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CIRN 2009: Empowering communities: learning from community informatics practice. 4-6 November 2009 Monash University Prato Centre, Italy

Conference CD

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De Moor, Aldo, (Community Sense) The Netherlands

Community Informatics is a wide-ranging field of inquiry and practice, with many paradigms, disciplines, and perspectives intersecting. Community informatics research and practice build on several methodological pillars: contexts/values, cases, process/methodology, and systems.

Socio-technical patterns and pattern languages are the glue that help connect these pillars. Patterns define relatively stable solutions to recurring problems at the right level of abstraction, which means that they are concrete enough to be useful, while also sufficiently abstract to be reusable. The goal of this paper is to outline a practical approach to improve CI research and practice through collaboration patterns. This approach should help to strengthen the analysis, design, implementation, and evaluation of socio-technical community systems.

The methodology is illustrated with examples from the ESSENCE (E-Science/Sensemaking/Climate Change) community.

Collaboration Patterns as Building Blocks for Community Informatics. (PDF file)


pdf of powerpoints.


Fortunati, Leopoldina (University of Udine)

As the call for papers of this conference stresses, "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". While all this might be a shared hope and a concrete perspective, I would like in this keynote to address the notion of empowering.

According to Marx, what gave the power to entrepreneurs in the capitalist system analysed by him was the ownership of the means of production. Ownership in this economic system is the basis which gives to owners the right to decide how to use certain goods. The diffusion of ICTs has meant the fact that billion of people now directly possess these technologies. These might be considered as means of production of immaterial goods such as information, communication, education, entertainment and so on. Their ownership gives to people the right to decide if to use them, how to use them and to what extent, and finally for which purposes to use them.

But, having said that, does this ownership mean that it directly empowers individuals, groups or communities? Or does it need other elements such as regulations, laws, policies converging for producing the conditions of the empowerment of communities and movements? Furthermore, is it possible an empowering process without bottom up politics? Is power appropriation the true word we should use instead of empowering to describe what is happening in many community informatics practices?

Empowering Communities: Learning from community informatics practice.


COST Workshop


Co-Chairs: Vesna Dolnicar and Panayiota Tsatsou (presenting)

Presented papers are linked to the author's abstract and pdf on this page.


COST 298 members organised a panel discussion at Prato CIRN Community Informatics Conference. For information about COST 298, see

Sapio, Bartolomeo, Chair COST 298: COST 298: Participation in the Broadband Society

Gies, Lieve - Keele University: Social justice at the touch of a button? Some reflections on the use of ICT in government communication of human rights

Petric, Gregor; Petrovcic, Andraž - University of Ljubljana: Influence of sociability factors on social cohesion in web forums: 

Torben Nielsen, Karen; Pierson, Jo; Lievens, Bram - SMIT, Vrije Universiteit Brussel: How to make friends? Characteristics of existing communities that influence the role of social network sites in intra-community cohesion

Tsatsou, Panayiota - Swansea University:   Digital divides revisited: what is new about divides and their research?

In addition, Leopoldina Fortunati, leader of the COST 298 work group 2 (Users as e-actors),  was a Keynote speaker at the conference.


This video was only available to conference delegates.

Conference Papers (in order by first author surname, all streams: Refereed, PhD, non-refereed)

Refereed Paper

Agostinelli, Serge

 Our communication suggests presenting how the technical and human systems are connected in a digital community. For that purpose, we consider tools as actants, amplifiers of the interactions of the members of a community. Our purpose in this theoretical communication is to show how the tools are playing a part associated with the notion of member of a local and placed culture, authorize the construction of generative rules of possible practices. In other words, we speak about the diversion of the ways allowed by tools, that is likely innovations or capacity of anticipation.


The digital communities: indigenous knowledge to the global system of anticipation.



PhD Colloquium

Arden, Catherine (University of Southern Queensland, Australia)

The GraniteNet Project is a research and development collaboration between the University of Southern Queensland, Australia, and the community of Stanthorpe - a rural community of just over 10,000 people located within the university's regional catchment area. The vision of this Community Informatics project, which commenced in 2007 and is now in its third phase, is the development of a sustainable community designed, owned and managed web portal that will support Stanthorpe's development as a ‘learning community'.

Information Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure and skills are increasingly required for accessing information, social networking and participating in informal learning and formal education. Providing accessible learning opportunities and supporting the development of technology infrastructure and expertise are important mechanisms for building community capacity and addressing the so-called digital and learning ‘divides' that are said to exist in rural communities. The GraniteNet Project, as a Community Informatics and community learning project, provides a rich case study of the nexus between technology and learning in a rural community context. Using participatory research and design methodologies in combination with phenomenography, the study will seek to identify the range of learning opportunities afforded community members by virtue of their participation in the project, investigate the nature of the learning that occurs - as well as the barriers and affordances influencing participation and engagement - and evaluate technology-enhanced learning methodologies for facilitating and accounting for this learning. In doing so, it is hoped that the research will enhance our understanding of the relationship between ICTs and learning in informal community learning contexts that will, in turn, contribute to development of more inclusive and responsive adult and community education policy and provision and facilitate pathways between informal and formal learning.

Learning in Community Informatics: Understanding, facilitating and accounting for learning in the GraniteNet Project.



Refereed Paper

Arnold, Michael (University of Melbourne, Australia); Stillman, Larry (Centre for Community Networking Research, Monash University)

In this paper we tackle the theme of the conference head-on through addressing five questions.

1. What is power?

2. What is empowerment?

3. In what ways is it exercised?

4. How does all of this pertain to communities?

5. How does all of this pertain to Community Informatics?

The first three questions are addressed through reference to well known propositions drawn from social theory, and the last two through a content analysis meta-study of the treatment of power and empowerment in the abstracts of papers submitted to the 2009 Prato Community Informatics Conference. If one assumes that the abstracts submitted to this conference provide a representation of power and empowerment in relation to Community Informatics, one may draw a number of conclusions in relation to the above 5 questions. These conclusions are explicated in the paper.

Empowerment in the Context of Community Informatics.



Refereed Paper

Birowo, Mario Antonius (Atma Jaya Yogyakarta University Indonesia, Indonesia)

The role of community radio can be seen in the real situation based on people's daily experiences since people use their own media to fulfill their need and to help them to answer their problems. While Indonesia has been recovering from the devastating of Aceh's Tsunami and Nias's Earthquake (2004), Java's earthquake (27 May 2006), Java's Tsunami (17 July 2006) and other natural disasters also confronted Indonesia in the following time shocked Indonesia.

The position of Indonesia on the Pacific Ring of Fire, sandwich among three continent plates, and tropical region makes Indonesia has potential of various natural hazards such as earthquakes (volcanic and tectonic), volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, floods, landslides, and droughts. In disaster areas there are always a need about information, especially to evaluate their situation, how to get aid, and how to do with it. Community radio stations have shown in providing information to affected people.

Some stations used internet to support their role. The phenomena of the use of community radio in disaster areas have raised some questions. How do people use community radio in emergency situation related to natural disaster? How do people manage functions of community radio in that situation? These main questions are my focus in examining the role of community radio as media communication of people at grassroots level in facing natural disaster. This paper will contribute to new knowledge about the development of community level communication in Indonesia, especially the use of community radio as a medium in dealing with natural disasters.

The Use of Community Radio in Managing Natural Disaster in Indonesia.



Non-Refereed Paper

Brown, Daniel James (University of Alberta, Canada); Adria, Marco (University of Alberta, Canada)

Broadband technology has captured the attention of many stakeholders, nations and governments throughout the world and is recognized as a "nation building" infrastructure enabling future economic prosperity and improved living standards for many communities. In 2005, the Alberta government completed a significant investment into the construction of a unique high-speed, high capacity fiber optic network connecting rural communities throughout the province.

