New Article in Information, Communication & Society

ICSDr. Miriam Sweeney (School of Library and Information Studies, University of Alabama) and I have a new paper published in Information, Communication & Society. In the article, titled “Creating Caring Institutions for Community Informatics,” we develop a feminist ethics of care framework for researchers and practitioners in the field of community informatics.

Here is the abstract:

This paper explores the potential affordances of applying a feminist ethics of care approach to community informatics practices in public internet access facilities. As feminist technology scholars have long observed, technology and technoculture are strongly encoded as masculine, privileging traits such as scientific knowledge, rationality, objectivity, and distance. These characteristics are expressed in traditional infomediary practices in a variety of ways, including notions of expertise, ways of conceptualizing technology, emphasis on skills attainment, and deficit-based models of user behavior. In contrast, ethics of care emphasizes the importance of relational and situated knowledge, pluralistic voices and experiences, and relationships bound by mutual interdependence. Traditionally, caring has been feminized and thus necessarily excluded from technoculture and relegated to invisible and unpaid labor. Caring and associated affective labor practices remain an under-examined subject in infomediary practices. Public libraries and community technology centers are logical places to explore for care work, given that they share many characteristics of the spaces where care work has historically been performed. We argue that an ethics of care framework has several possible affordances for infomediary practices in these institutions, including highlighting the gendered power dynamics that define and shape existing practices; distributing care work and making existing care work visible; and envisioning a more holistic and ethical approach to engaging diverse publics. We translate Tronto’s seven warning signs for ‘bad care’ in institutions into seven positive guidelines for providing ‘good care’ in public internet access facilities, then contextualize these for community informatics institutions and practices.

Joining the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard University

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I am absolutely thrilled to announce that I will be joining the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University as a faculty associate for the 2016-2017 academic year. During this time, I hope to extend my research and connect with new colleagues focused at the intersection of public libraries, digital inclusion, and broadband adoption.

Here’s a snippet from the Berkman Klein Center’s press release:

The class of fellows will primarily work in Cambridge, Massachusetts, alongside Berkman Klein faculty, students, and staff, as a vibrant community of research and practice. Honoring the networked ethos at the heart of the Center, faculty associates and affiliates from institutions the world over will actively participate as well. These relationships, as well as the countless fruitful engagements with alumni, partners, interns, and other colleagues, are fundamental to the Berkman Klein Center’s work and identity, and serve to increase the capacity of the field and generate opportunities for lasting impact.

New Book Chapter on Civic Media Published

civicmediaI have a new chapter published in Civic Media: Technology, Design, Practice by The MIT Press and edited by Eric Gordon and Paul Mihailidis. The chapter, titled “Community Media Infrastructure as Civic Engagement,” highlights the community needs assessment process in local communications infrastructure development in the United States as a form of civic engagement, which I argue we must fight to preserve in the digital age.

Here’s an excerpt from the chapter’s introduction:

In this chapter, I argue that it’s critical to look beyond Facebook, YouTube, and other participatory media platforms in order to focus on the underlying civic communications infrastructure that makes free speech possible in many communities around the world. In doing so, I highlight the case of public, educational, and government (PEG) access television in the United States as an example to show how ordinary people can engage with their local governments to determine the shape of their local media landscape and to promote open access to communication technology…

While Internet policy continues to be important in national and global debates, I argue that the history and present of PEG access in the U.S. provides a model for determining how local communities can shape their civic communication spaces. This model of localism in civic communications infrastructure development, I argue, provides important lessons for our thinking about the future of the Internet at home and around the world.

Joining the Faculty in Simmons SLIS

10474685_10152597869932448_367231851895940957_nI am thrilled to announce that I will be joining the faculty in the School of Library and Information Science at Simmons College as a Senior Lecturer beginning July 1st. Here is an excerpt from the Simmons SLIS press release:

Dr. Colin Rhinesmith comes to Simmons with a broad teaching portfolio that includes graduate and undergraduate courses, and teaching both face-to-face and online. He is a Faculty Research Fellow with the Benton Foundation, a private foundation that works to ensure that media and telecommunications serve the public interest and enhance our democracy. Rhinesmith’s research interests are focused on the social, community, and policy aspects of information and communication technology, particularly in areas related to digital inclusion and broadband adoption. He is a co-Principal Investigator on an IMLS grant to study rural wifi hotspot lending programs in Kansas and Maine. You can learn more about him at http://crhinesmith.com.

