CIT is rooted in the concept of a dependency relation (Ball-Rokeach, 1998) in MSD theory, but it goes beyond that concept in the following ways: (a) connectedness addresses individuals relation with a wider scope of communication resources ranging from interpersonal communication, new and old media, and small and big media; (b) it is developed and used as a theoretical tool to describe multilevel, ecological, and transactional relations between individuals and their larger communication and social environments; (c) connectedness addresses the quality of relationships among communicative agents as a factor containing multiple dimensions such as access, scope, intensity, and centrality. In this study, we propose a measure of the degree of storytelling network integration at the individual level, which we call integrated connectedness to the storytelling network (ICSN). ICSN is measured as a weighted summation of three interaction terms between scope of connections to the local media, scope of connections to community organizations, and intensity of interpersonal neighborhood storytelling. ICSN is calculated by the formula, W 1 (LC 3 INS) 21 1 W 2 (INS 3 OC) 21 1 W 3 (OC 3 LC) 21, where LC is the standardized z score of scope of connection to local media, INS is the standardized z score of intensity of interpersonal neighborhood storytelling, and OC is the standardized z score of scope of connection to community organizations. W 1, W 2, and W 3 are weights for each of the three interaction terms. The communication action context Another important part of the communication infrastructure is the CAC in which the storytelling network operates (see Figure 1). This context makes it harder or easier for individuals and communities to have a strong integrated storytelling network. The general idea is analogous to the social architecture of living spaces. Some architectures incline residents to interaction and congregation, but others obstruct such contact. For our analytical purposes, the CAC varies along a dimension of openness. Openness refers to contextual facilitation of residents coming into communication contact with each other meetings and greetings that carry the potential for neighborhood storytelling. Openness also refers to the extent to which the CAC inclines mesolevel storytellers (community organizations and local media) to communicate. To date, our focus has been on identifying constraints that undermine openness and facilitators that increase openness with respect to the CAC resident relationship. Examples of constraints include cases of families and children who are afraid to be on the streets or in parks, making them less likely to encounter their neighbors and much less meet them and build bonds. When residents have to go out of their areas to obtain affordable and quality social, educational, or cultural services, they are less likely to build relationships with local community organizations. If the schools and libraries are poorly equipped and understaffed, residents are more likely to seek private education or to go out of their area to get better library services when they can afford to do so, and, if they cannot, they may feel trapped and angry in a way 184 Communication Theory 16 (2006) ª 2006 International Communication Association

13 Y.-C. Kim & S. J. Ball-Rokeach Communication Infrastructure Perspective that lessens neighborhood pride and their willingness to invest in the community (Ball-Rokeach et al., 2001). On the other hand, when residents feel relatively safe congregating on the streets and in public (storytelling) spaces or when they can meet their daily resource needs within their residential community, they are more likely to get to know each other and to talk about their shared neighborhood experiences and concerns. Although we live in a time when space is no longer a totalizing force, recent studies suggest it is premature to say that space (i.e., residential neighborhoods) is an insignificant force when it comes to building and sustaining civil society. Researchers, such as the early Chicago School sociologists (Park et al., 1925), human ecology scholars (Hawley, 1984), and more recent neighborhood effect studies (e.g., Sampson et al., 1999) have examined how the type of neighborhood affects the patterns and quality of resident s everyday lives. Building on this body of research, CIT seeks to demonstrate that the sociocultural geography of local community is a crucial contextual factor that directly constrains or facilitates neighborhood storytelling. We also build upon Habermas analysis of the implications of social context in the development of modern Western democracy (Habermas, 1962/1989, 1981/1987). He linked the birth of the modern liberal democracy during the 18th century to the emergence of public spaces, such as coffeehouses, clubs, salons, societies, and voluntary associations, and the press where the public can organize itself as the bearer of public opinion (Habermas, 1962/1989). In his study, The Transformation of Public Sphere, Habermas explained how the bourgeois public sphere has been transformed by a newly formed public sphere dominated by welfare-state capitalism and mass democracy (Habermas, 1962/1989). Through various historical analyses, he claimed that quality or type of public sphere was directly related to the nature of public opinion formation and outcomes in our society. Habermas discussion of public sphere focused on sociostructural level relationships between the quality of the social context and the quality of democracy, but the CAC as examined in CIT highlights how these relationships are unfolded in more specific social settings such as neighborhoods or local communities. Habermas addressed the public sphere as a condition for forming bourgeois liberal democracy, but the CAC in CIT is a condition for local residents participation in their own construction of an efficacious community. Rather than diagnosing the social and historical milieu of the public opinion formation process in modern society, the CAC in CIT was designed to capture variation among specific geographical units in how open they are to the building and maintenance of integrated storytelling agent networks. Contemporary neighborhood effects literatures address aspects of CACs including area-level opportunities for civic discussions (e.g., government-sponsored civic forums, town hall meetings, or neighborhood councils), cultural or language barriers, neighborhood-level socioeconomic characteristics, community-level civic milieu, ethnic heterogeneity, or population entropy (or residential instability). Baiocchi (2003) illustrated how local residents in two cities in Brazil used government-sponsored Communication Theory 16 (2006) ª 2006 International Communication Association 185