 The network was the first of its kind in the world in terms of the advantages it represented for rural individuals to benefit from easy access to broadband. Paradoxically, as of 2008, Alberta is ranked last in Canada for rural broadband access. This research examines how ambiguity and uncertainty faced by industry decision-makers and broadband stakeholders has contributed to the state of rural broadband adoption. Interviews were conducted with industry decision-makers selected by their participation in a rural broadband round table held in Calgary, AB in March 2008.

Through the application of Weick's (1995) Sensemaking framework, the research identifies several areas of ambiguity and uncertainty relating to the question of rural broadband adoption. A primary finding is that several self-fulfilling prophecies have developed through collective Sensemaking processes and have had an immobilizing affect on the development of rural broadband.

Ambiguity and Uncertainty in the last mile: broadband adoption in rural Alberta.



Refereed Paper

Chigona, Wallace; Roode, Dewald; Nabeel, Nazeer; Pinnock, Brian


This paper uses the Stakeholder Theory to analyse the implementation of a pilot phase of public access project, the Smart Cape Access Initiative. The project is a Cape Town City Council e-government initiative. Data for the study was gathered through in-depth interviews with individuals who were involved, influenced and were affected by the implementation of the pilot project. The study identified the major stakeholders of the project and assessed their importance and influence on the project. Results showed a varying level of commitment amongst the stakeholders. The study identifies numerous interactions between the stakeholders. Some of the interactions were positive while others resulted in conflicts, requiring concessions/bargains. It was further noted that no active stakeholder management was undertaken at two of the stages of the project lifecycle, namely the identification and planning stages. In addition, results showed that there were missed opportunities for stakeholder management or inappropriate stakeholder management throughout the project. This research offers substantial insights to agencies involved in planning and running public access projects.

Investigating the impact of stakeholder management on the implementation of a public access project: case of Smart Cape.



PhD Colloquium

Copeland, Sarah (Leeds Metropolitan University, United Kingdom)

Rural communities have their share of tensions, motivated, in part, by (mis)perceptions between homophilous groups. When tensions lead to conflict, crossing those boundaries to give all parties an equal voice can be a challenge.

This qualitative research project seeks to investigate whether Digital Storytelling has the potential to act as an effective bridge across boundaries that occur within rurally-located intergenerational groups. Digital Storytelling, along with other Web 2.0 tools, will be used as a method of communication in two rural Case Studies. The aim is to improve channels of communication and facilitate a greater awareness of others' perspectives, with an end goal of social action leading to conflicts being addressed. Introducing a technology-led intervention to a community allows a tangible artefact to be created that will remain after the research itself is completed.

This, coupled with the group learning experience, may prove to offer the emancipation that Community Informatics research projects aim for, as participants become "active makers rather than passive consumers of technology". (LaFontaine, 2006) The Digital Storytelling workshops will draw on elements from a Participatory Action Research framework and this qualitative research project will use Narrative Analysis as well as tools such as Schuler's (2008) Liberating Voices pattern language book. Changes in the participants' perception will be analysed as will any moves by the participants to use the stories and/or the experience to increase prominence of their perspective.

Digital Storytelling: A cross-boundary method for intergenerational groups in rural communities.



Refereed Paper

Day, Peter,  Matthew Cox, Grace Hillyard, Agnieszka Korczynska, Charlotte McConkey, Harriet Niven, Daisy Timson, Martin Wonham

 (University of Brighton, United Kingdom)

Following on the back of 2 funded research projects, the activities and practices of the CNA group at the University of Brighton have undergone a period of change. The absence of funding and time to pursue research proposals currently has forced us to be creative by exploring how the academic curriculum and resources of a UK university can support the formal requirements of HE student learning and the more informal learning needs found in community practice through the development of community media/informatics learning partnerships.

So that consideration might be given to the potential for CI academics, in the absence of research and development funding, to engage in meaningful community ICT research and practice partnerships, a number of CNA community informatics/media partnership activities are presented briefly through the joint lenses of community empowerment and community development lens. The significance of community voice and community learning in facilitating and enabling active citizenship and empowered communities through community informatics practices is also explored.

Empowerment through community-based learning: a double edged sword.


Refereed Paper

Dhakal, Subas Prasad

The potential of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in empowering generally under-resourced community organizations has increasingly been acknowledged in recent years. While organizational empowerment refers to enhancing the capability to accomplish organizational objectives by overcoming resource-scarcities, measuring ICTs' contribution towards organizational empowerment remains exigent.


Theories on ‘resource dependence' and ‘social networks' provide a useful framework to examine how organizations utilize intra-organizational as well as inter-organizational social capital to acquire essential resources. This paper explores the implications of ICTs towards fostering social capital as a proxy indicator of ICTs mediated empowerment. Based on a survey responses from 81 Environmental Community Organizations (ECOs) in Western Australia (WA) and interviews with the leaders, the findings indicate, a) ECOs with higher social capital are in a better position to garner resources and accomplish organizational objectives, b) the trend of access to ICTs (more than one-tenth not having an access to the Internet) as well as ICTs adoption (less than one-third hosting websites, and less than one-tenth posting blogs) is generally weak, and, c) ICTs tend to exclusively enhance the capability of ECOs already with higher social capital.


Apart from illustrating the usefulness of social capital framework to gauge ICTs mediated empowerment, the findings also exposed the extent of organizational divide amongst ECOs. This paper therefore acknowledges that access to and adoption of ICTs without the necessary skills and support mechanisms will rather impede empowerment and suggests ways to make ICTs mediated empowerment meaningful in the context of ECOs in WA.

A Social Capital Framework to Assess ICTs Mediated Empowerment of Environmental Community Organizations in Western Australia.



Refereed Paper

Elliott, Alison (Charles Darwin University)


Remote schools in predominantly Indigenous (Australian) towns and communities are confronted by staffing challenges unimaginable in urban areas. Ideally, remote schools should be staffed largely by teachers who have strong social and cultural ties to their communities and who want to live and work in them. However, for a range of complex cultural, social and economic reasons, many Indigenous people living in remote Australia who would make excellent teachers are not in the position to participate in mainstream higher education programs and to qualify, nor are they able to participate in external studies or open learning programs because of limited ICT access and skills and other social and communication challenges.


 This paper outlines the pedagogical underpinnings of Growing our Own and particularly, ways in which community informatics are used to empower learning. Growing our Own addresses the long standing problem of engaging remote Indigenous learners in higher education, and in the longer term, building a sustainable, Indigenous teaching workforce by delivering teacher education in situ in remote Northern Territory communities. Growing Our Own is a partnership between Charles Darwin University and Catholic Education Northern Territory and funded by a $1.82 million Commonwealth government grant. The program is delivered ‘in-place' and empowers students by valuing and actively embracing cultural knowledges as it builds relevant ways of knowing and doing ‘schooling' to meet teacher registration requirements. It employs one-to-one and group tutoring along with digital technologies to personalise learning, to build learning communities and provide access to the wider world of education, teaching and learning.

 Prior to commencing the program students did not own computers nor were they able to access the digital technologies that most Australians or Europeans take for granted. Growing Our Own employs digital technologies to support pedagogies that build on students' cultural knowledges and existing teaching skills. All students are employed as teacher assistants. Simultaneously, they are used to support academic staff and co-teachers to enrich their understandings of local Indigenous cultures and ways of knowing, being and doing. This ‘two ways' approach infuses cultural identities and knowledges across all aspects of the program to empower learning. Its culturally responsive and engaging orientation values Indigenous educators' strong sense of cultural identity and learning styles that value collaborative work.

Equally, it recognises the university's need to work in more culturally effective and educationally significant ways with Indigenous learners. Importantly, digital technologies help scaffold personalised learning approaches, including assessment, that empower students and the wider community to calibrate personal and local knowledges with mainstream curriculum knowledge and effective teaching strategies.

Empowering Indigenous learners in remote Australian communities.



PhD Colloquium

Farinosi, Manuela (University of Udine, Italy)

The overall purpose of my PhD project is to explore the meaning and significance of the term privacy in the light of the intensive diffusion of user generated content (UGC) on the web. Nowadays the so called "Web 2.0" is deeply changing not only the way we interact with other people (just think about blogs, video or photo sharing website and social network sites), but also our view of what is "private".

