Franziska Schreiber


Research on community resilience has highlighted the critical role of analogue public spaces for social interaction and community support. However, neighbourhoods are increasingly “hybrid spaces” where face-to-face and virtual interaction blend. Based on the case of Germany, this paper argues that hyperlocal social networks such as digital neighbourhood platforms have taken on a prominent role during the COVID-19 pandemic, as they fulfil functions traditionally associated with analogue public space and provide a useful crisis management tool. They allow communities to share information, establish social contacts, and organize flexible help, which increases their capacity to cope with and adapt to the effects of the pandemic. Yet, not everybody has equal access to these digital public spaces and they bear the risk of reinforcing existing social inequalities. In the future, they need to be planned, designed, and managed just as carefully as their physical counterparts to be socially inclusive and serve the common good.


How to Cite
Schreiber, F. (2020) “When Digital Public Spaces Matter: Role of Neighbourhood Platforms in Times of COVID-19”, The Journal of Public Space, 5(3), pp. 121–130. doi: 10.32891/jps.v5i3.1368.
Author Biography

Franziska Schreiber, University of Stuttgart

Franziska Schreiber is a researcher and lecturer at the Institute of Urban Planning and Design at the University of Stuttgart, a Senior Associate at adelphi and a freelance consultant on urban policy and planning. Her research focuses on designing people-centred cities, urban experimentation and innovation in planning practice, and the co-production of visions for the cities of tomorrow. From 2015-2020, she was Head of the Urban Transformation area at adelphi where she managed research and consultancy projects for clients such as Cities Alliance, UNESCO, GIZ, C40, federal ministries, cities and foundations. Before, Franziska Schreiber worked at the international city network ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability and at various urban research institutes in Germany and abroad, including the German Institute of Urban Affairs (Difu), the Department of Urban and Regional Sociology at the Humboldt-Universität Berlin and the Urban Design Research Institute in Mumbai, India. She holds a Masters in Urban Studies from the University College London (UCL), UK and obtained her Bachelor degree in Social Science and Geography at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.


Becker, A., Göppert, H., Schnur, O., & Schreiber, F. (2018). Die digitale Renaissance der Nachbarschaft. Soziale Medien als Instrument postmoderner Nachbarschaftsbildung. Forum Wohnen und Stadtentwicklung, 4, 206-21.

Blokland, T., & Nast, J. (2014). From Public Familiarity to Comfort Zone: The Relevance of Absent Ties for Belonging in Berlin’s Mixed Neighbourhoods: Belonging in Berlin’s Mixed Neighbourhoods. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 38(4), 1142-1159.

Houghton, K., Foth, M., & Miller, E. (2015). Urban Acupuncture: Hybrid Social and Technological Practices for Hyperlocal Placemaking. Journal of Urban Technology, 22(3), 3-19.

Kelly, S. M. (2020, May 18). Neighborhood social network Nextdoor is both a lifeline and a hub of anxiety. CNN Business. Retrieved from https://edition.cnn.com/2020/03/18/tech/nextdoor-coronavirus/index.html.

Kurtenbach, S. (2020, April 28). Nachbarschaftshilfe als Zeichen gesellschaftlichen Zusammenhalts. Vielfalt leben – Gesellschaft gestalten. Retrieved from https://blog.vielfaltleben.de/blogger/sebastian-kurtenbach/.

Ley, A. (2019). Community Resilience and Placemaking through Translocal Networking: Learning from Thailand and the Philippines. The Journal of Public Space, 4(2), 165-178.

Medienpädagogischer Forschungsverbund Südwest (MPFS.) 2017. JIM 2017. Jugend, Information, (Multi-) Media. Basisstudie zum Medienumgang 12- bis 19-Jähriger in Deutschland. Stuttgart. Retrieved from https://www.mpfs.de/fileadmin/files/Studien/JIM/2017/JIM_2017.pdf.

Meine, J. (2017). Hybride Sozialräume durch digitale Netzwerkstrukturen im Stadtquartier. In T., Hagemann (Ed.). Forschung und Entwicklung in der Sozialwirtschaft: Band 11. Gestaltung des Sozial- und Gesundheitswesens im Zeitalter von Digitalisierung und technischer Assistenz: Veröffentlichung zum zehnjährigen Bestehen der FH der Diakonie (1st ed.). Baden-Baden: Nomos.

Meinel, H. (2020, May 4). Coronahilfe von nebenan – Das bewirkt die Hotline für Nachbarschaftshilfe. Nebenan Magazin. Retrieved from https://magazin.nebenan.de/artikel/coronahilfe-von-nebenan-das-bewirkt-die-hotline-fuer-nachbarschaftshilfe.

Nebenan.de (2020). nebenan.de und die Corona-Pandemie. Mit starken Nachbarschaften durch die Krise (Zwischenbericht September 2020). Nebenan.de Retrieved from https://magazin.nebenan.de/assets/downloads/nebenan_corona_report_2020.pdf.

Schneidewind, U., Baedeker, C., Bierwirth, A., Caplan, A., & Haake, H. (2020). „Näher“ – „Öffentlicher“ – „Agiler“: Eckpfeiler einer resilienten„Post-Corona-Stadt (Zukunftsimpuls Nr. 14).

Schnur, O. (2020). Kiez und Corona. Nachbarschaft im Krisen-Modus – ein Kommentar. vhw werkSTADT, 40, 1-8.

Schreiber, F., & Göppert, H. (2018). Wandel von Nachbarschaft in Zeiten digitaler Vernetzung. Vhw-Schriftenreihe, 9, 1-44.

Schreiber, F, Becker, A., Göppert, H., & Schnur, O. (2017). Digital vernetzt und lokal verbunden? Nachbarschaftsplattformen als Potenzial für sozialen Zusammenhalt und Engagement – ein Werkstattbericht. Forum Wohnen und Stadtentwicklung, 4, 211-216.

Spiewak, M. (2020, March 15). In der Krise gewinnt Nachbarschaft neue Bedeutung. ZEIT Online. Retrieved from https://www.zeit.de/gesellschaft/2020-03/nachbarschaftshilfe-nebenan-de-coronavirus-sozialleben-ina-remmers.

Vollmann, M. (2018, February 28). Hyperlocal Neighbourhood Networks: Building Social Capital and Empowering Local Urban Communities. Urbanet. Retrieved from https://www.urbanet.info/hyperlocal-neighbourhood-networks/.

Wellman, B., & Hampton, K. (1999). Living networked on and offline. Contemporary Sociology, 28(6), 648–654.