14 Communication Infrastructure Perspective Y.-C. Kim & S. J. Ball-Rokeach assemblies as a space for discussing their own interests rather than the agenda prepared by the local governments. Even though this meeting takeover by local residents frustrated governmental officials, the provision of a CAC was crucial because the assemblies were the only place in the community to meet other people and to talk about issues affecting residents everyday lives. Orellana, Dorner, and Pulido (2003) described new immigrant Latinos as being in a CAC that makes it hard to participate in civic actions due to language barriers. In his study on local participation in a Latino housing project, Small (2003) suggested that cultural frames shaped by historical and cultural experiences in specific cohorts of new and old immigrants are important backdrops for imagining their local communities. Social disorganization studies demonstrated that neighborhood-level structural characteristics such as neighborhood-level socioeconomic status, percentage of residents below the poverty line, residential stability, or ethnic heterogeneity affect how individual residents attach to important civic resources in their community (Sampson et al., 1999). Kang and Kwak (2003) also examined the effects of neighborhood-level variables, such as residential tenure, on individuals connections to residential interpersonal networks and local media. Civic engagement from CIT At the present state of development of CIT, we are prepared to go beyond previous accounts of neighborhood belonging as an outcome of residents storytelling network connections (see Figure 4) to articulate the basics of a CIT of civic engagement Residential Tenure Scope of Connections to Community Organizations Scope of Mainstream Media Connections Intensity of Participation in Interpersonal Storytelling Neighborhood Belonging Home Ownership Scope of Connections to Local Media Figure 4 Storytelling neighborhood model of belonging. Note: From Ball-Rokeach S. J., Kim Y. C., & Matei S. (2001). Storytelling neighborhood: Paths to belonging in diverse urban environments. Communication Research, 28, 403. Copyright 2001 by Sage. Reprinted with permission. 186 Communication Theory 16 (2006) ª 2006 International Communication Association

15 Y.-C. Kim & S. J. Ball-Rokeach Communication Infrastructure Perspective as shown in Figure 5. We will discuss the theory work that remains to be accomplished in the concluding section of this article. In our earlier study (Ball-Rokeach et al., 2001), we developed a multidimensional concept and measure of belonging. We defined neighborhood belonging as subjective and objective attachment to the neighborhood by considering neighborhood belonging as what individuals do with their neighbors (e.g., helping each other out) and how they feel about their neighbors (e.g., ease of becoming friends). We excluded what Friedland and McLeod (1999) have called indirect measure of community attachment, that is, we conceptualized participating in community organizations, engaging in neighborhood discussion, and connecting to community media as cultivators of neighborly feelings and behaviors, not as neighborhood belonging itself. Structural variables homeownership and residential tenure were treated as factors that increase the likelihood of participation in the NSN and, as such, are indirect contributors to belonging. On the basis of these conceptualizations, we developed and tested a model that posits a linear flow from structural storytelling conditions (residential tenure and home ownership) through connections to three neighborhood storytellers (local media, community organizations, and interpersonal networks) to neighborhood belonging (see Figure 4). This model was tested in four geo-ethnic communities in Los Angeles Anglo, African Americans, Latinos, and Asian. We found that communities with strong connections to an integrated storytelling network had higher levels of neighborhood belonging (Ball-Rokeach et al.). There are two new theory projects that are shown in Figure 5. First, the conditions constructing civic engagement go beyond the storytelling model of belonging (Figure 4) by (a) incorporating the CAC and its dynamic or nonrecursive relationship to the storytelling network, (b) expanding the structural factors considered and Structural Factors Integrated Storytelling Network Civic Engagement Residential Tenure Home Ownership Socio-Economic Status Gender Occupation Ethnicity + Community Organizations + Neighborhood Belonging Civic Participation Local/Ethnic Media + Residents Collective Efficacy Communication Action Context Figure 5 Communication infrastructure model of civic engagement. Communication Theory 16 (2006) ª 2006 International Communication Association 187