Every day a large amount of people in the world uses digital media to create online profiles, to share personal details with vast network of friends and, often, with unknown numbers of strangers and to produce, in this way, persistent digital information. A vast range of personal data is exposed to a mass audience and very often the desire to show oneself is stronger than the fear of being monitored.

My empirical analysis is based on 150 written interviews carried out with university students (age between 19 and 27) and 50 written interviews carried out with high school students (14 to 16 years). The data from the interviews were content-analysed. Emergent themes were ranked by their frequency of mention and were then categorized and analysed from a qualitative point of view to understand how young people frame the topic of privacy on the Web.

Towards a Postpanopticon perspective: privacy, control and UGC.



Refereed Paper

Flipsen, Nicole Annette (Radboud University Nijmegen, Netherlands); van der Weide, Theo Petrus (Radboud University Nijmegen, Netherlands); Pscheidt(presenting), Marcus (Radboud University Nijmegen, Netherlands)


The Middle Out approach is a method to introduce ICT education in developing countries. The basic idea is to start at a Polytechnic University level. This Polytechnic University starts with the introduction of an ICT program and an Education program. The underlying educational philosophy is learning-by-doing. The practical component directly results in market oriented products. This will enhance a short-term return on investment. The first two years of both study programs have a practical nature, the last two years give the student the required theoretical skills.

The general structure of the program is as follows: 1. practical part, fundamental theory 1. year 1: production 2. year 2: maintenance 2. theoretical part, year 3 and 4, constructive theory The ICT students start their first year with learning how computers are constructed by main part computer assembly. This assemblage is a main activity during their first year. After 1 month these computers are prepared for commercial market purposes, or distribution to participating schools or other organizations. The computers will be offered at a fair price and quantity to the industry providing the Polytechnic University with a solid financial balance. Remaining assembled computers will be made available at a reduced price for primary schools. The first year students will also handle the computer installation at these participating primary schools. Furthermore they will deliver the assembled computers to a special computer shop run by the Polytechnic University. This shop also provides other computer supplies to its customers, takes care of purchasing the main parts and other related goods and materials.

The shop also functions as an intermediate for maintenance contracts of its customers. The Educational students work in their first year in setting up ICT training programs for primary schools, and in providing basic trainings to teachers from schools enrolling in this ICT Education program. In the second year, the selected primary schools have their required installed computers and a few trained teachers. These primary schools at the same time start their ICT educational program for their pupils. During this second year, the Educational students maintain the ICT training program by supporting the schools, their teachers and its pupils. The ICT students center their activities on maintenance activities of the installed computers.

The main idea is that after one year there is a steady cycle of ICT introduction at primary schools. If we assume primary school takes 8 years (ages 4 - 12 years), we could start the introduction in year 7 of the program. So after 2 years, these primary schools will be delivering pupils with the necessary basic ICT skills. At this moment secondary schools should be involved in the ICT program as participating schools to facilitate the fresh equipped pupils. In the second part of their training, both ICT and Educational students focus on strengthening their previous gained skills at a theoretic level.

After 4 years, these students will be graduating at the Polytechnic University, work in the industry, or continue their education in an (international) master program, afterwards possibly followed by a PhD program. The focus of this paper is to describe the Middle Out Approach at the level of Polytechnic Universities. We will provide a global business plan to be used as a blueprint in other situations also. Furthermore, we see this Global Business Plan as a Proof of Concept for the Middle Out Approach.

The Middle Out Approach: a program for the introduction of ICT education.



Refereed Paper

Freistadt, Jay Oliver; Pal, Joyojeet (University of Washington) ,Regina Helena Alves da Silva (Federal University of Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, Brazil)


The recent spurt of interest in technology and development in Brazil features a complex environment of actors including the state, industry, international aid and NGOs. Developmental projects working in this area have focused on providing subsidized technology and employment agency services, usually through community centers. Presenting here results from primary research conducted in three urban and peri-urban locations of São Paulo and Belo Horizonte, we find structural factors around higher education have been elemental in influencing peoples' participation in technology centers. We find a recurrent theme that the competitive nature of free state-run higher education has led to limited access to quality higher education for the urban poor. This in turn has led to technology training centers being seen as partially filling a gap in the education of urban poor. Thus the perception is of these preparing youth not just for jobs that actually require the specific skills taught, but even more generally providing a ‘foot-in-the-door' for professional opportunities, especially in urban slums where the lack of social networks and stigma of poverty came up as a significant challenge for young job seekers. Using extensive in-depth interviews from recipients and providers of services, we discuss the imagination of technology centers from two frames. First, we examine the claim of offering a competitive parallel training system for those with limited access to institutional higher education, second, we examine these centers as part of the aspirational environment around technology access both at the client level, and within Brazil's emergent consciousness of leadership in the developing world.

ICT Centers and the access gap to formal higher education for the poor in Brazil. Brazil.



PhD Colloquium

Gamage, Premila (Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka)

A significant number of ICT for Development (ICT4D) initiatives are in existence that try to build digital opportunities for marginalized communities. However, expand accessibility to ICTs only will not allow disadvantage communities to gain real benefits from its use. The most critical challenge face by these ICT4D initiatives, especially ‘Telecentres' is how to provide services that are applicable and suitable for local communities information needs. In this context, the study aims to address four major issues namely: (a) Access (b) Relevance (c) Management and Sustainability and (d) Environments.

The study seeks to ascertain: what are the different access models? Why are alternative access models needed for the developing world? How have they been set-up? What is the nature of the social, economic, political and technological context within which the Telecentres operate? What factors affect access and use of telecentres? How relevant (i.e., useful and appropriate) are the content and services offered or available at the Telecentres to community members and how well they meet community needs? What is local content and its relation to access models? How do communities engage with new ICTs and how relevant do they seem to their lives?

The overall aim of the study is to investigate whether the ‘Telecentres' enables the disadvantage communities to have ‘appropriate and meaningful' access to information and whether it enhances the capabilities of disadvantage communities to achieve better lifestyles. The study will be qualitative and exploratory and will be the first in-depth study on Sri Lankan telecentres that examines telecentres from a community-centred perspective. For this study both community and commercial models will be examined in-depth and six cases will be purposively selected from most under privileged districts.

A Critical Assessment of the ‘1000 Telecentre Programme' of the e-Sri Lanka Initiative and its Effectiveness in Decreasing ‘Digital Inequality'.



Refereed Paper

Garrido, Maria; Rissola, Gabriel; Rastrelli, Milvia (University of Washington, United States of America, Digital Organization Thinking; : L'Apis)


The main objective of this study is to understand the contribution of e‐Skills training programs in helping immigrant women to enter the labor market in mainly four European Union countries: Italy, Spain, and The Netherlands in Western Europe and Hungary (as a receiver country) and Romania (as a source country).

The research focuses on first generation migrant women looking for a job, which are one of the weaker actors of the migration chain due to the urgent needs they have to afford (regularize their legal status, prepare a CV, send money to family abroad and communicate regularly with them). Opposite to that are second generation members of established immigrants groups -excluded from this research‐ who have developed a knowledge about the receptive society (speak local language, know their social codes, etc) and have less urgent inclusion needs; their problem is of another nature, normally characterized by a polarization between "adapted" to the new culture and "traditionalists" who are reluctant to it.

The research analyzes the perspectives for immigrant women in the EU labor market and the role of ICT skills from four different paths that lead towards employability: 1) Autonomy and self-reliance; 2) Social inclusion; 3) Training and learning; 4) Cultural inclusion. For this paper in particular, we discuss the role of ICT skills training programs provided by social organizations in the five countries in promoting the path to second path - social inclusion - and the third path - training and learning. The role of ICT skills is conveived both, as skills on their own right, and as catalyst to promote these two paths and the effect on employability outcomes for immigrant women

The role of digital competences in advancing the employability of immigrant women in the European Union.



