Interview with Craig Settles on Gigabit Nation


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.

New Report: Digital Inclusion and Meaningful Broadband Adoption Initiatives

benton_report_coverI am thrilled to announce the release of my new report for the Benton Foundation, titled “Digital Inclusion and Meaningful Broadband Adoption Initiatives.” The executive summary and a link to the full report are available on the Benton Foundation’s website.

Research for the report began late last July, when I started my travels across the US to look at how nonprofit organizations are helping individuals and families gain access to low-cost broadband and digital literacy training. Broadband adoption continues to be a significant problem in the US. The Pew Research Center recently reported that only 67% of Americans have broadband Internet service at home (down from 70% in 2013). In analyzing the data, with research assistance from Aileen Barton at the University of Oklahoma School of Library and Information Studies, I discovered the following four digital inclusion activities were necessary for helping low-income individuals and families to adopt broadband in ways that were most appropriate to their personal needs and contexts:

  1. Providing low-cost broadband;
  2. Connecting digital literacy training with relevant content and services;
  3. Making low-cost computers available; and
  4. Operating public access computing centers.

The goal of the report is to help policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels, as well as researchers, practitioners, and other key stakeholders, gain a deeper understanding of how digital inclusion organizations and their community partners can be successful in their efforts to promote meaningful broadband adoption.

I am extremely thankful to the following people who helped make this report possible, including: Aileen Barton (University of Oklahoma School of Library and Information Studies), Jane Blackwood (Axiom Training & Education Center), Juanita Budd (Austin Free-Net), Greta Byrum (Resilient Communities Program at New America), Bill Callahan (Connect Your Community 2.0), Jill Castek (Portland State University), Susan Corbett (Axiom Technologies), Dharma Dailey (University of Washington), Colleen Dixon (Free Geek), Cindy Gibbon (Multnomah County Library), Wanda Davis (Ashbury Senior Community Computer Center), Michael Liimatta (US Dept. of HUD, previously Connecting for Good), Drew Pizzolato (Portland State University), Diana Rodriguez (Youth Policy Institute), Angela Siefer (National Digital Inclusion Alliance), Casey Sorensen (PCs for People), and Kevin Taglang (Benton Foundation).

Most importantly, I want to thank all of the individuals and families across the country who shared their broadband experiences with me and provided their recommendations (included in this report) to policymakers at the Federal Communications Commission, the White House, and in Congress, who are working on solutions to the problems facing low-income Americans in gaining affordable and reliable access to broadband.

New Article Published in The Journal of Research on Libraries and Young Adults

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.

New Co-edited Special Issue for JoCI

homeHeaderTitleImage_en_USThe 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.


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.


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.



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.

A Critical Interpretive Approach to Sociotechnical Systems

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.

Consent of the Networked: China and the Global Struggle for Information Freedom

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.

rmack flyer