16 Communication Infrastructure Perspective Y.-C. Kim & S. J. Ball-Rokeach placing them in a dynamic relationship with the storytelling network, and (c) establishing a dynamic connection between the structural factors and the CAC. An example of the relationship envisioned between the CAC and the storytelling network is a case observed in one of our study areas where the storytelling network was turned to defeat a school board plan to terminate construction of an elementary school, thereby adding a new school to the community resource base. The infinite variety of ways in which the CAC affects the vitality of the storytelling network includes changes in law enforcement policy and activity that affects residents perceptions of the safety of their streets, parks, and other public spaces, and the introduction of universal preschool in Los Angeles County so that parents of young children meet and greet at preschool and also have more time to engage in neighborhood storytelling. On the other hand, if parents of young children decide to use the preschool option to take on another job, it may decrease their participation in the storytelling network. Not only the structural factors affect the storytelling network for example, in the ways previously discussed for belonging but the storytelling network also has effects on structural factors. An integrated vital network suggests that residents are involved and, thus, less likely to want to move out of the community. An illustration of a dynamic relationship between the structural factors and the CAC is the communication consequences of rapid and large changes in population composition, and consequences such as increased cultural and linguistic barriers to communication or going in the other direction increased gang activity and declining quality of public schools may increase people s desire to move elsewhere. The second new theory project is the introduction of civic engagement in the CIT model and consideration of how the elements of civic engagement are related to each other. We analyze three aspects of civic engagement neighborhood belonging, perceived collective efficacy, and the scope of civic participation as a function of integrated connections to a storytelling network set in its CAC. In our model development, we heeded Friedland and McLeod s (1999) call for independent conceptions and measures of civic engagement that do not conflate them with structural and storytelling factors. Collective efficacy refers to residents trust in their community s capacity to mobilize neighborhood problem-solving activities (Sampson et al., 1999). Sampson and associates index of collective efficacy addresses four dimensions: (a) perceived willingness to intervene, (b) local political control, (c) a complex mix of sense of community and instrumental helping, and (d) shared organizational participation. This comprehensive measure of collective efficacy has statistical power, but it joins direct and indirect aspects of collective efficacy within the same measure. We prefer to limit collective efficacy to the informal social control dimension, as it most directly addresses individuals perception of whether neighbors will join together to solve neighborhood problems. 3 Civic participation is defined as an individual s temporal and monetary investment in the neighborhood problem-solving process (McLeod et al., 1996). Among many preconditions for civic participation, CIT theorizes that the individual s 188 Communication Theory 16 (2006) ª 2006 International Communication Association

17 Y.-C. Kim & S. J. Ball-Rokeach Communication Infrastructure Perspective connection to an NSN is the most critical factor that helps individuals actually participate in various civic actions (Kim et al., 2002). Figueroa et al. (2002) emphasized that community dialogue or storytelling has to come together with collective action to effectively make social change. By connecting to an integrated storytelling network, individuals are more likely to know what they should and could do to solve both imminent and chronic neighborhood problems and where they can find the resources for example, human and economic resources for getting desired outcomes through their participation. In our conceptualization of the relationship between the three aspects of civic engagement, cultivating neighborhood belonging through everyday exchanges with neighbors is the most essential part of civic engagement. Neighborhood belonging has to be catalyzed by a more specific confidence that we are not only good neighbors but also neighbors with the ability to do something, if necessary, to make the neighborhood a better place to live. High levels of neighborhood belonging and collective efficacy do not automatically lead to actual participation in neighborhood problem-solving activities because participation is possible only with necessary resources (McCarthy & Zald, 1977). The storytelling model of the development of civic engagement (see Figure 5) considers civic participation as a consequence of higher levels of ICSN, collective efficacy, and neighborhood belonging. The process starts with a connection to the NSN. The process continues with two mediating factors perceived neighborhood collective efficacy and neighborhood belonging whereby residents internalize and activate local stories in their everyday lives. Connections to local storytellers first increase the level of neighborhood belonging and perceived collective efficacy, which, in turn, increase the likelihood of civic participation. Moreover, belonging is conceived to have an indirect effect on civic participation through collective efficacy as well as a direct effect. The rationale for this expectation is that, even when residents have a high level of belonging, that belonging will activate participation even more intensively when it leads to increasing collective efficacy. Collective efficacy has a direct effect on civic participation in this model, and this expectation is based on well-established theories on the relationship between belief systems and behaviors (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980; Ball-Rokeach, Rokeach, & Grube, 1984). We do not exclude the possibility of a nonrecursive relationship among the variables we are examining. There is evidence of such relationships in the literature. For example, Finkel (1985) found that political participation influences individuals political efficacy. Tolbert, Lyson, and Irwin (1998) found that communities with relatively high levels of civic engagement also have relatively high-income levels and low levels of income inequality, poverty, and unemployment. As shown in Figure 5, CIT theorizes that civic engagement strengthens NSN. The more engaged the neighbors are in a community, the more likely they are connected to the integrated storytelling network. In summary, CIT claims that having integrated connections to the storytelling neighborhood network is a critical factor in civic engagement. When embedded in a neighborhood environment where key community storytellers encourage each Communication Theory 16 (2006) ª 2006 International Communication Association 189

