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CIRN 2009: Empowering communities: learning from community informatics practice.

4-6 November 2009 Monash University Prato Centre, Italy

Please note that this does not include sound or video files.


The idea of 'empowerment' has a number of special connotations in the Community Informatics space. Community Informatics is an approach to empowering communities with information and communication technologies. There is a widespread expectation that Community Informatics will enhance democracy, develop social capital, build communities, develop economies and empower individuals and groups, and result in many different forms of social change. Community Informatics, in bringing together communities and technologies, works across at least three dimensions, though there may be others which are relevant

* The Context and Values held by different stakeholders in Community Informatics
* The Processes and Methodologies which are brought to bear in Community Informatics
* The Systems (both technical and human) which are brought to bear in Community Informatics

We use cases or examples of projects and programs to consider the intersection between these three dimensions. The different interpretations that can be given to the concept of 'empowerment' gives rise to a number key questions about the relationships between the different dimensions of community informatics and how we describe and analyze the cases we work with:

* How do communities and technologies interact in providing an expression of empowerment for change?

* What are the opportunities and obstacles for those who take a community orientation and those with a systems perspective to developing shared creative understandings that come from working with communities?

* How do communities themselves perceive the interaction?

* What evidence and experiences of empowerment can be shard between communities, designers and community specialists and other stakeholders?
* Is the gulf too great or difficult?
* Are the missions too contradictory or do they need to be framed in an entirely different way?

Hence this conference will review the relationship of CI to empowerment.

* What are the processes that contribute to empowerment relationships among community members?
* What are community or technical factors that empower or disempower?
Other important discussion points include:
* How to design for a validate empowerment.
* Giving CI empowerment a systems vocabulary.
" The differences between technical and social empowerment.
* Meaningful measures of empowerment.

The Conference Committee calls for academic and practitioner papers or presentations that can address topics such as:

* Does empowerment apply to all communities?
* Does every community need 'empowerment'?
* Why should communities be empowered with CI?
* What are the objectives of empowering communities? What are the ends?
* What are the means and instruments of CI empowerment?

* Satisfying community needs with ICT.
* What CI cannot achieve; its limitations in practice.
* The range of changing economic models for empowering communities with CI.
* What are the special CI issues for marginalised communities?
* Giving voices via CI; the necessity of advocacy.
* The relevance of CI planning and policies.
* Can social empowerment be matched technologically?

* What are the technical issues, networking problems, and relevant CI devices?
* Do small communities benefit from CI, or is it only applicable on a large (regional, national) scale?
* Does the household small business use ICT for empowerment?
* Evaluating separate and integrated business, government and civil society CI solutions.
* Modelling empowerment in systems design for communities
* Business filling the gap in the absence of government co-ordination of CI practice.
* When business practice and community expectation collide in CI; who suffers?
* Differences between individual access (such as mobile phones) and public access (tele-centres).
* Comparative studies of CI for empowerment.

* Skills and literacy training, and professional development, as part of CI and community empowerment
* Eliciting expressions of local concern and building them into CI empowerment programs.
* Ensuring that external CI solutions meet local needs.
* Balancing short-term and long-term CI solutions.
* Which community development principles best assist with CI empowerment?
* Measures of the effectiveness of CI for empowerment.

This conference is also being run in conjunction with the IDIA2009 Conference 28-30 October 2009 Kruger National Park, South Africa, Digitally Empowering Communities: Learning from Development Informatics Practice


Papers on other topics within the community informatics realm are also most welcome, including topics including contributions on all aspects of community informatics, including information theory or the relationship between the body, technology, and community.


PhD students are encouraged to submit a short paper (1000-2000 words) in the PhD colloquium for discussion with academics and other students. The paper should be about your PhD research and is NOT limited to the conference themes. This is an excellent opportunity for feedback about your research and an opportunity to meet other students, researchers, and practitioners.


