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Online Communication in Apartment Buildings

Abstract. In this paper we explore main patterns of communication and cooperation in online groups created by residents of apartment buildings in St.Petersburg on the VK social networking site (SNS). Using word-frequency analysis and Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA), we discovered main discussion topics in online groups. We have also found that communication between neighbors in these groups is predominantly connected with material needs and directed at solving common problems,

e.g. related to building improvement, houseowner associations (HOA) and in-fill constructions near their house. Based on online observations of city activists, we suggest that dynamic nature of SNS creates online communities that initially are dedicated to resolving particular problems, however the connections that get established between users during this process prevent such groups from falling apart even after the resolution of the original issues.

Keywords: Online communities Homeowners Neighbors cooperation

1 Introduction and Related Work

The Internet has become an ubiquitous part of our life. That gives people a chance to cooperate and discuss online a range of social problems including urban environment. There are great many message boards for neighborhoods where people can discuss various problems or coordinate actions together. However users have to register their own account before communicating with other participants of such message boards. Recently, due to rising popularity of social networks (e.g. VK in Russia, Facebook, etc.), new social neighborhood networking groups have been brought up into existence. Entry barriers to these groups were low, which made communication easier for people who wanted to solve problems connected with their apartment house. Our paper is concerned with study of cooperation between residents of apartment buildings in networking groups created on VK, the largest Russian social networking site.

Daly, Dahlem and Quercia[2] studied communication between residents on the most popular neighborhood online forum in Dublin. Researchers found that, compared to mature neighborhoods, new networking neighborhood groups had higher online social activity, which is often aimed at mutual help in improving living conditions. Authors suggested that higher online social activity in new neighborhoods could be explained by absence of pre-existing physical community. Limei Li[3] argued that communication on online forums between homeowners has instrumental function in organizing collective action and building neighborhood community.

The aim of this paper is to discover patterns of cooperation for solving housing problems in the VK social network. For this purpose, we analyzed topics of discussions in groups created by residents of apartment building. This research focuses on online groups related to one house, residents of which apparently share a range of problems.

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