Investigating Rural Library Hotspot Lending Programs

I am excited to announce that my colleagues, Dr. Sharon Strover (University of Texas at Austin), Dr. Brian Whitacre (Oklahoma State University) and I received a $496,586 grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services for our research project, titled “At the Edges of the National Digital Platform: Rural Library Hotspot Lending Programs.”

Here’s the description of the project from the IMLS website:

Investigators at the University of Texas at Austin, in partnership with researchers at the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University, will use their research grant to examine how rural libraries address the challenges of Internet connectivity with hotspot lending programs. The project will gather qualitative and quantitative data from 24 rural libraries with hotspot lending program experience, focusing on the librarians involved with the program, the users of the program, local community stakeholders, and non-users. Research outcomes will address the role of rural libraries in local information ecosystems, the impact of hotspot lending programs on users’ quality of life and digital literacy, community outcomes of these programs, and practical requirements for offering hotspot lending programs. Deliverables for the project include a guidelines document on program implementation, a short report on rural Internet connectivity and libraries, and a final research report.

New Article Published in Telecommunications Policy

My colleague, Brian Whitacre (Oklahoma State University) and I have a new article that was just published in Telecommunications Policy. The paper, titled “Broadband un-adopters” describes findings from our recent study of households that lost their broadband Internet service at home. The article also provides recommendations to federal policymakers interested in developing programs to assist low-income residents and seniors in re-gaining access to broadband.

Here’s the abstract, which is available on the journal’s website:

An important but understudied aspect of the current broadband adoption situation is households that once had Internet connectivity but no longer do. These households, termed “un-adopters,” comprised 12% of all non-adopting households as of 2013. In comparison with their “never-adopter” counterparts, un-adopters are significantly more likely to cite cost, the potential to use the Internet elsewhere, and the inadequacy of their computer as reasons for their discontinued use. Using national data from the 2013 Current Population Survey, a multinomial logit model assesses the reasons that these households no longer maintain a broadband connection. The findings suggest that to reach un-adopters, subsidized access may be warranted for households with incomes up to $40,000, and that programs on broadband awareness may be most effectively targeted towards retirees. These results are reinforced with recent data from the FCC’s Low-Income Broadband Pilot Projects, where approximately 22% of those signing up for the program were previous un-adopters. Understanding and engaging un-adopters will be crucial as the FCC Low-income Broadband program and other adoption-oriented policies move forward.

NTEN Webinar on Digital Inclusion Research

ntenI’m excited to announce that I’ll be presenting my Benton Foundation research on “Digital Inclusion and Meaningful Broadband Adoption initiatives” as part of a free upcoming NTEN webinar on Wednesday, February 17th. Here’s the announcement from NTEN’s website:

Join us as we discuss the findings in recently published Digital Inclusion and Meaningful Broadband Adoption Initiatives Report, released by the Benton Foundation. In this webinar, we’ll discuss the findings from the study, as well as practical tips and tools that could be useful for other organizations working in areas related to digital inclusion.

This report is the result of a national study of digital inclusion organizations that help people with lower incomes and families adopt high-speed Internet service. The study looked at eight digital inclusion organizations across the United States that are working at the important intersection between making high-speed Internet available and strengthening digital skills—two essential and interrelated components of digital inclusion, which is focused on increasing digital access, skills, and relevant content.

This webinar is part of NTEN’s Digital Inclusion Fellowship program, aimed at supporting digital inclusion initiatives, sharing best practices, and showcasing digital inclusion programs. You do not need to be a Fellow to attend; all are invited.

 

Interview with Craig Settles on Gigabit Nation

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My colleague, Brian Whitacre and I had a great discussion with Craig Settles yesterday on his show Gigabit Nation. We talked about our recent research and recommendations to promote meaningful broadband adoption. Here’s a bit from the show description.

Rhinesmith and Whitacre describe one category of people who don’t use broadband as the Un-Adopters, and present why policymakers and federal agencies that fund broadband must develop strategies for addressing Un-Adopters. They address this category in the context of non-adopters, and the country overall.

