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 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.
I’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.
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.
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.
The new issue of the Journal of Community Informatics was just published. The special issue features eight research articles and three “notes from the field” that examine Research Methods for Community Informatics. The issue features an exciting range of insights that should be useful to researchers and practitioners alike.
This was my first experience co-editing a journal issue, and I learned a great deal in the process. This was due in large part to my experience working with my excellent co-editors, Andy Bytheway in South Africa and Mark Wolfe in Canada. They were wonderful to work with on this project.
I also want to take this opportunity to thank my colleagues who played such an important role over the past year either contributing an article, reviewing an article, or providing me with social and technical support. I am proud of this special issue with its breadth of perspectives and contributions to the field of CI research and practice.
My colleague, Martin Wolske and I recently completed our paper for the 2014 Prato Community Informatics Research Network conference proceedings. A preprint of the paper is now available via the ShareOK open-access research repository at the University of Oklahoma. In the paper, we introduce a Critical Interpretive Sociotechnical (CIS) framework, which describes our underlying approach to community informatics teaching, research, and practice with individuals and groups in local communities.
Here is the abstract:
This paper extends the theoretical framework underlying the Community Informatics (CI) Studio. The CI Studio has been described as the use of studio-based learning (SBL) techniques to support enculturation into the field of CI. The SBL approach, closely related to John Dewey’s inquiry-based learning, is rooted in the apprenticeship model of learning in which students study with master designers or artists to develop their craft. In this paper, we introduce our critical interpretive sociotechnical (CIS) framework as the conceptual framework underlying the CI Studio course and pedagogy. In doing so, we explain how the CI Studio can be understood a pathway for advancing community-defined social justice goals through critical pedagogy and participatory design techniques. We describe our embrace of both critical and interpretive perspectives as the foundation upon which the CI Studio supports the following ideas: Instructors, students, and community partners can collaborate as co-learners and co-creators of knowledge exploring current topics in community informatics; theory and praxis can be brought together in dialog to ground transformative, liberative action and reflection in community spaces; and multiple perspectives can be embraced to promote a culture of epistemological pluralism. We conclude by providing a set of principles that summarize our CIS approach, particularly for those who wish to use and further develop the CI Studio pedagogy in their own research, teaching, and practice.
Download the full PDF via the ShareOK website here.
Rebecca MacKinnon, project lead for Ranking Digital Rights, co-founder of Global Voices and senior research fellow for New American Foundation, is speaking this Wednesday, November 12th at 7:30pm in the David L. Boren Auditorum, here at the University of Oklahoma. I have the great honor of introducing Rebecca and moderating the Q & A during the event on Wednesday. The event is free and open to the public. For more details, see flyer below.
My dissertation, entitled “The Social Shaping of Cloud Computing: An Ethnography of Infrastructure in East St. Louis, Illinois” is now available online via the Illinois Digital Environment for Access to Learning and Scholarship (IDEALS). My committee members included: Christian Sandvig (advisor), Linda C. Smith, Dan Schiller, and Rayvon Fouché.
Here is the abstract:
This study investigates the infrastructural tensions that shaped a cloud computing software implementation within a community-based organization in East St. Louis, Illinois. A community-based organization provides nonprofit social welfare services to low-income residents within a specific geographic location. In East St. Louis, 100 percent of the local school children are eligible for the free and reduced-price meal program, which is a common measure of poverty. Previous studies have focused on the impact of computerization on social workers and welfare organizations. This research instead uses a “social shaping of technology” perspective to analyze the ways in which broader social, institutional, and technical factors shape information infrastructure and its consequences. This eleven-month ethnographic study provides an account of the everyday technology experiences of social workers, managers, and directors in a community-based organization as they used cloud computing services at work.
Three major findings emerged from the study: (1) The tensions between external stakeholder demands and internal organizational needs influenced decisions about how the cloud computing software was configured and implemented; (2) the lack of interoperability between state-mandated and for-profit cloud computing systems, at times, exacerbated these tensions; and (3) the agency of a diverse and resilient group of human services professionals played a significant role in shaping the cloud computing software implementation. In presenting this sociotechnical analysis of information infrastructure, informed by critical perspectives at the intersection of race, gender, class, and technology, this research makes a contribution to the field of library and information science by describing how networked information systems can fail to meet the needs of community-based organizations that provide state-funded public assistance programs. I argue that in order to develop successful information infrastructures in human services organizations, cloud computing software platforms need to be flexible enough to both provide accountability to funders and meet the needs of community-based organizations.