Broadband Measurement System for Public Libraries Launched

Murakami Viz
(Image above from Murakami-Viz in use at the Pryor Public Library in Oklahoma)

After two and a half years, I am incredibly excited to announce that we have successfully launched our broadband measurement system with and for public libraries across the U.S.!

Thanks to a grant (award #LG-71-18-0110-18) from the U.S. Institute for Museum and Library Services, and in partnership with Measurement Lab (M-Lab) and Internet2, our Measuring Library Broadband Networks (MLBN) research initiative has launched our open source broadband measurement system that public libraries can use to measure the speeds and quality of service of their broadband internet connections.

Here is a snippet from our new blog post, written by Chris Ritzo (M-Lab) announcing our broadband measurement system:

As we close out the calendar year, we’re focused on that future where we can measure and understand broadband access and quality using a variety of measurement tools. We’ve invited our participating libraries to review their test data in Murakami-Viz, and look forward to their feedback on it and our program in general in the coming year. M-Lab is continuing to develop Murakami as a tool that enables structured data collection using our platform, as well as using other measurement initiatives and tests.

We believe this announcement is timely given this week’s press release from the U.S. Senate announcing provisions for broadband in the Bipartisan COVID-19 Emergency Relief Act of 2020 with emergency assistance for community anchor institutions and connectivity.

For public libraries interested in gathering real-time and longitudinal data on the speeds and quality of service of their broadband internet connections, please visit our project website to learn more about how communities can participate in this open source broadband measurement initiative.

On behalf of our MLBN team, I want to thank our partners, including the many public libraries from across the country that offered their time and insights to help inform the development and implementation of our project.

Stay tuned for more project updates and our final evaluation on our MLBN project website.

MLBN Explainer Video

Here is a fantastic video, produced by Carson and Jessikha Block, that provides an overview of our Measuring Library Broadband Networks (MLBN) project. It’s a wonderful description of our research, which is funded by a two-year grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services (award #LG-71-18-0110-18). to learn more about our research, please visit our project website at http://slis.simmons.edu/blogs/mlbn/

New Article in Media, Culture & Society

Media, Culture & SocietySharon Strover, Brian Whitacre, Alexis Schrubbe and I have a new journal article in Media, Culture & Society. The article, titled “The Digital Inclusion Role of Rural Libraries: Social Inequities Through Space and Place” features findings from our two-year research grant (award #RE-31-16-0014-16), funded by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services to examine how rural libraries address the challenges of Internet connectivity with hotspot lending programs.

Here’s a link to the abstract, which is also included below:

“A great deal of scholarship on broadband deployment and federal policies has positioned rural America through a deficit framework: rural parts of the country have older populations (and therefore not tech savvy), are poor (and therefore justifiably ignored by the market), too remote (therefore outside of legitimate profit-making enterprise), and losing population (and therefore significance). This research examines rural Internet connectivity through the lens of local libraries lending hotspots for Internet connectivity. Qualitative data gathered in 24 rural communities in Kansas and Maine undercut simplistic notions regarding how communication systems operate in environments ignored by normative market operations. Financial precarity and pressures from social and economic institutions compel rurally based individuals and families to assemble piecemeal Internet presence and connectivity. The public library plays a crucial role in providing Internet resources and stands out in the rural environment as a site that straddles public trust and local.”

New Paper Published in Lecture Notes in Computer Science

My colleagues, Chris Ritzo, Georgia Bullen, the late James Werle, and SLIS doctoral student, Alyson Gamble, and I have a new paper published in Lecture Notes in Computer Science. The paper, titled “Participatory Development of an Open Source Broadband Measurement Platform for Public Libraries” was published as part of the iConference 2019 Conference Proceedings.

Here is the abstract for our paper:

“Public libraries need access to reliable, automated, and longitudinal data on the speed and quality of service of their broadband Internet connections. Having such data at a local, granular level is essential for libraries to understand how their broadband infrastructure can meet their communities’ digital demands, as well as inform local, state, and national broadband planning efforts in the U.S. This paper contributes a participatory research methodology and an information system design proposal to investigate how public libraries can utilize broadband measurement tools to achieve these goals. The purpose of the research is to assist public libraries in gaining a better understanding of the relationship between their network infrastructure and digital services. The paper concludes with a brief discussion of the expected findings from our project, which builds upon existing research that examined how broadband measurement tools can be utilized in public schools.”

To learn more about our research, please visit our project site.

Social Informatics Spring 2019

I’m looking forward to teaching Social Informatics again this semester at Simmons SLIS. I have added readings from Safiya Noble, Virginia Eubanks, and Sasha Constanza-Chock and other scholars to feature additional critical theoretical perspectives to the course.

Here is the link to the syllabus for this semester.

COURSE SUMMARY
“Social Informatics” refers to the body of research and study that examines social aspects of computerization – including the roles of information technology in social and organizational change and the ways that the social organization of information technologies are influenced by social forces and social practices. This graduate seminar is for students interested in the influence of information technology in the human context, including cultural heritage, professional concerns, and social inequities. The course introduces some of the key concepts of social informatics and situates them into the view of varied perspectives including readers, librarians, computer professionals, authors, educators, publishers, editors, and the institutions that support them.

LEARNING OBJECTIVES
Upon completion of the course, students will be able to:

  • Describe a variety of social, political, and economic contexts that shape information and communication technologies (ICTs) and their impact on society.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of social systems and how they interact with ICTs.
  • Discuss concepts that illuminate the intersections of race, class, gender, identity, ability, and ICTs.
  • Identify a range of ethical, legal, and policy issues that impact the design and use of ICTs.

The course syllabus is available under a Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International license.