Community Informatics: a two-way bridge approach

Graduate Teaching Fellows in Community Situated Research: The Triple Helix of University, K-12, and Community Knowledge Production (NSF GK-12 grant): This project develops new technologies, fostering collaborations between science, engineering, and STS grads, with community education, environmentalism, and other efforts in sustainability and social justice.

The characterization of inadequate information technology resources in disadvantaged communities as a "digital divide" was a useful wake-up call. At the same time, this metaphor is often taken to imply a problematic solution: the one-way bridge. However there are a variety of ways we can create a two-way bridge alternative:

1) One of the alternative approaches which avoids the one-way assumption is that of participant simulation: rather than bring in a scientist to "study" people and create social simulations, we collaborate with local groups and co-design simulations with them; simulations which we hope will reflect their perspectives and needs.


2) Another alternative approach is that of culturally-situated design tools: using information technology to "translate" from local knowledge (e.g. African indigenous designs, African American vernacular practices, Native American traditions, etc.) to their high-tech counterparts in mathematics, computer graphics, architecture, agriculture, medicine, and science.

3) A third alternative can be found in examining the phenomena of appropriated technologies. Of particular importance is the spectrum of strategies between consumption and production:

4) The two-way bridge approach to community informatics can also contribute to sustainable development in disadvantaged communities. Particularly promising are "Flexible Economic Networks" (FENs). Here we extend the concept to include networking among sociocultural assets,  economic revitalization and environmental renewal.



A two-way bridge across the digital divide

Related Web Sites

Shaping the Network Society: Patterns for Participation, Action, and Change (CPSR)

The Organization for Community Networks

New Community Networks: Wired for Changed (online book by Doug Schuler)

Culture, Class and Cyberspace (Art McGee)

Resource Center for Cybercultural Studies

Other Social Studies of Science sites
CASTAC (anthropology of science, technology and computing)

Culture and technoscience links (Phil Hughes)

Anthropology of Science and Technology list (Jan Armstrong Gamradt)

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