Refereed Paper

Gies, Lieve ( Keele University)

Digital communication is today an integral part of the implementation of policy, especially when it concerns initiatives which aim to create greater awareness or improve knowledge among specific groups. Websites, electronic kiosks and touchscreens have become important in facilitating communication between government and citizens. However, when it comes to disadvantaged groups, such digital channels can pose significant challenges which are closely related to problems of social exclusion, including low literacy and IT skills, which may hinder the effective take-up of information. In light of this, it is also important to probe the issue of whether e-initiatives in the implementation of social policies may merely amount to a cost-saving measure which does not necessarily benefit the groups whose plight or circumstances a policy is trying to improve.

While often seemingly innovative and cutting edge, the use of interactive media tends to transfer significant responsibilities onto the user-citizen whose labour is in effect utilised as an important resource in the delivery of public information and services. At one level, this may be empowering, making the user-citizen feel more in control and better able to exercise choice.

At another level, however, the digital interface could provoke feelings of disempowerment and disenfranchisement, for example, when it forces users to simplify complex and sensitive issues to such an extent that it no longer offers an accurate reflection of their experiences. These issues, involving hopes, hypes and genuine improvements, need to be taken into account when examining how ICT may help to overcome social inequality. Taking such concerns as its principal backdrop, the case study at heart of this paper involves the British Human Rights Act 1998 which aims to promote human rights in public life. The paper will reflect on the use of ICT for a) instigating a general human rights culture which the legislation aims to create by making citizens more aware of their rights and b) raising awareness among vulnerable groups who are most likely to suffer significant infringements of their human rights.

The Digital Citizen and the Serendipity of Life.



Refereed Paper

Gordon, Andrew (University of Washington, United States of America); Sullivan, Joseph (University of Washington, United States of America)


Generalizable community technology findings might be impossible to deliver. On top of the inevitable threats to validity of social science (Campbell), uses and users of community technology are incredibly diverse and defy simple comparison and generalization. One approach is to critically interrogate each piece of research for 1.) what it can say (and cannot say) about a particular intervention, and 2.) its relationship to the body of evidence as a whole. Like crime scene investigators that reconstruct events based on available evidence, research is devised and implemented to fill gaps and complement the larger body of work. Our strategy applies the logic of quasi-experiments and attribution theory to systematically assemble evidence from across the universe of community technology interventions to draw general conclusions, while preserving the distinctiveness of particular cases and methods. This paper briefly describes our theoretical approach and demonstrates its utility.

Evidence-based approaches to community technology research: Applying quasi-experimental and attribution matrices.



Refereed Paper

Gould, Elizabeth (University of Washington, United States of America); Gomez, Ricardo (University of Washington, United States of America)

This paper analyzes how public perceptions of libraries affect the way they are used as public access venues for information and communication technologies around the world. It is part of a study conducted by the University of Washington's Center for Information & Society (CIS) in 25 developing countries around the globe. The goal of the study is to identify how people are satisfying their information needs through public access venues such as public libraries, telecentres and cybercafés, with the intent of informing policy makers and funders to help encourage more meaningful use and social appropriation of ICTs in public access venues. Understanding how libraries can contribute to public access first requires understanding how they are perceived by users. This in turn requires understanding who libraries really serve, and how governments prioritize resource allocation for libraries.

This study revealed three key challenges facing libraries as they revisit their public service mandate and embrace the information age. These challenges are interrelated. We describe and analyze them one by one and conclude with a set of recommendations to help libraries capitalize on the new opportunities presented to them:

  • Perceptions matter: The perceptions by users and governments shape the actual uses of library services.
  • Users matter: This study helps inform a more accurate understanding of who libraries actually serve.
  • Power and money matter: Government prioritization in the allocation of resources makes a difference in the success of libraries as public information venues in society. All three factors are intertwined.

Library services are often tied to user perceptions, such as who uses the library and why, and whether the government allocates resources for library services. Government prioritization and resource allocation is often correlated with how libraries are perceived by the public as well as the government, and who the library has historically served

New challenges for libraries in the information age: A comparative study of ICT in public libraries in 25 countries.



Refereed Paper

Grunfeld, Helena (Victoria University, Australia); Hak, Sokleap (iReach, Cambodia); Pin, Tara (iReach, Cambodia)


The research on iREACH presented in this paper is the first wave of a longitudinal study, aimed at testing a framework for evaluating how information and communication technologies can contribute to capabilities, empowerment and sustainability. The framework is informed by Amartya Sen's capability approach (CA), uses a participatory methodology, considers the micro-, meso-, and macro- levels in understanding the role of ICT in development, and adopts a forward-looking longitudinal perspective. Key findings of this research are that iREACH has contributed to livelihoods and other aspects of well-being in diverse ways, primarily in education, health, and farming. Participants also valued iREACH because of its contribution to empowerment, particularly gender empowerment. This intrinsic value of iREACH also manifested itself in a general appreciation of just being part of the world and knowing what goes on in other parts of Cambodia and beyond. These findings are consistent with the CA's emphasis on development as being about more than economic growth. They also support the importance of considering external factors, conceptualised here as the meso- and macro- levels.

How iREACH has contributed to local communities.



PhD Colloquium

Guddireddigari, Sriram (Monash University, Australia)

Currently, it is a moot point as to whether ICTs tend to perpetuate the mores and patterns of social interactions of the homeland, or whether they promote acceptance of the diaspora into the host country. The overall aim of the research is to determine how online technologies impact on integration, assimilation, and multiculturalism amongst the Indian Diaspora in France via survey questionnaire and semi-structured interviews of those amongst the Diaspora who are active users of discussion lists, blogs, and social networking tools. As an extension, interviews of key stakeholders associated with the Diaspora such as migrant-related aid agencies, government liaison staff, and Diaspora associations, may be conducted to obtain a wider perspective. Outputs from this research are expected to play a role in the shaping of public policy around information and communications technology and program design aimed at migrant communities.

Understanding how online tools shape the process of integration for the Indian Diaspora in France.



Refereed Paper

Lambert, Frank Pierre

(Kent State University)

This study uses an organization called (MCI) as a site to investigate issues in community informatics from a generational (Kubicek and Wagner, 2002), a social shaping of technology (SST) (MacKenzie and Wajcman, 1985), and a social construction of technology (SCOT) (Pinch and Bijker, 1987) perspective. MCI's model of delivering online community information (CI) claims to be a simple, innovative, cost-effective, and potentially indefinitely sustainable approach to providing online community information during times when CI providers are faced with the challenges of remaining viable financially. MCI's service has been available to residents of the rural and urban municipalities of Middlesex County, the City of London, and, as a subscriber to the service since 2004, the Region of Waterloo, all of which are located in south-western Ontario, Canada.

MCI's technological approach to CI provision addresses two concerns that were vital to the main actors involved with the project. These actors were senior bureaucrats from all three levels of Canadian government representing a number of jurisdictions, ministries, and agencies. The first goal of these bureaucrats was to empower the local community based on their accumulated knowledge and experience with ICTs by conceptualizing, designing, funding, and implementing an ever-expanding and scalable online single point of access to the information resources of local non-profit community organizations as well as those of the respective municipal, provincial, and federal governments. Their second goal was to do all of this within a technological framework that would be financially sustainable nearly indefinitely.

Thus the state and economic considerations were important factors in the shaping of a currently available technology, a Google search appliance, to meet the goals of a number of socially committed technology enthusiasts (MacKenzie and Wajcman, 1985; Kubicek and Wagner, 2002). This notion of offering single point access to government information also had been identified serendipitously through other research as being a primary worry of government information seekers in Canada around the same time as the first meetings of the MCI project (Erin Research Inc., 1998; CCMD, 1999). Additionally, with few options available to it based on economic considerations especially, representatives of the rural municipality of Middlesex County emerged as a significant social group amongst the various government groups involved with the project (Pinch and Bijker, 1987). These representatives found themselves compelled to voice the municipality's opposition to some of the other CI providers being considered, including the United Way's 211 service based solely on economic concerns. Despite the pressures of various social forces guiding these socially committed government officials to create a different approach to online CI, it would appear that success has been achieved with MCI's realization.

