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.”
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 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.