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SOCIAL INCLUSION OF THE ELDERLY THROUGH INTERACTION IN THE ONLINE ENVIRONMENT (THE CASE OF ONLINE COMMUNITIES IN THE SOCIAL NETWORK “VKONTAKTE”)

Lyudmila Vidiasovaa, Irina Grigoryevaa,b (corresponding author. E-mail: soc2@yandex.ru)

a ITMO University, Saint Petersburg, Russia

b Saint Petersburg University, Saint Petersburg, Russia 

Citation: Vidiasova L., Grigoryeva I. Issledovaniye vozmozhnostey sotsial'noy inklyuzii pozhilykh cherez vzaimodeystviye v onlayn srede (na primere soobshchestv v sotsial'noy seti “VKontakte”) [Social inclusion of the elderly through interaction in the online environment (the case of online communities in the social network “VKontakte”)]. Zhurnal sotsiologii i sotsialnoy antropologii [The Journal of Sociology and Social Anthropology], 21(2): 106–132 (in Russian). https://doi.org/10.31119/jssa.2018.21.2.4

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Abstract. The paper presents the results of 21 online communities of older people in social network VKontakte investigation touching educational, work and leisure activities. The research was carried out on the basis of a network approach using automated data analysis tools that allows to evaluate the characteristics of communities, as well as the processes of information exchange between the participants. The study used the method of network data analysis, automated online community web- crawling, as well as Gephi software packages and social network analysis service Socstat. The analysis was supplemented by a qualitative study of content published in groups, as well as events conducted in real life. The conducted research led to conclusions about the formation of communities characterized by weak online connections between users of older age groups in VKontakte. In the studied groups, the real social community is formed initially in offline environment where all key activities take place, and their organizers use social networks as one of information channels for the target audience. The observed high modularity indicates the existence of real clusters (usually small ones) among community members connected by ties of virtual friendship. The study found that the lack of user activity does not lead to the decay of communities, and their number, on the contrary, increases.

According to the results of the research, for effective social inclusion it is necessary to maintain a certain level of trust in what is happening in the group and the information published, as well as the current content covering activities in the offline environment.

Keywords: social networks, online communities, elderly, social inclusion, network analysis, network approach, weak links, engagement.

Acknowledgements

The study was supported by a grant from the Russian Science Foundation (project No. 14-18-03434) on the topic: "Models of interaction between society and the elderly: a study of the possibilities of social inclusion".

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