However, there are limitations to its particular CI provision model. Not least of these limitations, but a potentially significant one in community informatics, is the fact that this project was exclusively a top-down approach in the design and implementation of an online CI service (Rosenbaum, 1998). Regardless, the future may demonstrate that MCI's approach is an effective and, very importantly, a financially affordable model for other communities to consider as an alternative method of delivering online information to community members so that these citizens may be able to solve better, and continue to solve, their everyday life information requirements.

Can communities be empowered still with a ‘top-down' approach to ICT conceptualization, design, and implementation? The case of



Refereed Paper

Marie  Ouvrard; Marielle, Medge-Agostinelli   (Université Aix-Marseille, France; IUT Université Sud Toulon Var, Dep SRC)

La problématique générale de cette communication consiste à montrer comment, au cœur du concept complexe d'espace d'actants (Latour, 2001 ; Deleuze & Gattari 1980), dans un environnement des Technologies de l'Information et de la Communication, des individus appartenant à un groupe culturel peuvent « prendre en main » leur destin. Cette « prise en main » où chaque actant devient un « participant responsable » met en œuvre, entre autre, des processus de désir, de motivation, d'échange et de traduction.

Le contexte général de cette étude se base sur un projet au Sud Liban, pour localiser efficacement les mines à fragmentation et pour prévenir les populations à risque, ébauché avec la FINUL/UNIFIL et l'UNICEF pour étudier l'utilisation d'un outil de technologie avancée : 5e écran (Skacan, 2007)1. L'utilisation d'un tel outil représente un moyen efficace de « prise en main », par les populations concernées, de la détection des mines et du déminage ainsi que de la prévention, notamment pour les adolescents. Le 5e écran représente un outil de rassemblement et d'échange entre les différentes communautés agissant sur le terrain :les populations concernées qui s'investissent dans le déminage de leurs terres et dans l'information auprès des jeunes sur les risques des mines antipersonnels, la FINUL/UNIFIL, avec ses outils experts de cartographie et l'UNICEF avec son savoir-faire pédagogique et éducatif, pour guider et accompagner les scolaires pendant tout le processus. Le projet est dirigé dans le but de permettre aux groupes de jeunes du Sud-Liban de se « prendre en main » en leur offrant la possibilité de s'exprimer ouvertement et librement afin qu'ils puissent débattre sur la conscience du risque autour des mines antipersonnel à défragmentation. Un groupe de professionnels libanais : caméramans, cinéastes, éditeurs, concepteurs Web, techniciens, etc. accompagnent les jeunes scolarisés pendant tout le processus.

Tous les « actants » (Latour, 2001) cités ci-dessus vont partager momentanément un espace où ils acteront ensemble. Au croisement des concepts d'espace et d'actants émerge un paradoxe que nous supposons intéressant pour permettre aux actants de se « prendre en main ». Afin d'enrichir ce paradoxe en vue d'une participation responsable des groupes communautaires autour de l'outil technologique (5e écran, dans notre cas), nous utiliserons la distinction, émise par Deleuze et Gattari, incluse dans le concept d'espace : espace lisse (l'espace nomade où se développe la machine de guerre) et espace strié (l'espace sédentaire, institué par l'Etat).

Nous confronterons cette distinction à notre objet : l'éducation « participative et responsabilisante» aux risques des mines antipersonnels pour les populations, notamment adolescentes, du Sud-Liban ainsi qu'au concept d'actant (Latour, 2001). Nous verrons comment l'outil de technologie avancée (ici 5e écran), admis dans un espace de non-règle, va catalyser une population pour qu'elle « prenne les choses en main » et qu'elle soit partie prenante, concernant sa vie (et sa survie) en se mélangeant à l'organisation « striée » culturelle et éducationnelle des Organisations internationales : FINUL/UNIFIL et UNICEF. Pour Deleuze et Gattari : « Traduire n'est pas non plus un acte secondaire". En conclusion, l'addition d'un outil de technologie avancée, d'une équipe l'accompagnant et guidant les populations participantes, grâce aux « armées » converties en « aides » d'urgence maîtrisant les cartographies (UNIFIL/FINUL) et aux projets pédagogiques avérés (UNICEF) crée un espace d'actants à la fois strié et lisse permettant tant la traduction (production striée) que l'expression libre des désirs, des motivations et les échanges (action lisse) où « prendre en main » et « être partie prenante » (empowerment) se situe sur la tranche des deux facettes de « prendre » : d'un côté, avoir en main, transmettre, utiliser et, de l'autre, se rendre maître.

Offrir un espace de « participation responsable » (empowerment) grâce à un outil technologique L'éducation « participative et responsabilisante » aux risques des mines antipersonnel pour les populations, notamment adolescentes, du Sud-Liban.



Refereed Paper

Martin, Mike; Walsh, Sarah; Wilson, Rob  (Newcastle University Business School, United Kingdom)


In this paper we constructed a theory of intervention in the co-construction of partnership and enterprise. This draws on Bateson's concepts of second order cybernetics and deutero-learning and on Pierre Bourdieu's reflexive practice. At its core is Badiou's concept of the event and of new things coming to count in the situation. Because our intervention is concerned with partnership formation rather than operation within established enterprise, we also maintain that any intervention must be based on the nurturing and encouragement of co-construction among participants: trust can not be mandated or imposed. But this reformulation of intervention values, contexts and relationships is not sufficient: real specificatory work has to be undertaken if a technical and organisational system is to be deployed and governed.

The conventional architectural discourse of management and information systems, limited as it is to the systematisation of behaviour, capability and capacity, has proved to be expressively inadequate in contexts such as the caring and developmental services. We propose a framework for an extended architectural discourse of socio-technical systems which combines the these extensional projections with the intentional concepts of jurisprudence. In the proposed approach, the concepts of roles and relationships, instruments and behaviours are combined with capabilities and capacities in a unified architectural framework.

This results in the possibility of a new demarcation between the participative, co-productive and deliberative work of signification: what count as intentions and extensions, from the technical work of formulating the theories, understanding the constraints and generating the constructions which are to be offered in response. We conclude with a case study of how these considerations informed a practical intervention in partnership formation, mutual sense making and the co-construction of a vision of a complex multi-agency environment.

A Social Informatics Intervention: theory, method and practice.



Refereed Paper

Masizana-Katongo, Audrey; Morakanyane, Resego (presenting) (University of Botswana)

In January 2005 the Department of Computer Science, University of Botswana received funding for a project, which is part of their Digital Inclusion initiative aiming at bridging the gap between relatively well-developed and less-developed regions in the world. The project termed, IHISM (Integrated Healthcare Information System through Mobile telephony) aims to contribute to the digital divide by developing an HIV and AIDS public information portal accessible through mobile phones. Botswana as a developing country is one of those countries hard hit by the HIV/AIDS pandemic and the impact of HIV/AIDS on national development and socioeconomic transformations has made it a national development priority. The government is working hard to facilitate the provision of education and raising awareness concerning the pandemic. However, the country is facing a challenge of uneven population and development distribution with most population, developments and higher levels of literacy found in urban areas. As a result such challenges disadvantage rural populations by making them the victims of digital divide, lagging behind when it comes to information accessibility. To improve this situation, technology solutions are needed to bridge this gap. To take up this opportunity, the IHISM takes advantage of the country's high mobile penetration by using this technology to improve access to HIV and AIDS information. This research aims at devising the best technological solution to present information in ways that the semi-literate and illiterate populations can be able to comprehend and use effectively using mobile phones.

Representing Information for Semi-Literate Users: digital inclusion using mobile phone technology.