We also will explore the downside of leaving Un-Adopters un-served. Could the cost of getting these constituents on board with broadband be better spent in other ways given how small the segments is? Given the effort of getting un-adopters and non- doctors to use broadband, what are some of the downsides and upsides if we are successful? Our guests present compelling reasons why policymakers must not leave these constituents out in the cold.

New Report: Digital Inclusion and Meaningful Broadband Adoption Initiatives

benton_report_coverI am thrilled to announce the release of my new report for the Benton Foundation, titled “Digital Inclusion and Meaningful Broadband Adoption Initiatives.” The executive summary and a link to the full report are available on the Benton Foundation’s website.

Research for the report began late last July, when I started my travels across the US to look at how nonprofit organizations are helping individuals and families gain access to low-cost broadband and digital literacy training. Broadband adoption continues to be a significant problem in the US. The Pew Research Center recently reported that only 67% of Americans have broadband Internet service at home (down from 70% in 2013). In analyzing the data, with research assistance from Aileen Barton at the University of Oklahoma School of Library and Information Studies, I discovered the following four digital inclusion activities were necessary for helping low-income individuals and families to adopt broadband in ways that were most appropriate to their personal needs and contexts:

  1. Providing low-cost broadband;
  2. Connecting digital literacy training with relevant content and services;
  3. Making low-cost computers available; and
  4. Operating public access computing centers.

The goal of the report is to help policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels, as well as researchers, practitioners, and other key stakeholders, gain a deeper understanding of how digital inclusion organizations and their community partners can be successful in their efforts to promote meaningful broadband adoption.

I am extremely thankful to the following people who helped make this report possible, including: Aileen Barton (University of Oklahoma School of Library and Information Studies), Jane Blackwood (Axiom Training & Education Center), Juanita Budd (Austin Free-Net), Greta Byrum (Resilient Communities Program at New America), Bill Callahan (Connect Your Community 2.0), Jill Castek (Portland State University), Susan Corbett (Axiom Technologies), Dharma Dailey (University of Washington), Colleen Dixon (Free Geek), Cindy Gibbon (Multnomah County Library), Wanda Davis (Ashbury Senior Community Computer Center), Michael Liimatta (US Dept. of HUD, previously Connecting for Good), Drew Pizzolato (Portland State University), Diana Rodriguez (Youth Policy Institute), Angela Siefer (National Digital Inclusion Alliance), Casey Sorensen (PCs for People), and Kevin Taglang (Benton Foundation).

Most importantly, I want to thank all of the individuals and families across the country who shared their broadband experiences with me and provided their recommendations (included in this report) to policymakers at the Federal Communications Commission, the White House, and in Congress, who are working on solutions to the problems facing low-income Americans in gaining affordable and reliable access to broadband.

New Article Published in The Journal of Research on Libraries and Young Adults

I’m excited to announce that my students and I have a new co-authored article, which was published today in the Journal of Research on Libraries and Young Adults. The paper, which is titled “YouthStudio: Designing Public Library YA Spaces with Teens,” provides a critical pedagogical and participatory methodological approach to designing public library young adult (YA) spaces with teens. This work builds on the “Community Informatics Studio” engaged scholarship approach with my colleague Dr. Martin Wolske at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Here is the abstract:

This paper describes how research was used to guide the design, implementation, and evaluation of a public library young adult (YA) space design program with teens and librarians through a community–university partnership. Previous studies have shown why it’s necessary for librarians to allow teens to participate in public library YA space design projects. This paper seeks to fill a gap in the literature by contributing a theoretical and methodological framework to study YA space design projects with teens and librarians using critical pedagogy and ethnographic action research. Community informatics is the theory and practice of using information and communication technology in support of community-defined development goals, which might include digital inclusion, civic engagement, and social justice. The Youth Community Informatics Studio, or YouthStudio, is introduced as a model of engaged scholarship that embraces both critical pedagogy and ethnographic action research to show how researchers can work with teens and librarians to design, implement, and evaluate YA space design projects in public libraries, as sites where teens can engage in social change.

Here is a link to the full article, which is online at JRYLA.