1) You must submit an abstract--not a paper-- via the administrative website to establish a conference account. Abstracts must be in English. Please do not send submissions to us directly. Abstracts or papers that are sent via email to the organisers will not be processed or acknowledged .

2) You will be contacted if your abstract is accepted or rejected.

3) Submit a paper of up to 5000 words by the deadline (see below), and it will be blind peer reviewed by at least two reviewers. Conference papers can be in English, French, Spanish, or Italian but if you wish to submit a paper for consideration in the post-conference publication, it must be in English. The major language of communication at the conference is English.


* 1 April 2009: all abstracts due for consideration - the earlier the better.
* 1 May 2009 : acceptance/rejection of abstracts. Refereed papers are blind peer reviewed.
* 1 July 2009 : papers due
* 1 September 2009: final version of papers after blind peer review (for academic papers) for publication in the official conference proceedings.


* Keynote address/es and plenaries. Keynotes include the community informatics and newtork systems theorist and practitioner Aldo de Moor, CommunitySense, the Netherlands & the Italian feminist theorist & ICT researcher Leopoldina Fortunati, Univ. of Udine, Italy
* Ph.D. colloquium with feedback from academics and students. Students make a short presentation and submit a 1000-2000 word position paper or report.
* Integrated refereed & practitioner streams
* Social program.


There will be an official publication with an ISBN.


There is a community informatics group on Facebook--as it's an open group, please join, and let people know who you are!


We anticipate that full registrations will be in the region of €310 and a moderately priced conference banquet in Prato. The catering is first class and covers all lunches, coffee breaks and drinks on the first night. Registration concessions will be available for students. Registrations will be taken from mid-year, and is separate from your accommodation booking. You will be able to also register for social events and tours. We are also asking that all delegates contribute to a fund to assist the attendance of delegates from developing countries though a modest additional donation.

We are unable to offer any bursaries or scholarships for attendance. Delegates must seek their own funds, and secure appropriate visas to attend.

Hotel space in Prato is limited, and your early reservation is strongly encouraged. Reservations are your responsibility. See this site for accommodation information. Student accommodation can also be found on this site.


Prato is close to Italian rail, air, and other transport hubs via Florence. If you are thinking of bringing a spouse, partner, family or friend, Prato is an excellent base from which to explore Tuscany without the crowds. There are cheap airline tickets if you book in advance to Pisa airport which is about 90 minutes away.

See tourism information


Don Schauder, Monash University (Chair)
Mike Arnold, University of Melbourne, Australia
Ann Bishop, Univ. of Illinois, USA
Gunilla Bradley, Royal Institute of Tech., Sweden
Wallace Chigona, Univ. of Cape Town
Fiorella de Cindio, Univ. of Milan, Italy
Barbara Craig, Victoria Univ. of Wellington, NZ
Peter Day, Univ. of Brighton, UK
Tom Denison, Monash University
Leopoldina Fortunati, University of Udine, Italy
Ricardo Gomez, Univ. of Washington, USA
Graeme Johanson, Monash Univ, Australia
Sarai Lastra, Turabo Univ., Puerto Rico
Dario Maggiorini, University of Milano, Italy
William McIver, Jr, National Research Council Canada
Eduardo Villanueva Mansilla,Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú
Aldo de Moor, CommunitySense, the Netherlands
Marie Ouvrard, Laboratoire des Sciences d'Information et des Systèmes, Marseilles, France
Laura Ripamonti, Univ. of Milan, Italy
Doug Schuler, Evergreen State College, USA
Gilson Schwartz, Univ. São Paulo, Brazil
Jacques Steyn, Monash Univ., South Africa
Andy Williamson, Hansard Society, UK

Larry Stillman, Monash University, Organiser


Monash University
CIS University of Washington
Turabo University
GSLIS University of Illinois-Champaign
Laboratoire des Sciences de l'Information et des Systèmes(LSIS), Marseilles


All travel, visa, and insurance arrangements are you own responsibility. We also reserve the right to modify the program in any way.

Further information email: prato2009 AT