Saturday, February 21, 2009

Live Global

Could programs designed to change the digital divide be implemented overseas, but grown here?


  1. I have to say that this is a pretty short blurb to which to respond, but it's pretty American-centric in the extreme. I'm not sure that I agree, first of all, with the premise that gay rights movements weren't happening all over the place and for quite some time. They might not have looked like the American model, but I'm not sure that it's advisable to discount other ways of recognizing people in different cultures and countries throughout time. (Sounds a bit like an apology, too, I might add.)

    To that end, there is an entire movement in LIS that would suggest that "grow"ing solutions - so to speak - here for export elsewhere is, in short, wrongheaded and smacks of some problematic issues of positionality. Instead, this movement suggests that going local, grassroots and homegrown offers up a font of untapped potential, knowledge and engagement toward the end of betterment and problem-solving. That movement is called "Community Informatics."

    One major center of activity for Community Informatics is the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, one of the top LIS programs in the country ( They describe their program as:

    "The Community Informatics Initiative (CII) is a research and teaching center focused on working with communities to address their information and technology needs. Our mission is to address literacy in the Internet age, equitable access to the means of digital production, and policy related to communities and information technology."

    They go on to describe their mission:

    "The Community Informatics Initiative (CII) works with people to develop information and communication technologies to achieve their goals. It fosters collaborations across campus, local, national and international communities. Together we build innovative community networks, community technology centers, software, and library services.

    The core of the CII is community inquiry: collaborative action to create knowledge and technology connected to people's values, history, and lived experiences; the development of models of engagement that are just, democratic, participatory, and open-ended; and the integration of theory and practice in an experimental and critical manner.

    We see the challenges facing community inquiry and informatics in the form of key research questions:

    * How do actual communities work to address their problems?

    * What theory adequately accounts for the complexity and diversity of distributed, collective practice?

    * What tools are needed to mediate work on concrete tasks within communities?

    * What is the most effective process for developing shared capacity in the form of knowledge, skills, & tools?"

    Basically, CI posits that there can be no viable solutions without the grassroots buy-in of the community in which the solutions are needed. I really don't think that, in most cases, this has been a notion that has been attempted, given the vestiges of despotism, colonialism and subsequent poverty, underdevelopment and globalization in many parts of the world.

    Believe it or not, it's still a radical notion to consider engaging everyday people in problem-solving and agency. I don't see much but the status quo in what is being suggested above.

  2. I like how the CII wants to go into the community; it seems like it would be far more effective than just theorizing. I wasn't trying to endorse one way of looking at the question I posed. It seemed logical to me that because the US is such a large nation, other smaller nations might be influenced by our attempts to close the digital divide and implement them nationally before we do.

    Ironically, you could in some ways confirm what the question is asking. CII is an innovative move. The US is an innovative nation. But other countries could look at the CII as an example of how to close the digital divide, particularly if it's seen to be effective, and then those countries could implement the program in their own nations by government decree before our nation could or would. That's what I was thinking about. The innovation happens here, but international governments enact legislation before ours does.