Developers and governments around the world are struggling to achieve socially sustainable neighbourhood communities in master-planned residential developments. This paper discusses research in progress that seeks to conceptualise the organic development of community in these sites as ‘communicative ecologies’. Focusing on the network qualities of social interaction in communities of place, the research informs the design of proof of concepts of commercialisable new media and information and communication systems: peer-to-peer publishing tools, social networking applications and locative media. The project is informed by ethnographic work, rapid prototyping, evaluation cycles and sociocultural animation. Sustainability is pursued by working across community, business and government stakeholders to encourage social and economic innovation. The paper argues that by careful attention to cultural and social assets in the community, innovations will be engendered which enhance economic and social development. This will lead to greater social inclusion, fair access to and smart use of information and services, urban sustainability and healthier local economies. Understanding the opportunities afforded by digital augmentation of social networks will help urban residents negotiate the complex web of daily choices, access a greater social safety net and participate in the socio-cultural and socio-economic life of their neighbourhood and city.