The City of Boston just announced their new Digital Equity Fund. This initiative will be overseen by the Mayor’s Department of Innovation & Technology. I am honored to be joining the advisory board along with the following people: Alessandra Brown, Director, Roxbury Innovation Center; Turahn Dorsey, Chief of Education, City of Boston: Trinh Nguyen, Director of Workforce Development, City of Boston; and Sasha Costanza-Chock, Associate Professor of Civic Media, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Here is a snippet from today’s press release:
“Mayor Martin J. Walsh today announced the creation of a $35,000 Digital Equity Fund, which will support the City’s goal of ensuring all residents have equal access to digital services. The Digital Equity Fund will provide support to community-based organizations that help Boston residents fully connect and participate in today’s media and information landscape. ‘A more connected Boston is a more equitable City, a more innovative City and a more prosperous City,’ said Mayor Walsh. ‘This grant program will allow more residents to connect digitally, and will encourage residents to grow their digital skills while increasing access to information.’
The Digital Equity Fund will explore ways to build individual and community capacity to:
- Use the Internet, digital skills, and digital tools to pursue professional, educational, and civic endeavors;
- Engage with the Internet safely and securely;
- Develop needs-responsive, community driven digital skills building opportunities;
- Increase broadband adoption among the roughly 1 in 5 Bostonians who do not subscribe to this service in the home.
In 2017, Boston will award one grant of $35,000 or up to two grants up to $17,500 each to nonprofit organizations that promote digital equity. By providing seed funding, the City hopes to identify promising strategies that can attract outside funding and further create a City where everyone has the tools and skills they need to succeed in the 21st century.”
Read the full press release here.
The new issue of The Journal of Community Informatics was published this past week. I had the opportunity to co-edit the special issue with David Nemer (University of Kentucky) and Christiana Urbano (Simmons). The issue features selections from the 2016 Community Informatics Research Network Conference in Prato, Italy.
Here’s an excerpt from our introduction to the special issue:
The conference theme was “Engaging with Participation, Activism, and Technologies.” The papers in this issue highlight the conference’s overarching theme, which focused on advancing theory and practice in the development of Participatory Action Research (PAR) with a particular focus on helping to ensure that marginalized groups have a strong voice in their communities in the face of structural and cultural challenges. In doing so, the conference sought to help promote “a stronger focus on more meaningful and equal partnerships with community, civil society, and NGO organisations around the world.”
I am honored and excited to announce that my paper with Dr. Bianca Reisdorf, Assistant Professor in Media and Information and Quello Center Assistant Director at Michigan State University, has been selected as one of four papers to be presented at a special Telecom Policy Congressional Briefing as part of this year’s Telecommunications Policy Research Conference.
Here’s a snippet of the announcement via the Quello Center’s website:
Dr. Reisdorf will present findings from her work with Dr. Colin Rhinesmith, who is an Assistant Professor at Simmons College, and a Faculty Associate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. In their paper, titled Race and Digital Inequality: Policy Implications, they combined quantitative data analyses using Pew data, American Community Survey data, and FCC Form 477 data with qualitative data from a Benton Foundation study on digital inclusion initiatives in several cities across the US. The combination of these rich data sources brought forward deeper insights into what is keeping some of the economically hardest-hit communities offline and how policy can help increase digital equity. For example, quantitative analyses of data on Kansas City, MO, and Kansas City, KS,emphasized existing digital inequalities along factors such as race, income, and education, and showed that fewer fixed broadband providers offer their services in poor urban neighborhoods. The qualitative case study of digital inclusion initiatives across these neighborhoods, however, showed that local, well-designed digital equity programs have a positive impact in mitigating these inequalities. While federal policies can help to provide more infrastructure and service to hard-hit neighborhoods through programs such as Lifeline, local organizations and policymakers can provide context-specific on-the-ground support that builds on the resources and assets already available in the communities to allow meaningful broadband adoption.
Visit the TPRC website to learn more about this year’s conference in Washington, D.C.
My colleagues and I have a new article that was published this past week in D-Lib Magazine. The article, which is co-authored with Sharon Strover (University of Texas at Austin), Brian Whitacre (Oklahoma State University), and Alexis Schrubbe (University of Texas at Austin) presents early findings from our Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) research grant, titled “At the Edges of the National Digital Platform” (grant #RE-31-16-0014-16) which examines wireless hotspot lending programs in rural libraries in Kansas and Maine.
