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Purpose

WHO WE ARE

Welcome to the MetaConnects website, an online space for knowledge sharing between researchers from the Metamorphosis Project at USC's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and community-based practitioners across the Southern California region and beyond.

Over the course of more than a decade, the Metamorphosis Project has been studying the communication practices of many diverse neighborhoods across Los Angeles. We have learned how strong connections between organizations, local and ethnic media, and community residents can improve the health and vitality of communities. At the same time, community-based practitioners in the area have been working tirelessly alongside local residents to improve community opportunity and well-being.

The MetaConnects platform – which consists of this website, as well as an E-mail Listserv and ongoing in-person discussions, workshops and events – offers an opportunity to bridge the gaps between practitioners and academic researchers. We are all devoted to social change and social justice, and MetaConnects provides a space to share research findings, strategies, tools, and innovative collaborative projects in pursuit of these goals.

Read below to learn more about our approach - we also encourage you to look at the glossary of key research terms and an overview of the primary research measures used in our work as a way to get started.

ABOUT OUR APPROACH

The work of the Metamorphosis Project and of MetaConnects is guided by the "Communication Infrastructure Approach". Researchers, politicians, organizers and others often talk about the importance of different kinds of community infrastructures - like the transportation infrastructure or economic infrastructure - but we believe that the Communication Infrastructure is equally as important.

What is the Communication Infrastructure? There are two basic components:

1.  The Storytelling Network, which consists of:

  •     Interpersonal connections between residents and their family, friends, and neighbors
     
  •   Community and non-profit organizations that are located in the neighborhood and serve local residents
     
  •   Local or ethnic media (what we call Geo-Ethnic media) that are targeted to a particular geographic area or ethnic group.

2.  The Communication Environment, which consists of:

  •   Any feature of the community's environment that can either promote or discourage neighborhood communication.
     
  •   Features include places like schools, hospitals, public space and grocery stores, as well as other elements like Internet access, work conditions, safety, and   much more.

Why pay attention to the Communication Infrastructure?

A strong storytelling network - that is, when residents, organizations, and media all engage in  common conversations around topics of local importance - can be a powerful tool for mobilizing community members to take individual or collective action, and it can also promote strong feelings of community belonging. From a community organization's perspective, understanding the Communication Infrastructure  can help you connect with residents, promote your goals and effect social change.

But there is a catch...

Unlike the transportation infrastructure of a community, the Communication Infrastructure  is largely invisible. Only by conducting research to see what types of communication resources  residents depend upon in the community can you begin to use the Storytelling Network as a tool for social change. The MetaConnects website offers practical information on how to uncover the Communiction Infrastructure of your community and how you can apply those insights to improve your community work.