Virtual reconnection: The online spaces of alternative food networks in England

Elizabeth Bos, Luke Owen

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    91 Citations (Scopus)
    89 Downloads (Pure)


    Spaces of ‘alternative’ food production and consumption have been the subject of considerable interest within agri-food research and policy-making circles in recent decades. Examples of these Alternative Food Networks (AFNs) include Farmers' Markets, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) schemes and farm shops, where food products are embedded with social and spatial information that serves to differentiate them from conventional agri-food systems. These shorter, more transparent, localised supply chains that characterise AFNs are underpinned by the notion of reconnection – a fundamental set of biological, social and moral processes that enable agri-food stakeholders to participate in ethically minded, transparent systems, where they are better connected to one another and to the markets and environments in which they are immersed. Drawing on a range of eight AFN case studies in England and using a multi-method approach, we explore the notion of reconnection within online space to show how social relations have changed, and are changing as a result of online activity. In examining the websites and social media platforms of AFNs and primary data collected from the creators and users of these spaces, we uncover the notion of ‘virtual reconnection’. We found the embodied, socio-material reconnection processes that occur in-place also occur online. However, by extending AFN spaces, virtual reconnection cannot fully replicate the same embodied and tactile experiences associated with the material spaces of AFNs. As such, online spaces in the context of AFNs provide a useful additional realm for reconnection, but need to be understood as supplementary rather than as a substitution for socio-material reconnections. Future research should consider the moral dimensions of reconnection and the capacity that online spaces have for enhancing the inclusivity of Civic Food Networks (CFNs), and their transformative role in contributing to more sustainable behaviours.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-14
    JournalJournal of Rural Studies
    Early online date8 Mar 2016
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2016

    Bibliographical note

    This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (


    • Alternative food networks
    • Virtual reconnection
    • Online space
    • Social media
    • Civic food networks


    Dive into the research topics of 'Virtual reconnection: The online spaces of alternative food networks in England'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this