The following were the primary readings included as part of the Fall, 2012, “Community Informatics Studio” course.

Popular Technology, Popular Education, and Inquiry-based Learning

In her book Digital Dead End: Fighting for Social Justice in the Information Age , Virginia Eubanks (2011) describes a high tech equity agenda that resists oppression, draws on difference as a resource, and engages in participatory decision making. Her concept of popular technology “sees all people as experts in their own experience of IT and the high tech economy, and liberates their knowledge, analysis, and activity to create a more just and sustainable present for everyone” (p. 155). Her work draws heavily on the theories of:

  • Popular education — which is based on collective, participatory learning inside and outside the classroom.
  • Participatory action research — which is based on ordinary people’s investigation, analysis, and action around an issue or problem.
  • Participatory design — which is based on enlisting ordinary people in the design of space and/or technology.

By “popular technology,” we are referring to following definition by Virginia Eubanks (2007): “Popular technology is not about teaching technology per se; it is a popular educational approach to researching the complex inequalities of the information economy” (p. 131).

Based on the works of Dewey and Friere, among others, inquiry-based learning understands learning to be iterative, building from the expertise of the learner in a cyclical, lifelong process. Learning happens best when it is based on real-world problems of relevance to the learner. Instead of being the expert sage-on-the-stage, the instructor serves more as a guide and coach helping to maximize the learning that takes place by constructing an effective environment based on the learning purposes of the learner.

Community Informatics

Community informatics is a field of study and practice regarding the application of information and communication technology in community. “CI goes beyond the “Digital Divide” to making ICT access usable and useful to excluded populations and communities for local economic development, social justice, and political empowerment. CI approaches ICTs from a “community” perspective and develops strategies and techniques for managing their use by communities both virtual and physical including the variety of Community Networking applications (Gurstein, What is Community Informatics?)”

Participatory Design, Participatory Action Research, and Community Based Research

Engagement happens with, by, and for community. The ultimate goal is to develop effective design and research strategies to create spaces and tools that are responsive to human needs. This isn’t something that can be done for community, but must be done with community, liberating their knowledge. Successful development also requires a participatory process that is inclusive, recognizing difference as a resource.


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