Discerning the air: locating local government community engagement practice – reflections on selected Australian experience
Andrew Hickey and
Asia Pacific Journal of Public Administration, 2016, vol. 38, issue 3, 154-167
The structures and locations of communities have been reconfigured by the arrival of digital technologies. “Smart” devices, such as portable tablet computers, smart phones, and associated applications (apps), raise questions about how communities connect, understand and experience each other in the context of a disaggregated model of the social. Much has been written about changed practices in public administration in view of new digital capabilities, but little exists in the form of critical reflections about engagement practice itself amid the current wave of digital experiences of place and the social. Accordingly, this article discusses what can be brought to local government community engagement practice through the presence of digital devices, inviting engagement practitioners to reconsider how communities are configured through extended understandings of the local. In highlighting selected dialogue with community engagement practitioners, the discussion articulates the internal structure of engagement practice beyond a notion of consultation, or the survey of community views, toward more effective understandings of engagement which arise from the proliferation of potential locations inspired by digital concepts. In this sense, it addresses questions of regionality in local governance, thus reviewing ongoing issues of place and place-making in the 21st century.
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