LIS 451 Concept Paper 4

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  • 1. 1. What is the impact of technology and information in community? Are there times when ICTmight have a negative impact? What factors can help bring about a positive impact?I think the biggest point driven home by all of the readings is that just access to technology is notenough. Randomly giving computers to groups of people does not automatically lead to those peoplebecoming proficient with the technology. As mentioned in the Reconceptualizing the Digital Dividearticle, programs in Ireland were more successful with less money invested and less technology beingimmediately implemented because the groups involved had to think more carefully about what kinds oftechnology would benefit the community the most so that they would see a return on the investments.Randomly heaping on changes did not help the town as much, because it did not take into account howthe town worked and whether or not the changes would be helpful. The funding to Erris ended up beinga waste as many people did not know how to use or wish to learn how to use the technology that hadbeen dumped on them. If they did adopt it, it would change the social dynamics of the town, possiblymaking it more isolating.2. Randy Stoecker wrote an article several years ago called "Is community informatics good forcommunity?" Based on the course readings, the above presentation, your visit to East St. Louis,and your own experiences outside of LIS451, how would you respond to this question? Inparticular, think about the conceptual frameworks presented by different authors that considerthe relationship between communities, information, and technology (e.g., Warschauer). Thinkalso about those readings that focus on community life, history, and issues in East St. Louis,without mentioning ICTs at all per se. What does the dialectic between these readings say aboutthe impacts of community informatics on communities?I am a big idea person, and the gist of the articles seemed to be that community informatics is great, aslong as you dont let the informatics get in the way of the community. An inherent part of communityinformatics is that every community has different needs that might be fulfilled by some sort oftechnology. It might be fulfilled by some other tool as well. You can not give the same thing to everycommunity and expect all of them to succeed equally well. People in different areas already possessdifferent skill sets, and in order to make the adding of technology a success, teaching and integratingmight be needed to a greater or lesser extent.I feel the need to throw in here that I hate when people use the word “literacy” to apply to things otherthan proficiency in reading and writing. It has the root “lit” in it; it is meant to apply to the writtenword. That is not to say that literacy is the only kind of communication proficiency, nor is it to implythat it is any more valuable than proficiency in spoken language, in oral history skills, computer skills,or any other skill proficiency out there. In general though, I feel using the word “literacy” in contextsother than that of reading and writing within a particular language muddies the waters and makesdiscussions harder rather than easier. </soapbox>I think all of these things became clear when we went to St. Louis. They wanted things that theirchildren could learn on, not something super elaborate. But they wanted to have the possibility for theirchildren (and adults, and seniors) to learn skills to be competitive in advanced schooling and jobsituations. Giving them computers designed for an office would not be helpful. Instead, something withgames that taught children computer skills while increasing skills in core areas would be very helpful.And with anything we give them, instructional material to go along with it will be a must. These areadults with adequate computer skills in most cases, but if they do not have some easy way to getanswers to questions about the software, then the software itself will be useless to them. Simplydumping the technology and running will not get the job done. Instead, they need the chance to adjust
  • 2. to it and a place to get help.3. A friend helps to run a clinic/service agency/community center (student choice on community-based organization) and is thinking about ways in which technology might be used to help theirclientele with their needs. What advice might you give them regarding such technologyimplementations? What should they consider before proceeding?So my hypothetical friend is running a hypothetical community center. I would ask them what theircurrent goals are in their overall programs – who are they targeting? Do different populations use thespace at different times of day? Or on different days of the week? What about the center is important tothese people? How could technology be used to further those goals? Do they need just a place to useoffice like programs for word processing or spreadsheets? Do they just need a place to access theinternet? Are they looking for more specialized classes on particular programs in particular areas? Arethere already existing programs that could be enhanced by teaching online or computer equivalents?Are they looking to branch out into completely different skill sets? Does it matter what kind ofoperating system the computer has? Does it have to have particular programs? Is the center eligible forspecial discounts in some way? Does it have donors for time and/or money to make this happen? Whatkind of IT support would be available? Is there someone who can get training to keep the technologyrunning? All of those questions and many more should start narrowing down what kinds of technologyshould be used and what types of hardware and software might be useful for that location with that setof goals. Other questions would be what are the dimensions of the space? Does the space have to servemultiple purposes? Who will have access to the space when? Are there accessibility concerns fordisabilities or other special needs? Is there enough power running to the room? Is there a pre-existingway to get internet to the room? All these questions would need to be answered in order to create evenan approximation of a plan to move forward.