Category Archives: Community Informatics

YouthStudio: Promoting Just and Equitable Community Engagement in LIS

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.

New Paper in The Journal of Community Informatics

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.

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.

New Article Published in Government Information Quarterly

Brian Whitacre (Oklahoma State University) and I have a new article in Government Information Quarterly, which describes our findings from a recent study on public libraries and broadband adoption.  Unfortunately, the paper is behind a paywall.  But you can read about the study and its findings in a new piece that we have up on Daily Yonder.

Here’s the abstract from the article below:

“Providing access to computers with high-speed Internet connectivity is a central mission of public libraries in the United States. One pertinent, currently unanswered question is whether library Internet access leads to increasing residential broadband adoption rates in the communities that the libraries serve. This paper uses simple county-level regression analysis to document a positive association between a higher number of libraries and household broadband adoption rates as of 2013—but only in rural areas. This correlation does not imply causation, however. A propensity score matching technique is used to demonstrate that counties with libraries that aggressively increased their number of Internet-accessible computers between 2008 and 2012 did not see measurably higher increases in their rates of residential broadband adoption. These findings lend themselves to future research questions including how to appropriately measure broadband ‘adoption’ outside of the home and methods for engaging library patrons that ultimately encourage residential broadband adoption.”

Action-Research-Design Model v.2

I revised our YouthStudio participatory research & design model using feedback from my colleague Martin Wolske at UIUC.  I added a few steps to highlight what Martin and I agree represent some of the potential transformative and social change aspects of our approach, which include the following: information –> knowledge, knowledge –> action, and action –> power processes. All of this is what I believe to be an extension of our Community Informatics Studio.

YouthStudio Design Cycle II(Click on image above to enlarge)

In my thinking, this perspective is also informed by Randy Stoecker’s (2014) re-conceptualization of the civic engagement goals within many higher ed community-engagement projects, an approach which he lays out nicely in his paper, “What If?

The excerpt below highlights my thinking about how the evaluative and critical reflective aspects of the YouthStudio design cycle have the potential to lead to what Stocker refers to as “knowledge power” in the paper.

When I think about knowledge development as civic engagement, however, I need to do so from the standpoint of the constituency, not the university, and that requires some shifts in my thinking about knowledge. One perspective that has been helpful to me in making these shifts has come from Michel Foucault (1975; 1980) and his thinking about power/knowledge. My understanding of this idea is that power and knowledge are mutually reinforcing. When someone has power, they are in a better position to produce knowledge that will in turn enhance their power. For me, power is the ability to engage in goal-directed action. And knowledge is not simply information, but information that has been sifted and sorted and critiqued and organized in a way that facilitates power. I then use the phrase knowledge power to refer to the capacity to gather information and use it to develop knowledge that can effectively inform goal-directed action. My job in higher education civic engagement is to work with constituencies to help them build their collective knowledge power. (p. 1666)

In other words, when our model includes the phrase “action –> power,” it is perhaps more accurate to say that we’re making the assumption that action — which is embodied by the design activities as well as the evaluation of and critical reflection on how the design activities speak to the “hypothesis” or design problem (as in the action-research-design model above) — will lead to greater knowledge power for youth who participate in the YouthStudio project.

The next step, I believe, is to begin to pull together our various theoretical and methodological approaches in order to articulate an evaluation framework that simultaneously encompasses, builds upon, and extends our critical interpretive contributions to date.

References

Stoecker, R. (2014). What if? AISHE-J: The All Ireland Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 6(1), 1661-16616.

YouthStudio Action-Research-Design Model

I put together a YouthStudio Action-Research-Design Model based upon Davydd Greenwood & Morten Levin’s (2007) work in their Introduction to Action Research: Social Research for Social Change.  Because the teens may come and go, dropping in and out of the YouthStudio project at the Moore Public Library, throughout this semester, I realized that we needed an action research and participatory design model that we could use regardless of the individual’s level of experience, interest, and expertise.

YouthStudio Design CycleYou can click on the .jpg above to see a larger version, which I’m looking forward to discussing with my SLIS students in class tomorrow night.  This model provides a starting point for a more rigorous theoretical and methodological approach to our work this semester.  I think we’ll be able to articulate a simpler, more concise approach in working with the teens.  In the meantime, I thought I’d share it here in case anyone outside of our class had any additional thoughts or feedback.

Youth Community Informatics Studio

This semester, I am teaching a new community-engagement course called Leadership in Information Organizations. I am particularly excited about the course because it has been an opportunity to implement the Community Informatics Studio, which I have been developing with my co-author Martin Wolske at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign over the past three years.

This spring, my students (as both students and co-investigators) and I will be using our Critical Interpretive Sociotechnical (CIS) Framework as one of the guiding theoretical foundations for our class. I am also excited to announce that the class meets weekly in and with the community at the Moore Public Library, where we will be working with teens on a youth-led action research and participatory design project to redesign the Teen Space.

Our community-based research project is very much inspired by K-Fai Steele’s work with teens at the Free Library of Philadelphia as well as the amazing grassroots organizing and digital media education work taking place as part of the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition.

youthstudio_flyer_large

 

The class is part of a research project, which I am calling “YouthStudio” or perhaps more accurately “Youth Community Informatics Studio.” Here is a description of the case for spring 2015:

Overview: For the Spring 2015 design case, student teams will partner with professionals and youth at the Moore Public Library to: (1) design and implement innovative popular and progressive digital literacy programs; and 2) develop evaluation models based on community-based and outcomes-based evaluation frameworks. These YouthStudio projects for spring 2015 will focus on creating teen digital literacy and community leadership programs with youth at the Moore Public Library. By participating in an iterative cycle of digital literacy program development and delivery along with development of evaluation rubrics, students will help to define new approaches to bridging these output/outcome evaluation gaps. The results of this studio-based learning approach will immediately inform programming at the Moore Public Library, and they will also be made widely available to inform the work of LIS professionals more broadly.

Additional Details: This course is part of a research project led by Dr. Colin Rhinesmith to investigate how studio-based learning can be used to help teens develop digital literacy and community leadership skills. Studio-based learning is a common pedagogical model in fine arts and architecture, but it is less frequently used in library and information environments. The goal of the research is to understand how librarians can use studio-based learning to assist youth in developing the digital and leadership skills they need to excel in college, in the workplace, and in their community.

The flyer above was created by the good folks at the Pioneer Library System in collaboration with two of my students who are also information services professionals at the Moore Public Library. I am very excited about this opportunity to work with teens, my students, and librarians in Moore to help teens use the project to address a youth-identified problem or issue in the community as well as to help create a stronger relationship between the library and teens in Moore.