Community Informatics Lab @ SLIS

I am excited to announce the launch of the Community Informatics Lab in the Simmons University School of Library and Information Science. The lab will feature community informatics research and projects led by faculty, students, and affiliates of the lab, as well as become the new home for The Journal of Community Informatics over this year. I look forward to providing further updates both here and on the new Community Informatics Lab website, located here: http://comminformatics.net

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/

2019 Ernest A. Lynton Award Finalist

Campus CompactI am incredibly honored to share the news that I was selected as a finalist for this year’s Ernest A. Lynton Award for the Scholarship of Engagement for Early Career Faculty. Santamaría Graff, Assistant Professor of Urban Teacher Education at IUPUI was this year’s recipient, which was jointly awarded by Campus Compact and Brown University’s Swearer Center for Public Service.

Brown University

As the Swearer Center’s website explains,

“The Lynton Award emphasizes community-engaged scholarly work across faculty roles. The scholarship of engagement represents an integrated view of faculty roles in which teaching, research/creative activity and service overlap and are mutually reinforcing, is characterized by scholarly work tied to a faculty member’s academic expertise, is of benefit to the external community, is visible and shared with community stakeholders and reflects the mission of the institution.”

The press release also explained that “the recipients of the 2019 Lynton and Ehrlich Awards will be recognized at Campus Compact’s Compact20 national conference, which will be held in Seattle, WA from March 29 to April 1, 2020.”

Broadband Workarounds

In our new article, titled “The Ability of Pay for Broadband” in the journal Communication Research and Practice, my co-authors Dr. Bianca Reisdorf, Madison Bishop, and I introduce a term that we are calling broadband workarounds based on the findings from our research. The concept builds on research by the late Les Gasser who I had the privilege of working with during my doctoral program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Here is an excerpt from our article, which is freely available online for the next four weeks:

“Despite significant barriers to broadband access, there is evidence that low-income individuals and families, as well as the community-based organisations who serve them, will go to great lengths to access broadband. These factors indicate that individuals and families in low-income areas understand the value of broadband but simply cannot afford it – a sentiment that was reflected in interviews, focus groups, and the survey. Participants described what we are calling broadband workarounds, which are broadband-related activities such as splitting the cost of broadband with neighbours, using a friend’s home internet connection, and relying on public computing sites such as libraries and other community technology centres. Similar to Gasser’s notion of ‘work-arounds’ (1986) as ‘adhoc strategies to solve immediate and pressing problems’ (p. 216), we use the term broadband workarounds to describe the everyday strategies that participants described to address the cost-related barriers to broadband. Local digital inclusion organisations, including public libraries, work to alleviate the need for broadband workarounds by creating and connecting people to low-cost broadband options. A focus on these local community assets as a starting point for broadband policy can sharpen awareness of the innovative solutions that already exist in low-income areas.”

UPDATE (6/19/19): After sharing this blog post via Twitter today, John Horrigan responded in this tweet by noting that he had called “online access at the library part of a ‘workaround ecosystem'” for work he did a few years ago with Monica Anderson at the Pew Research Center, which can be found online here.

New Article in Communication Research and Practice

Media, Culture & SocietyI am excited to announce that my new paper, titled “The Ability to Pay for Broadband,” which was co-authored with Bianca Reisdorf (UNC Charlotte) and Simmons SLIS alum Madison Bishop (Plymouth Public Library) was just published in a special issue on “Digital inequalities and inclusion” guest edited by Justine Humphry (The University of Sydney) in Communication Research and Practice.

Today, the Benton Foundation published our blog post, which provides a brief summary of our published article and its findings. Here’s a snippet from the Benton Foundation’s website:

“According to recent National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) survey data, roughly 28 million households in the United States still do not use the Internet at home (Goldberg, 2019). In its survey, the NTIA also asked why households did not use the Internet at home, with 58 percent citing a lack of interest as their main reason for being offline and every fifth household (21%) stating that it is too expensive. Out of those who cited cost as their main reason for not having home access, half had annual household incomes lower than $25,000 (Goldberg, 2019). But an aspect that is often missing from Internet use survey data is the complexity of potential reasons why households might think they have no need or no interest in home Internet access and how this is often closely intertwined with their ability to afford a home Internet connection.

In our recent paper, published in a special issue of Communications Research and Practice, we present findings from two separate studies on digital inclusion in the United States that sought to gain a deeper understanding of the ability of low-income individuals to spend their money on wired broadband internet connections at home. We believe the findings from the studies can be useful to policymakers, practitioners, and other stakeholders interested in developing effective digital inclusion and broadband adoption policies.”

Our article is available open access for a limited time via the journal’s website at Taylor & Francis Online.