In this study we examine responses to the recent expansion of information technology in two rural Minnesota towns. One of these towns took a cooperative approach to technology access, developing a community electronic network, while the other town relied on a more individualistic, entrepreneurial model. The present study examines citizens' attitudes concerning social, political, and technological issues in these two communities, with the goal of uncovering what kinds of attitudes and resources citizens need to have in order to help support and sustain a community electronic network. Structural equation modeling is used to specify the relationships among individuals' economic, political, and social resources, technology ownership and use, and awareness of and support for the community network. Drawing on a theory of social capital, we consider the relative importance of privately- oriented social engagement versus publicly- oriented political engagement in relation to collective outcomes. Our analysis shows that in the town with the broadly- based community electronic network, individuals' political as well as economic resources are linked to knowledge and use of computer resources, whereas in the comparison community, economic stratification alone drives computer access. The implications of these findings for issues of equity, access to technology, and the development of strong community ties are discussed.
Political Behavior – Springer Journals
Published: Oct 10, 2004
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