Refereed Paper

McLoughlin, Ian (Monash University, Australia); Maniatopoulos, Greg (KITE, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK); Wilson, Rob (KITE, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK); Martin, Mike (KITE, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK)


The European population is ageing. Funding pressure, policy imperatives and new technological possibilities have created much public policy interest in the provision of virtual or ‘telehealth' and social care services to older people. However, the track record of attempts to develop such services suggests many difficulties have to be overcome. This paper reports on the experience of a European Union funded project involving collaboration between local government, system developers, service providers and users and an academic research team (of which the authors are members) to develop ‘virtual' health and social care services for older people. A key feature of the project is a desire to make users (care providers as well as service users) more central to the system design and development process. For the academic research team pursuing this objective involves an action research intervention to nurture a form of ‘co-production'. The objective is to move the orientation of the project away from a ‘techno-centric' approach to a ‘service orientation'. That is, one based on the needs and obligations inherent in the practice and context of communities of care.

'When I'm 64'?: Developing a community of care centered approach to virtual services for older people.



Refereed Paper

Muda, Suhaini (Macquarie University, Australia)

The rapid expansion of Information Communications Technology (ICT) globally has brought advantages and opportunities worldwide and also to the Malaysian society. Besides offering greater potential for human advancement, the global technological breakthroughs are accompanied by concerns of increasing digital divide. Therefore, effort should be taken to reduce the digital divide at the earlier stage as many scholars view that the failure to tackle the digital divide and increase ICT skills in the immediate future could reduce the ability of the nation to compete effectively in many important areas. In this case, community collaborative partnership is taken as one of the approaches that could be used in placing effort to close the digital divide. Children in orphanages who are normally being viewed as underprivileged segment of the society are highly possible to be excluded from the ICT development. Therefore, it is important to include them in the effort to bridge the digital divide. Based on the review of available documents and a brief interview, this paper presents a structure of a community informatics for empowering children in orphanages in Malaysia, and discusses the roles played by various stakeholders that keep them working together in an electronic community (eCommunity). This is a part of my initial findings for my ongoing research on a case study of an eCommunity in Malaysia.

Empowering underprivileged children through community informatics: partnership strategies of an electronic community in Malaysia.




Refereed Paper

Neff, Philip John (Center for Information and Society, Univ. of Washington, United States of America); Pal, Joyojeet (Center for Information and Society, Univ. of Washington, United States of America); Frix, Michele (Center for Information and Society, Univ. of Washington, United States of America)


Much recent work has looked at the various ways in which access to computing has impacted empowerment for people with disabilities, though such research discusses conditions in the global North. We present here work from primary research among technology training centers for people with disabilities in Mexico, Ecuador, and Venezuela to explore the manifestations of empowerment that these services offer. In framing empowerment from two perspectives-those of ‘coping' and ‘transforming'-we find that the two most important areas within this realm where technology seems to have an impact are in employability and aspiration. We find that although employment-generation has been slow through such training centers, a number of users cite the need of basic technology training as a threshold minimum for employment and other benefits including a strengthening sense of community and a positive impact on self esteem. Supporting past work on ICTs and aspiration, our research finds that technology, especially when adapted to the specifications of disabled people, can increase both external aspirational horizons-for example in the types of jobs or education levels deemed accessible-and interior measures of self-worth and capacity. By focusing on aspiration and self-perception, our goal here is also to recast the discussion on disability and technology towards an empowerment frame. The research presented here is intended as a starting point for such a discussion in what has been a domain within both Development Studies and Information Studies.

Technology Training & Empowerment: Aspiration & Employability for the Disabled in Latin America.



PhD Colloquium

Negrini, Michela (University of Lugano (USI), Switzerland, Italy)


*Disclaimer: in this research, by the term ‘media' I intend the tools used to store and deliver information and to communicate, also by sharing and discussing information and referring to activities that integrate technology; it also apply to the tools, materials and techniques used by an artist to produce a work. On the contrary, the term does not imply ‘mass media' such as TV, newspapers, etc... Topic of research and method(s) used: Since the 1960's media has entered the "world" of art and the "space" of museums and galleries and its presence has transformed the traditional perception of artistic practices and the space it occupies, questioning every fundamental assumption in museum practice, including the role of museums in communicating.

All the things museums are based and structured upon are now practically thrown open to question. Focusing on communication, this investigation explores the role media and technology play in contemporary art museums, influencing the public's practice and consume. The central questions being: - how media are engaged in supporting communication in cultural institutions? - how media and technologies influence access, contact and enjoyment of a work of art? While museums become a media laboratory, experimenting technology and its different uses, media acquire a strategic role for communication in cultural heritage, including social media, and more generally Web 2.0.; web sites, indeed, are becoming web applications and web visitors are becoming users and forming communities.

Exploring the concept that producing cultural experiences could be accomplished by performing an act of co-creation between organisation and participating audiences, between museum and the outside world, this research introduces virtual communities and environments in the analysis. As the field of research is variable and unstable, this work aims to develop a communication strategy for contemporary art spaces. The goal is to create a virtual space, a bridge between time, space and geography, a venue in which media art projects find place and where everyone is invited to join in and participate, spreading and accessing media art around the world. This web site warrant a community spirit of activity and engagement, fostering art projects, videos, interviews, photographs, etc... Impact studies will support the strategy result. An interdisciplinary approach - including ethnographical as well as historical, archival, and literature research -allows this this analysis, which is carried on research, conversations with curators, museum directors, artists, new media professionals and experts, observing the contradiction between new media culture and museum culture and the participation of museums to the new media fray.

These conversations have been crucial to collect information, considering the shortage of existing documentation of the topic. Additional data are a result of my private participation, memory and response: I worked and researched in the field of exhibition practice and presentation of contemporary art. An anthropological approach compliments the research, through participatory observation in museums, galleries and site-specific events.

The role of media in supporting communication in cultural institutions. Case study: communicating media art.



PhD Colloquium

Noble, Safiya Umoja (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)


Over the past 20 years, from 1989 to 2009, researchers and community members at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have been consistently involved in exploring and applying technology usage in the local community, specifically in African-American communities in Illinois. This effort was, in part, an attempt to understand the benefits, obstacles and constraints of informaticizing community activities and preserving and digitizing culture among technologically under-served (and often "redlined") communities.

This paper is an attempt to highlight specific initiatives and collaborations that have been a part of the development and institutionalization of a Community Informatics Initiative in the Graduate School of Library & Information Science at Illinois. Building on the assorted and emerging definitions of Community Informatics (CI) by researchers who have been at the forefront of grassroots and localized technology programs, this paper will attempt to identify two major theoretical and philosophical approaches to merging community-based interests with technological application and integration. Identification of funding sources and long-term sustainability is certainly an important aspect of technology integration and maintenance, which will be examined in the programs in this survey.

As well, the process by which community technology projects impact geographical spaces and individuals cannot be under-examined, as digitization efforts and the use of Internet Communication Technologies (ICTs) are contending with real social, political and economic constraints. By this effort, I intend to outlay models for approaching community informatics and identify the research methods used, outcomes and implications for future CI projects and the implications of research projects that are difficult to sustain over time given resource and volunteer constraints.

By examining two contrasting CI projects from Illinois' we attempt to learn how to improve sustainability and model CI projects that are the result of university and community based organizational effort. One model is the outcome of an organically generated grassroots community effort, SisterNet. The other is the result of a fulfillment of an unidentified need that through informaticization, led to a new community resource: the CyberChurch Directory and a developing community broadband initiative. These efforts represent two different approaches to CI, and as such, generate a variety of outcomes that are contributing to community informatics praxis.

Black feminist thought as a contribution to community informatics.



Refereed Paper

O'Mara, Benjamin Troy (Victoria University, Australia)

This paper explores the role, challenges and opportunities of using new and emerging forms of technology to empower communities from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds. For the purposes of this paper, the term ‘CALD' refers to people such as immigrants and refugees who settle in Australia and come from diverse linguistic, cultural, economic and social backgrounds. It draws on a review of relevant literature and Information Communication Technology (ICT) initiatives in the area, and a meta-analysis of research projects that have involved communities such as the Vietnamese, Sudanese and Samoan living in the Western region of metropolitan Melbourne, Australia.

