Svrha je ovog doktorskoga rada upotpuniti spoznaje o ulozi društvene mreže Facebook kao platforme za stvaranje amaterskih medijskih prozvoda namijenjenih održavanju, redefiniranju i komuniciranju autentičnog lokalnog identiteta u globalnom digitalnom okruženju. Neposredni je cilj rada istražiti strukturu, motive, načine djelovanja i stupanj interaktivnosti članova tako nastale virtualne zajednice na primjeru neovisnog neprofitnog projekta "Digitalni zavičaj – jakovlje.com [istraživanje lokalnog identiteta jakovljanskog kraja]". U istraživanju su primijenjene kvantitativne i kvalitativne metode: opservacija, deskripcija, anketa, intervju, kritička analiza sadržaja te komparativna analiza još triju sličnih proizvoda na Facebooku, kako bi se provjerio njihov potencijal za sadržajno nadopunavanje s javnim medijima u dijelu očuvanja zavičajnih mikroidentiteta. Iznesene su četiri hipoteze, od kojih su dokraja dokazane tri. Prva je da komunikacija putem Facebooka transformira načine kohezije lokalne zajednice i očuvanja identiteta te premošćuje prostornu i vremensku isključenost. Prema drugoj hipotezi sudjelovanje u virtualnoj zajednici potaknuto je osjećajem pripadnosti zajedničkom podrijetlu i željom za osobnim doprinosom očuvanju lokalnog identiteta. Prema trećoj se participacija u virtualnoj zajednici ostvaruje uglavnom različitim simboličnim oblicima: komentarima, fotografijama, emotikonima. Četvrta je hipoteza potvrđena u dijelu da komunikacija u virtualnoj zajednici motivira raseljene članove na češće posjete, ali je opovrgnuto da pridonosi trajnom povratku u zavičaj. Postavljena su i dva dodatna istraživačka pitanja: može li takva Facebookova zajednica činiti relevantan informacijski resurs u komuniciranju, očuvanju i razvoju lokalnog identiteta, te koliko ona pridonosi koheziji lokalne zajednice i digitalne dijaspore? Odgovor je potvrdan na oba, s tim da se kod drugoga pokazalo da se kohezivna snaga očituje više unutar same fizičke zajednice na terenu. Rad identificira sustavnu pojavu "digitalnih zavičaja" na društvenim mrežama, čime one mogu postati dijelom baza baštinskih podataka, pridonijeti demokratizaciji medija u cjelini i potaknuti nova istraživanja toga fenomena unutar informacijskih i komunikacijskih znanosti.
The informatization in all areas of our post postmodern life, caused by a rapid development of digital technologies, brings changes in the world of communications on many different levels. The future of traditional mainstream mass media becomes unpredictable with the introduction of personalized social media. A quality media content created by prosumers in online communities can be observed as a potential complement to public media, particularly in the segment of preserving specific identities. On a broader social scale we witness a significant modification in the system of community norms and ethical values. They can be manifested either as a breakup with old traditions, or just oppositely as a comeback to historic roots, including re-creation and revaluation of local identities. The purpose of this doctoral thesis is to contribute to the existing knowledge with new empirical data about the role of the global social network Facebook in maintaining, transforming and communicating specific local identities in a digital environment. The research subject is a virtual community created on this platform, including its structure, ways of action and interaction, the range of motives for participation and power of cohesion between physical local community and digital diaspora. A special attention is given to the role of a Facebook group as a reliable source of information about any given micro locality. The starting point of the research is the non-profit project "Digital Homeland – Jakovlje.com [research of the local identity of the Jakovlje region]" with all the virtual and physical components it encompass. Its most interactive part and the axis of the online communication is the private group on Facebook named "Guardians of heritage of the Bistra and Jakovlje region". It addresses four municipalities spread on 88 square kilometers with approximately 10.300 inhabitants in North-Western Croatia near the capital Zagreb. The goal of the founder and moderator was to keep its cultural and historic heritage alive and make it accessible through a social network communication. An interdisciplinary approach was applied in studying this dynamic ongoing process. It included three basic theoretical aspects: communication, identity and virtual community. The communication aspect is related to the one-on-one interaction based on the bottom-up rule taken in the context of the relevant communication, media and information society theories (McLuhan, 1964, 2002, 2008; McQuail, 2006; Castells, 1996, 2000, 2009, 2010; Gere, 2008; McChesney, 2014; Gillmor, 2004; Shirky, 2008; Uzelac & Cvjetičanin, 2008; Zgrabljić Rotar, 2006, 2011), as well as the rise of the convergence culture (Jenkins, H., 2006), webvergence (Thornton & Keith, 2009) and social networks (Zandt, 2010), namely Facebook (Vaidhyanathan, 2018; Knautz & Baran, 2016; Stock, 2016) that is observed as a plausible way of publication