18 Communication Infrastructure Perspective Y.-C. Kim & S. J. Ball-Rokeach other to talk about the neighborhood, individual residents are more likely to become community members rather than mere occupants of physical spaces, to have a stronger sense that they can solve various neighborhood problems, and to be more willing to participate in civic actions. As such, the CIT framework offers a way to examine ecological processes that concern the effects of communication resources on civic community. Discussion We have discussed the basic elements of CIT as it applies to an understanding of civic engagement. The theory, however, is not yet fully articulated in many respects, the most important of which we will discuss in this section. We will continue to develop the theory through a grounded back-and-forth method between concepts and data, being as open as we can be to what storytellers tell us, allowing their stories to help us see beyond what we already think we know. Indeed, one important theory challenge for the future is to elaborate our conception of neighborhood stories in ways that refine our basic notion that civic engagement is actualized through everyday practices of storytelling the neighborhood. Two needed refinements that constructive critics have pointed out are the differential impacts of good and bad stories and the inclusiveness of the neighborhood imagined in stories. We have mixed evidence with respect to good and bad stories. Focus group discussions with residents of our study areas suggest that we need a more sensitive way of categorizing stories. For example, stories that concern threats to valued neighborhood resources, such as the loss of a school, a freeway extension that would divide the community, closure of one of a few shopping centers in the area, or drug traffickers moving into a previously safe park are bad stories that seem to stimulate a storytelling-to-action process. We have evidence that neighborhood pride contributes to belonging, but this does not always mean that good stories predominate. In one of our highest civic engagement areas, residents complain about being stigmatized as a bad area by the mainstream media, but residents also talk about bad as well as good things happening in their community. Indeed, bad stories told by outsiders (e.g., the mainstream media) seem to solidify resistance in the form of in-group pride (Guterbock & London, 1983) sustained by an active storytelling network. One question we will pursue as we revisit our study area is whether the storytelling network includes or excludes a large influx of another ethnic group that has moved into the area in recent years. Are there, for example, stories about them and us and also about we, that is, are there bonding and bridging (Putnam, 2000) story features or only ethnic bonding that creates two storytelling networks, two neighborhoods? Another major area of future theory development concerns the CAC. Briefly put, we need to more specifically theorize when and why features of that context have similar constraining or facilitating effects on the storytelling network. Put another way, is each context unique so that we cannot predict the effect of a feature, such as the perception of unsafe streets or the reality of a comparatively poor resource base? 190 Communication Theory 16 (2006) ª 2006 International Communication Association

