On January 11, 2017, the Federal Communications Commission’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau released a new report titled “Strategies and Recommendations for Promoting Digital Inclusion.” As the introduction explains,
With this plan, several of the following goals laid out in the 2016 Lifeline Modernization Order are or can be realized. First, this plan marks another step in the Commission’s efforts to better understand non-price barriers to digital inclusion and to facilitate existing and forthcoming efforts addressing them…Second, this plan explores how the Bureau can engage consumer groups, community groups, philanthropic organizations, local governments, and corporations to increase broadband adoption and digital literacy among those who remain offline…Finally, we suggest policy innovations that make the broadband marketplace more transparent and affordable for low-income households and more amendable to promoting digital inclusion in addition to broadband access and adoption.
I am honored to have played a small role in helping to inform the FCC’s final report and recommendations with many thanks to the Benton Foundation, the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, as well as the many community-based organizations, individuals, and families across the country who I had the privilege to visit with during my research in 2015.
Martin Wolske (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) and I have a new paper in The Journal of Community Informatics. The paper is called “Critical Questions for Community Informatics in Practice from an Ethical Perspective.”
Here’s a brief description from the paper:
Collaboratively developed through three years of conference workshops, this set of guiding critical questions seeks to further promote ethical practice in CI…These guiding critical questions affirm the need to state social justice principles more explicitly in community informatics. Unequal power relations will always be a factor and CI practice can benefit from guidelines to ensure these relationships are more equitable.
Many people from around the world contributed to the development of this framework over three years of Community Informatics Research Network conferences in Prato, Italy. I believe the framework is quite relevant and applicable beyond the scope of this topic. It was a real honor to work with Martin Wolske and many other colleagues on this project. I hope it will be useful and also elaborated upon.
It’s a bit late for this announcement, but I thought I’d share that I will be speaking on a panel tonight at Harvard with several absolutely incredible people. I am honored to participate in this book talk event and look forward to joining this important discussion. If you are in the Boston area this evening, please consider attending. Thank you.
Here’s the blurb from the Harvard Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society’s website:
What does civic engagement look like in a digital age? What does it mean to participate in civic life when the lines between online and offline, political and social, organization and network are increasingly blurred? We define civic media as the “technologies, designs, and practices that produce and reproduce the sense of being in the world with others toward common good.” We offer this intentionally broad definition to accommodate what we see as a growing range of civic practices. And we hope that the term is generative, not restrictive – that it sparks the imagination about what it might include. But this isn’t simply a casual investigation. There is urgency in defining the term, as there is danger of these emerging practices of civic engagement simply getting lumped into larger media trends, or on the flip side, getting written off as anomalies narrowly defined. The term civic media suggests an “acting with” as a means of achieving a common good. It is inclusive of the range of intentional actions that people take with and through technologies, designs, or practices (aka media). Throughout the book, civic media is exemplified not through products or outcomes, but through the processes and potential of using the tools available to strive for the common good.
Join the editors and contributors of the new book Civic Media: Technology, Design, Practice (MIT Press 2016) for a discussion on the role of civic media in the changing face of democracy around the world.
Brandon Brooks (Queens University of Charlotte), Angela Siefer (National Digital Inclusion Alliance), and I have a new blog post up on the Benton Foundation’s Digital Beat Blog. In the post, titled “Digital Equity Planning in U.S. Cities,” we share preliminary findings from our study of digital equity plans in Austin, Portland (OR), and Seattle. Here’s an excerpt from the post:
Based on our preliminary examination of the digital equity plans created by the cities of Austin, Portland, and Seattle, and through our own interviews with local policymakers, we offer these recommendations to federal policymakers, local governments, and other key stakeholders interested in creating effective digital equity plans:
- Local governments should employ a central planning and coordination office with legitimate authority to facilitate digital equity planning.
- Local planners should ensure that traditionally-excluded groups are included in digital equity planning.
- Local decision-makers should use research from a variety of sources to inform digital equity planning.
We offer these preliminary findings and recommendations as key insights to assist local, state, and federal policymakers in creating effective digital equity plans.
Read the full post here.
Dr. 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.
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.
I 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.
I 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.
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.
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.