and exchange of media content suitable to social networks. The identity aspect examines the development of group and individual identity patterns (Erikson, 1964; Jenkins, R. 2008; Lawler, 2014) during a regular online networking based on a common place of origin (Edensor, 2002), taking in consideration the phenomena of globalization (Tomlinson 2003), "glocalization" (Čapo & Gulin Zrnić, 2011) and digital diasporas (Diminescu et al., 2021). The third aspect concerns a theoretical dichotomy between the concepts of virtual and real community (Etzioni & Etzioni, 1997; Bateman Driskell & Lyon, 2002), following the notion of imagined community (Anderson, 2006) applied to any socially constructed group. Methodology was determined taking a single case as a starting point and using comparative analysis of three similar examples. Both quantitative and qualitative research methods were applied. Methodological tools included: an online questionnaire, the analysis of content after a long term observation of the focus Facebook group, online and field interviews, followed by additional communication by phone, mobile apps or standard e-mails. The collected data were completed and analyzed with other available reference samples: network statistics and surveys, monitoring cooperation in supporting individual projects and group field activities. The data gathering was captured, the transcripts of audio recordings and screen-shots permanently archived on a hard disc. Four hypotheses were presented. Three of them were entirely proven and the fourth partially. H1: Communication via Facebook transforms the ways of local community cohesion and identity preservation, while bridging time and space disrupt. H2: The incentive for the communication in the virtual community is the feeling of belonging to a common origin and the desire to give a personal contribution to preserve the local identity. H3: Participation in the virtual community is realized mainly through different symbolic forms: comments, photos, emoticons. H4: Active participation motivates displaced members of the homeland virtual community for more visits or a permanent return to the place of origin. The first part of the statement was confirmed to a certain point, but the second part was completely denied. It suggests that changing features and roles of digital diasporas in the global networked society are yet to be more closely examined and defined in future studies. While most of the Facebook group shows relatively passive and symbolic participation, a smaller number of members take a significant initiative with more complex forms of cooperation, such as a thorough research and presentation of new knowledge about the local identity or giving a real impact to the development of the local municipality with innovative actions and initiatives. Thus two specific research questions were presented, but they didn’t give enough foundation for hypothesis. Q1: Can this type of Facebook community become a relevant source of information for broader social and even scientific needs? Q2: How much does the virtual community contribute to the cohesion of the physical local community and the digital diaspora? Knowing the number of scientific projects with relevant institutions and books published by the admin with a significant support of the Facebook group, the answer to the first question is affirmative. The analysis of all the gathered data shows that the main part of the virtual community actually lives in the place of origin, so it can be considered more like an extension of the physical community with a partial impact of the expatriates. Three similar Facebook groups were taken for a comparative analysis. They were selected primarily based on the similarity of the media content, taking into account the thematic diversity and specific ways of communication among the members of each online community. The scientific contribution of this work can be expected on the plan of identifying the systematic appearance of digital media products based on the common place of origin on the social network Facebook in the past decade – in Croatia, but in other parts of the world as well. Along with its primary aim of determining the communication patterns between the members of virtual communities, physical communities and relevant digital diasporas, the research lead to the conclusion that the content created by skilled amateurs on social networks can be complementary to public media in preserving and re-defining local identities, which contributes to the democratization of media in general. It can also become a part of the bigger heritage data basis, making certain Facebook communities a reliable resource of information in the field of traditional culture and national history. In conclusion, the phenomenon of specific independent online products dedicated to the implicit promotion of the local community identities deserves more attention of the media professionals and scholars in the information and communication science. Their growing number in our "digital era" is worthy the further scientific evaluation, maybe even general denomination as "digital homelands".