Here’s the abstract:
Libraries straddle the information needs of the 21st century. The wifi, computers and now mobile hotspots that some libraries provide their patrons are gateways to a broad, important, and sometimes essential information resources. The research summarized here examines how rural libraries negotiate telecommunications environments, and how mobile hotspots might extend libraries’ digital significance in marginalized and often resource-poor regions. The Internet has grown tremendously in terms of its centrality to information and entertainment resources of all sorts, but the ability to access the Internet in rural areas typically lags that experienced in urban areas. Not only are networks less available in rural areas, they also often are of lower quality and somewhat more expensive; even mobile phone-based data plans — assuming there are acceptable signals available — may be economically out of reach for people in these areas. With older, lower income and less digitally skilled populations typically living in rural areas, the role of the library and its freely available resources may be especially useful. This research examines libraries’ experiences with providing free, mobile hotspot-based access to the Internet in rural areas of Maine and Kansas.
Read the full article here.
I’m excited to announce the release of a new report co-authored with Angela Siefer, Director of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, and published by the Benton Foundation, which highlights and seeks to address the core outcomes-based evaluation needs of the digital inclusion field. Here is an excerpt from today’s report release available at Benton.org:
In recent years, government agencies, private foundations, and community-based organizations have increasingly sought to understand how programs that promote digital inclusion lead to social and economic outcomes for individuals, programs, and communities. This push to measure outcomes has been driven, in part, by a larger trend to ensure that dollars are being used efficiently to improve lives rather than simply to deliver services. A new report, published by Benton Foundation, describes the challenges facing community-based organizations and other key stakeholders in using outcomes-based evaluation to measure the success of their digital inclusion programs and offers recommendations toward addressing these shared barriers.
Download the full report here.
This Wednesday, April 12th at 12:00 PM at Simmons College, Madison Bishop and I will be presenting a talk, titled “Checking Out The Internet” as part of the SLIS Public Lecture Series. Here’s the event info:
How do hotspot lending programs help rural libraries address the unique challenges of Internet connectivity in their communities? This talk will present findings from a research project to explore how mobile wireless hotspot devices—which allow users to access the Internet from any place with a cellular signal—shape internet access and use for the patrons of 24 libraries in rural Kansas and Maine. The research examines the practical requirements for implementing hotspot lending programs; the impact on users’ digital literacy and quality of life; the role of libraries in rural information ecosystems; and the relationship between library hotspot lending programs and other institutions, including schools, local governments, and Internet service providers. This project is being led by researchers at the University of Austin at Texas, Oklahoma State University and Simmons College and funded by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services.
Presenting on this project will be Co-Principal Investigator Colin Rhinesmith, Assistant Professor in the Simmons School of Library and Information Science, and research assistant Madison Bishop, second-year graduate student.
I’m excited to teach Social Informatics this semester at Simmons SLIS. I’ve built upon my colleague Dr. Lisa Hussey‘s excellent syllabus to include perspectives from the critical informatics and critical information studies literature. It was a real challenge to not include more readings. The course Moodle will include several additional suggested readings, as well. Overall, I’m quite pleased with the course, which definitely emphasizes more critical theoretical perspectives than I have previously incorporated. I believe the course will be much stronger, more timely and relevant, as a result.
Here is the link to the syllabus (v.10) for this semester.
“Social Informatics” refers to the body of research and study that examines social aspects of computerization – including the roles of information technology in social and organizational change and the ways that the social organization of information technologies are influenced by social forces and social practices. This graduate seminar is for students interested in the influence of information technology in the human context, including cultural heritage, professional concerns, and social inequities. The course introduces some of the key concepts of social informatics and situates them into the view of varied perspectives including readers, librarians, computer professionals, authors, educators, publishers, editors, and the institutions that support them.
Upon completion of the course, students will be able to:
- Describe a variety of social, political, and economic contexts that shape information and communication technologies (ICTs) and their impact on society.
- Demonstrate knowledge of social systems and how they interact with ICTs.
- Discuss concepts that illuminate the intersections of race, class, gender, identity, ability, and ICTs.
- Identify a range of ethical, legal, and policy issues that impact the design and use of ICTs.
I’m giving a talk tomorrow here at the Association for Library and Information Science Education conference during the session, titled “Community Engagement and Social Responsibility: Frameworks for Pedagogy and Praxis.” The title of my presentation is “YouthStudio: Promoting Just and Equitable Community Engagement in LIS” (link to PDF).
In the presentation, I introduce the YouthStudio model as a critical pedagogical, participatory design, and ethnographic action research framework to promote more just and equitable community engagement projects in library and information science (LIS). The presentation begins by describing the origin story of the YouthStudio model, which dates back to 2013 when Martin Wolske and I first presented our Community Informatics Studio (link to presentation) at the 2013 ALISE conference and later published the framework in a paper for JELIS with Beth Kumar.
I am grateful to Martin for introducing me to studio-based learning in LIS and for allowing me to collaborate with him over these years to develop a critical theoretical and participatory pedagogical model to advance more equitable and just learning spaces in LIS community engagement projects.
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.