From a community perspective it reports on how these communities use and access ICT, and what ICT supported initiatives would be effective in communicating information, such as messages of health and wellbeing. This paper also identifies barriers and important factors to consider when using ICT with CALD communities to initiate social change. In order to counter a technologically deterministic and ‘one way' transmission of information, this paper argues for a communally driven and culturally sensitive use and application of ICT to empower CALD communities in Australia.

Empowering Multicultural Australian Communities through the Use and Application of ICT



Refereed Paper

Petrič, Gregor (Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia); Petrovčič, Andraž (Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia)


Social cohesion of online communities is considered a social glue that holds together a group of people, communicating and interacting on the internet and which allows this group to efficiently confront with pressures, coming from within or outside the online community. In this paper a particular definition of social cohesion of online community is presented, which introduces its three core dimensions: participation, sense of community and interpersonal trust - concepts that are considered in the literature on online communities as vital for their sustainability. The purpose of the paper is to empirically verify how decisions of community managers on sociability factors that model social interaction in a community influence the three dimensions of social cohesion. On a sample of 48 Slovenian web forums data were collected for the presence of various sociability factors and with a web survey of 1962 members from these forums the core dimensions of social cohesion were measured. The results of hierarchical linear modeling indicate that community managers can influence the social cohesion only to extent and that their decisions might also give rise to undesired latent consequences.

Influence of sociability factors on social cohesion in web forums



Refereed Paper

Pscheidt, Markus (1,2); Weide, Theo van der (2)   (1: Universidade Católica de Moçambique, Mozambique; 2: Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen, Netherlands)



This paper looks at the community involved in the development and implementation of the Academic Registry Information System (ARIS) in the Mozambican Higher Education context. The context of ARIS comprises a development cooperation project which was established because of different needs: Many Mozambican universities need to organize academic data in a better way than they do currently, and the Ministry of Education and Culture (MEC) needs to produce statistics in better quality and timeliness. The context is further characterized by low ICT skills, reluctance to decision taking, and a weak communication culture where asking for advice is seen as not knowing and therefore often avoided.


On the one hand, ARIS is a management information system and its objective is to improve the performance of the organization using it. On the other hand, to make it successful it is necessary to integrate the system well with the local context in each university and to create local ownership in the receiving institutions, otherwise the system may be abandoned. Community building is investigated as a means to support local ownership and integration, and thus sustainability of ARIS. While a certain level of collaboration has been nourished throughout the development cooperation project by facilitating local participation, challenges lay ahead in order to maintain a healthy exchange of ideas and experiences and expression of needs.

It shall be shown in this paper that maintaining links between institutions is relevant and beneficial for the proper working of ARIS and brings advantages to the stakeholders. Empowerment as a process includes both self-empowering and professional support. Taking into account the local context, we propose tools facilitating self-empowerment and a support structure. To achieve these goals, the following research questions are investigated in this paper: (a) How to facilitate local participation, how to transfer knowledge and how to build local ownership? (b) How to provide efficient support for the information system? This study is part of a larger action research study.

A case study approach is used to evaluate the actions taken up to now in the ARIS project, to combine own findings with literature and formulate appropriate tools. The study includes an investigation of the difficulties during the project, and the implications for community building and empowerment are shown. Amongst other issues, there has been too much focus on the product and too little focus on the implementation process; the knowledge transfer process was jeopardized by an unstable personnel situation on the local side. The paper will derive a descriptive model of community aspects of ARIS. Based on this, generalizations will be made, which can be verified in similar projects. Special consideration is given to the aspect of empowering the community members, with an overall goal to improve the success and sustainability of the system.

Supporting the ARIS community system in Mozambique.



Refereed Paper

Saad-Sulonen, Joanna (Centre for Urban and Regional Studies, Helsinki University of Technology, Finland); Horelli, Liisa (Centre for Urban and Regional Studies, Helsinki University of Technology, Finland)


The application of community informatics-assisted urban planning is still rear in the Finnish context. What are the characteristics and consequences of CI-assisted participatory planning and what is its added value for ICT-mediated participation, are our research questions. The aim of the paper is to present and discuss the potentials of community informatics for participatory planning and design, as well as for e-participation in general. The presentation is based on a case study on the co-design of a shared yard at the Roihuvuori Youth Centre, in Helsinki. The application of ICT meant in this case that the local website with specific tools, such as the Urban Mediator, was used as a platform and a medium to co-create, share and distribute information concerning the progress of the design of the yard. We argue that CI-assisted participatory planning provides a viable perspective and a significant contribution to ICT-mediated participation in urban issues. It also enhances the learning of citizenship skills among young people, if the process is well organised and facilitated.

CI-assisted participatory planning as a perspective to ICT-mediated participation: a case-study in Helsinki



PhD Colloquium

Sabiescu, Amalia Georgiana (Università della Svizzera italiana, Switzerland)

In ethnic communities that nowadays are transitioning from a traditional to a modern way of life, a rich cultural heritage is gradually dying out. In these communities, transmission of knowledge has been done traditionally from generation to generation, process in which the openness of the youngest generation to receive this knowledge and pass it on is a pre-condition. What happens, hence, when the young generation is less predisposed to carry on the traditional way of life? A gap in the intergenerational transmission of knowledge may appear, which may result in few decades in the loss of that community's rich cultural heritage. This study explores the potential of ICTs for safeguarding endangered cultures, from a perspective which puts the community vision at the center of the safeguarding efforts. The study involves working with a Roma community based in Romania for the participatory production of digital stories drawing on its local history and traditional cultural expressions. The evaluation of this experience is expected to result in a series of procedures and techniques for community-based cultural production and aspects to consider for possible adaptation in other community contexts.

Collaborative digital storytelling as an intergenerational hub for cultural representation in traditional communities



Non-Refereed Paper

Sapio, Bartolomeo (Fondazione Ugo Bordoni, Italy)


During the panel "The potential of ICTs: social empowerment vs. social exclusion" organized by COST 298, a presentation of the Action will be given as an introduction.

COST 298: Participation in the Broadband Society


Non-Refereed Paper

Thompson, Steve (Institute of Digital Innovation, University of Teesside, United Kingdom)


The Village of Skinningrove sits between two very high cliffs on the East Coast of England. Some would say they are to the South of Teesside. Others might say they are in North Yorkshire. Certainly they are in rural East Cleveland which is an appropriate name as the name derives from its Saxon name: Cliff-Land. In 2000 the village was devastated by two successive floods. The post flood months were the Skinningrove's darkest days. Many villagers were uninsured when the second flood hit and a lot of people abandoned their homes for good. For a while there was a dark joke about house prices in Skinningrove: "buy one get one free". However, those that remained pulled together and they campaigned for flood defences and to have Kilton Beck which caused the floods to be re-categorised by the authorities as a River because with river status they would be afforded greater protections. They won their River status and they got their flood defences. But they didn't stop there. They continued making improvements to their village and it is largely unrecognisable today to someone who knew it pre 2000. Several months ago two of Skinningrove's best known activists, Tommy Evans and Barry Hunt decided on their biggest scheme to date. They would re-generate the Skinningrove Jetty which had stood derelict and dangerous for many years, unneeded by the declining steel industry. They enlisted the help of Teesside University's Steve Thompson ho help envision this scheme. Thompson suggested building and launching the Jetty in Second Life and he recruited colleagues and local people to help as well as distant contacts in the Second Life world. He also engaged the two local schools that served the village as well as the areas Member of Parliament, Dr Ashok Kumar. A lookalike Avatar of the MP was fashioned and he recorded his jetty re-launch speech to emanate from his lips.

Over several months a film was made in Second Life to show what a re-furbished and re-opened jetty would look like in Real Life. The film premiered to great acclaim in February 2009 in an even presided over by the Mayor of Redcar and Cleveland, Councillor Mike Findley. Councillor Findley was much impressed and asked to visit both the real and virtual Jetty. When he arrived at Teesside University to take a see the virtual Jetty he was greeted by Tommy and Barry who caused their Second Life look-alike Avatars to bow reverentially to the Mayor. The Mayor was so delighted when shown his own look-alike avatar fashioned by local artist Derek Mosey that he declared he wanted to be in a movie himself. He recorded his voice over there and then and the team worked over the next few weeks on a new production, "SuperMayor (You'll believe a Mayor can Fly)

E-democracy by Animation: can a virtual world activity influence and engage with the real?




