Joining the Faculty in Simmons SLIS

10474685_10152597869932448_367231851895940957_nI am thrilled to announce that I will be joining the faculty in the School of Library and Information Science at Simmons College as a Senior Lecturer beginning July 1st. Here is an excerpt from the Simmons SLIS press release:

Dr. Colin Rhinesmith comes to Simmons with a broad teaching portfolio that includes graduate and undergraduate courses, and teaching both face-to-face and online. He is a Faculty Research Fellow with the Benton Foundation, a private foundation that works to ensure that media and telecommunications serve the public interest and enhance our democracy. Rhinesmith’s research interests are focused on the social, community, and policy aspects of information and communication technology, particularly in areas related to digital inclusion and broadband adoption. He is a co-Principal Investigator on an IMLS grant to study rural wifi hotspot lending programs in Kansas and Maine. You can learn more about him at http://crhinesmith.com.

Investigating Rural Library Hotspot Lending Programs

I am excited to announce that my colleagues, Dr. Sharon Strover (University of Texas at Austin), Dr. Brian Whitacre (Oklahoma State University) and I received a $496,586 grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services for our research project, titled “At the Edges of the National Digital Platform: Rural Library Hotspot Lending Programs.”

Here’s the description of the project from the IMLS website:

Investigators at the University of Texas at Austin, in partnership with researchers at the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University, will use their research grant to examine how rural libraries address the challenges of Internet connectivity with hotspot lending programs. The project will gather qualitative and quantitative data from 24 rural libraries with hotspot lending program experience, focusing on the librarians involved with the program, the users of the program, local community stakeholders, and non-users. Research outcomes will address the role of rural libraries in local information ecosystems, the impact of hotspot lending programs on users’ quality of life and digital literacy, community outcomes of these programs, and practical requirements for offering hotspot lending programs. Deliverables for the project include a guidelines document on program implementation, a short report on rural Internet connectivity and libraries, and a final research report.

New Article Published in Telecommunications Policy

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.

NTEN Webinar on Digital Inclusion Research

ntenI’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.

 

Interview with Craig Settles on Gigabit Nation

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.

Enjoy!

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.