© ETH Wohnforum – ETH CASE

Dr. Jennifer Duyne Barenstein | ETH Wohnforum – ETH CASE

Emerging Digital Neighbourhoods – Local Online Spaces and Their Potential for Social Inclusion

Online tools for neighbourhood networking are gaining popularity worldwide, while in Switzerland they are still considered a novel phenomenon. Ranging from informal WhatsApp or Facebook groups to formal online platforms and apps covering entire neighborhoods, the digital tools open up a new virtual space that increasingly affects the local ties.

The one-​year interdisciplinary SNF project aims to understand the impact of local online networks on processes of social inclusion and exclusion in a Swiss context and to identify their potential for the integration of different social groups. Ultimately, recommendations will be developed to enable excluded groups to participate in online communities. The guiding research question is: What is the current and future potential of local online spaces for facilitating socially inclusive neighborhoods?

At the interface of architecture, social sciences and co-​design, the project applies an interdisciplinary approach. Methods such as online and offline ethnography as well as surveys will be used in selected neighbourhoods of Zurich to investigate mechanisms and factors of exclusion and inclusion in relation to location-​based online tools. Based on the findings of the case studies, workshops will be held to promote social inclusion in the neighbourhoods.

The project makes an essential contribution to the study of an emerging phenomenon in the Swiss context, which has gained additional relevance during the Covid-​19 pandemic.


Liv ChristensenZsófia Glatz


Schweizerischer Nationalfonds SNF (Swiss National Science Foundation)

Project timeframe

2020 -​ 2021