You Tube Video

Refereed Paper

Tibben, William (University of Wollongong, Australia)

The paper sets out to analyse the concept of social capital and its utility for Community Informatics (CI) research and practice in public policy. The paper begins by noting that the concept seems to have lost some "currency" in contemporary public policy debates. The rise and fall and social capital as a public policy concept is traced through published government reports in Australia. It then moves onto critical economic discourse to indicate a number of barriers to its adoption within public policy within Australia at the time. The paper then considers whether such criticisms are addressed from a CI perspective on social capital theory. A relevant line of enquiry detailed by Gurstein is in investigated in which innovation theory is reasoned to better leverage the work of social capital theorists in public policy settings.

Revisiting the question of social capital in public policy: exploring new directions for Community Informatics research




Refereed Paper

Toland, Janet (Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand)

This paper will examine the recursive relationship between the soft networks created by social capital and the hard networks created by Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). The setting for this research is regional New Zealand. Two contrasting regions, one urban, one rural, have been studied over the twenty year period, from 1985 to 2005. In the regional setting tacit or soft knowledge is more easily transferred than in a national context. This is because social interaction and exchange of information is easier and cheaper. These soft social networks take time to develop, and are likely to have a significant influence on the use of regional ICT networks.

The focus of the research is on the interplay between these soft social networks and the hard ICT based networks operating within the regional setting. Historical methods involve the collection of both primary and secondary sources of data, which are then analysed to establish relationships between cause and effect. Historical methods enable the researcher to examine the way in which such factors develop over time. Structuration theory is used to complement historical methods and to provide further insights into the recursive relationships between human agents, structure and power. For the purposes of this research the concentration is on human agents and structure, rather than power. The central research question is: How can ICT enhance the efforts of regions to obtain sustainable economic success by improving the quality of information flows between stakeholders within a regional setting?

Regional community and information and communication technology: an historical reflection.



Refereed Paper

Torben Nielsen, Karen (IBBT/SMIT Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium); Jo, Pierson (IBBT/SMIT Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium); Bram, Lievens (IBBT/SMIT Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium)


Although social network sites and other participative media technologies generate new ways of communication, these technological possibilities do not by themselves cause people to change their often deep-rooted communication habits accordingly. Consequently, these new social media technologies do not necessarily lead to altered social relationships. In order to investigate how the intra-community cohesion of existing, offline communities could benefit from the use of a social network site (SNS), we have set up a real life domestic environment in which two offline communities could freely use a dedicated SNS, complemented with other media technologies, for several months.

This investigation showed that the use of SNS could lead to both social bonding and bridging in existing communities. The organisational structure of the community proved to be a central determinator for the degree in which these social processes occurred. Concluding, the findings show that the co-creation and sharing of UGC via a dedicated SNS can indeed facilitate and even enhance the intra-community cohesion, in particular in offline communities with a loose organisational structure, a sufficient number of weak ties and key members that actively promote the use of the SNS.

How to make friends? Characteristics of existing communities that influence the role of social network sites in intra-community cohesion



PhD Colloquium

Trere, Emiliano (Università degli Studi di Udine, Italy)

The Onda (Wave) student movement (also known as Onda anomala, i.e. Anomalous Wave) is an Italian movement of university and secondary school students that was created in the fall of 2008 to protest against two decrees with force of law that were approved in the summer and afterwards converted in law by the Italian parliament. Students of the Onda movement on the one hand highlight that the laws approved by the Parliament are in contrast with the Italian Constitution Law and, on the other hand, they underline that due to these laws many jobs will be lost, the quality of the education will get worse (subordinated to the laws and logics of the market) and the university will be too expansive for the lower classes.

The Onda student movement has strongly relied on the use of ICTs to organize, mobilize, spread, and protest: websites, mailing lists, blogs, wikis, social network sites (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter,...), smart mobs, flash mobs, web TVs and radios...All these tools have been used and combined by this social movement. The aim of my dissertation is to investigate the role of ICTs in the Onda student movement's protest. I address questions such as: what are the consequences of having cheaper and faster communication trough the use of ICTs for the Onda movement? Which kinds of aspects are made easier (if any) by the use of ICTs and what remains to be done (or it is not possible to be done...)? I will draw on many insights from social movements literature and present some data of my research.

The No Gelmini student movement and the use of ICTs.



PhD Colloquium

Wallin, Sirkku (Helsinki University of Technology, Finland)

The role of public participation in spatial planning, and especially in land-use planning, has proven to be a challenge, even when locally-based, self-organized networking and different kinds of partnerships are part of the planning interventions. The complex urban structure is a dynamic and unpredictable meshwork of livelihoods, services, communication structures, mobility and transportation, as well as a kaleidoscope of communities. Irrespective of the communicative ethos that stresses public participation, the planning procedures often comprise straight forward, top-down planning instruments that the city government, planning professionals and construction companies apply without a transparent dialogue. In addition, the linear planning process with a strong sense of causality fails to recognise the multifunctional and even colliding planning objectives that compete in complex urban systems.

In my PhD thesis, I argue that in certain conditions public participation enables to "bridge" the inconsistent urban functions by providing local knowledge and shared resources. The linear planning process should be integrated to the community development, for example though action research and learning-based approach which shifts the attention to the substance of planning and empowerment of community. The aim of the presentation is to describe and discuss the methods and results of a five-year long action research in the neighbourhood of Helsinki that has sought to co-create with the four Ps, public, private, people-partnerships, new local governance structures and community informatics-assisted arenas for public participation (Ortiz & Tapia 2008). Two separate planning instruments in Finland, the community development initiatives and urban planning processes have in this case study been entwined. The adopted learning-based network approach to urban planning that emphasises the collaboration and co-creation of different stakeholders seems to be a viable solution (Horelli & Wallin 2006, Wallin & Horelli 2008).

Residential associations, other NGO´s, as well as SME-entrepreneurs and enterprises have gained a more transparent role in the planning process. Besides enjoying the benefits of collaborative planning, PPP-partnerships seem to improve the management of urban complexity by providing more flexible solutions than the conventional administration. Thus, the learning-based network approach enhances the recognition of the local socio-economic and environmental objectives that are then reflected in the development of the physical urban structure, and vice versa.

Managing urban complexity - Action research and learning-based approach to community development



Refereed Paper

Wolske, Martin (Community Informatics Initiative, University of Illinois, United States of America); Johnson, Eric (Community Informatics Initiative, University of Illinois, United States of America); Adams, Paul (Community Informatics Initiative, University of Illinois, United States of America)


Community Technology Centers (CTCs) and Telecentres provide critical access to Information and Communications Technology (ICT) resources where inequities exist. Additionally, a range of examples exist in which such centers are used by those who may have access elsewhere, but especially value the social interactions found at these community centers. Indeed, these facilities sometimes become meeting places for citizen professionals to participate in Communities of Practice working towards common goals.

 But while numerous paid professionals find laptops and mobiles the platform of choice for their daily work lives, many CTCs are still built using an impersonal closed room model which is restricted to mass implementation of non-flexible technology directed at no more than basic bridging of the digital divide. Emerging technologies such as low-cost ultra mobile personal computers and smartphones, cloud computing, geographic/neighborhood information systems, and personal webs are revolutionizing how professionals work. High functioning communities are finding ways to take advantage of the mass amateurization brought about by these emerging technologies to engage community members in community development goals, using the diversity of input to enhance the overall quality of outcome.

The challenge remains how to empower more communities through access to, and training with, citizen professional ICT. This paper will describe our early experiences using customizable citizen professional toolkits to empower members from economically disadvantaged communities to work as citizen journalists and citizen planners.

Citizen Professional Toolkits: Empowering Communities Through Mass Amateurization