19 Y.-C. Kim & S. J. Ball-Rokeach Communication Infrastructure Perspective Also, we need to differentiate features in terms of their enabling or constraining force. Is, for example, the quality of the public schools more important in the enabling of an integrated storytelling network than the quality of the other public spaces, such as parks and movie theaters? The final theory development project we consider here is the role of self-selection (Duncan & Raudenbush, 1999) in the construction of integrated storytelling networks. Residential areas are usually marked through the stories that residents (and nonresidents), media, and realtors tell. Marking often includes frames that may attract people who are looking for neighborhood, such as this is a good/bad area to raise children or this area is neighborly. Our CIT explanatory framework places its bets on the strength of the multilevel storytelling network rather than the microlevel predispositions that might lead some people to seek out and others to avoid areas marked as neighborly. For example, people predisposed to neighborliness may have a difficult time creating that condition in an area with a disintegrated storytelling network. Nonetheless, area marking may draw in people who participate in preestablished storytelling networks, thereby strengthening them, or who set about, working with others and with community organizations and local media, to strengthen weak storytelling networks. The CIT approach leaves plenty of room for this kind of agency. In the future, we can explore the role of self-selection by analyzing the reasons why people move in and why they want to stay or move out of the area. Conclusions We conclude this study with a brief comment on the peculiar advantages of focusing upon the role of the indigenous communication infrastructure in understanding why civic engagement is prevalent in some communities and not in others and, thereby, gain insight into how to engage communities in decisions that affect their welfare. Perhaps, the most practical advantage is that the otherwise invisible communication infrastructure is made visible. There is an implicit theory of change and control in the unmasked infrastructure. For example, missing links in the storytelling network (e.g., between local media and community organizations a common case) point the way to how to strengthen the network en route to increasing the breadth and depth of civic engagement. Or intervention agents (e.g., health, informal and formal social control, social and environmental justice) may build upon the strengths of the storytelling network to reach and mobilize residents. The CIT approach emphasizes agency through communication neighborhood storytelling but this is not free-floating agency; rather, it is enabled and/or constrained by a CAC. That context also can become a target of change (e.g., streets that have become less safe may be countered by the formation of neighborhood watch groups or unresponsive political infrastructures may be countered by the formation of neighborhood councils). The advantages of a communication approach also include the capacity to give an account of why predictions of high or low levels of civic Communication Theory 16 (2006) ª 2006 International Communication Association 191

20 Communication Infrastructure Perspective Y.-C. Kim & S. J. Ball-Rokeach engagement based upon the demographic characteristics of residents or areas socioeconomic status, for example do not always pan out or why they sometimes account for only part of the variation. In our research, we have noted that community can be constructed through communication structures and practices that may be enacted by relatively wealthy/poor or educated/uneducated residents (Ball- Rokeach et al., 2001). We conclude with a sanguine observation from our diverse focus group participants, that is, that the conditions of work in the grounded experience of globalization are captured in how civic engagement is undermined by the effects of working too many hours (Hochschild, 1997), too many jobs, and/or spending too much time commuting (Putnam, 2000). These observations speak to classical issues of economy and society that encourage us to pursue links between indigenous communication infrastructures and unintended consequences of macroforces that surround neighborhood formations. Acknowledgments The authors wish to acknowledge the constructive comments from two anonymous reviewers and the editor, Professor Chris Segrin, that helped improve this article. We give our special thanks to Lew Friedland, Jack McLeod, and Howard Giles for their very helpful comments on this issue. Notes 1 Social and communication researchers have discussed communication structures and processes that are essential for civic communities. There are at least four major factors that previous researchers have identified as conditions affecting civic engagement: (a) connections to local media (Jeffres, Dobos, & Lee, 1988; McLeod et al., 1996), (b) participation in community organizations (Baumgartner & Walker, 1988), (c) involvement in personal networks (Fischer, 1982; Wellman, 1990), and (d) socioeconomic and structural factors such as homeownership (Jeffres et al., 1988; Stamm, 1985), residential tenure (Edelstein & Larsen, 1960), socioeconomic status (Jeffres et al.), and the number of children at home (Robinson & Wilkinson, 1995). In their article published in 1999, Friedland and McLeod summarized several crucial issues challenging communication and community researchers: (a) defining community integration only in terms of unidirectional effects of structural factors (such as homeownership, residential tenure, or likelihood of moving) or as potential effects (such as participation), (b) using inconsistent measures of media use, (c) emphasizing national media local media being considered less interesting and less important, (d) limiting attention to the individual level of analysis, and (e) limiting attention to a single community. Different studies have suggested possible ways to address each of the issues mentioned above. However, there are still serious calls for integrative ways to deal with those issues in a more systematic way. 2 Ball-Rokeach and Jung (2003) discuss how CIT is different from MSD theory: (a) CIT is more inclusive of all communication modalities available in people s everyday lives, but MSD theory focuses on the mass media system; (b) CIT emphasizes the varying quality 192 Communication Theory 16 (2006) ª 2006 International Communication Association

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