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Enabling access to participation


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Presentation at Web4Dev, New York, 11 February 2009

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Enabling access to participation

  1. 1.     Enabling access to  participation Steve Vosloo Fellow, 21st century learning Presented at Web4Dev, New York, 11 February 2009     1  
  2. 2.     my point: access to information     2  
  3. 3.     my point: access to information access to participation     3 While nobody disputes the criticality for development of being able to access information, what we should really be aiming for is providing access to participation.  
  4. 4.         4 From 2003-2006 I was the Usability Project Leader on the Cape Gateway portal, which provided access to government information and services for the citizens of the Western Cape, South Africa. Very successful project; won awards; 3 languages, 3 channels of access; grew from 40,000 to 60,000 pages. Two problems we encountered: 1) some information, especially around services and contact details, would quickly become outdated, and 2) while we pointed people to the correct place to, e.g. renew their car license, the actual service they received might not have been good enough. So their total experience of government may have started well, but ended badly, without them receiving proper service. What to do? Park that question – I'll come back to it.  
  5. 5.         5 In 2006/07 I spent a year at Stanford University, in the heart of Silicon Valley. Stanford alumni have founded Google, Yahoo and Cisco. For a South African who had been on dial-up at home it was mind-blowing. It was here that I really began to understand what web 2.0 was all about. Image of Stanford's Hoover Tower by Brian's Tree CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0  
  6. 6.     Web 2.0 ... an “architecture of participation” (O'Reilly, 2005)     6 O'Reilly, T. (2005). Web 2.0: Compact Definition? Image of Tim O'Reilly by gkpsecretariat: CC-BY-NC-2.0  
  7. 7.     lture: ipatory cu Partic aring  ting and sh ● crea tion one's crea rtistic  arriers to a ● low b expression , games,  , podcasts ● blogs  fiction videos, fan 006) l., 2 t a (Jenkins e     7 In the paper referenced in the slide, as well as in Jenkins' book Convergence Culture he presents the idea of a participatory culture, where people want to create and share information, and not just passively consume it. “A participatory culture is also one in which members believe their contributions matter, and feel some degree of social connection with one another (at the least they care what other people think about what they have created). A participatory culture is a culture with relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations ...” Focus on online social networks, blogs, podcasts, video production, fan fiction, remixing, MMORPGs, etc. Largely about “widespread participation in the production and distribution of media.” Pew study from 2005: one-half of all teens have created media content, and roughly one third of teens who use the Internet have shared content they produced. That figure is now much higher. The United States is a PC-based web society, so the experience is in rich multimedia Jenkins, H., Clinton, K., Purushotma, R., Robison, A. J., & Weigel, M. (2006). Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century. Retrieved October 31, 2007, from Image of Henry Jenkins by Joi Ito: CC-By-2.0  
  8. 8.           are we a participatory culture?     8 As I headed back to South Africa, I asked: “is this applicable to us, a developing country?” Our technology landscape is vastly different. Our cultural context is different. Are we 5 or 10 years behind the USA in technology as well as our approach to it? I was caught up in the allure of Facebook and YouTube and all things new, shiny and needing broadband, and struggled to see a participatory culture in the developing world. I have spent just over a year looking at projects in SA and other developing countries, having conversations with practitioners ... and the answer I have arrived at is an overwhelming ... Image of Gugulethu by teachandlearn CC-BY-NC-SA-2.0  
  9. 9.     s different ... but it'     9 Yes! The desire to participate and the benefits of participation are the same. But it looks different ... Image of yes by (michelle) CC-BY-NC-SA-2.0  
  10. 10.     Click to add title it's mobile     10 In the developing world, participation will be largely through the mobile phone.  
  11. 11.         11 It's mobile Online access: 1bn (source: Mobile access: 4bn (source: ) In South Africa: 72% of 15-24 year olds own a cell phone. Only 17% ever used the Internet. 6% use it (almost) daily. 9% have Internet access at home. Source: Young South AfricAnS, BroAdcASt MediA, And hiV/AidS AwAreneSS: Results of a NatioNal suRvey by the Kaiser Family Foundation & SABC (MaRch 2007) Mobile phones and teens in South Africa: the authors call it a “social revolution.” Oelofse, C., De Jager, A., & Ford, M. The Digital Profile of a Teenage Cell Phone User. Short paper at the mLearn 2006 conference. October 2006. Banff, Alberta, Canada. Image of mobile phone by CC-BY- SA-2.0  
  12. 12.     Click to add title contributions (not only creations)     12  
  13. 13.         13 Contributions Participation is not only about rich media creation, e.g. Wikipedia ...  
  14. 14.         14 It can also be about contributions. It can be a much simpler, faster form of contribution, e.g. Ushahidi, as used by AlJazeera Labs as they document the war on Gaza through citizen journalism. Ushahidi (, “which means “testimony” in Swahili, where we are building a platform that crowdsources crisis information. Allowing anyone to submit crisis information through text messaging using a mobile phone, email or web form.”  
  15. 15.     Cro wd­ s the  ourcin g  wor ld     15 Contributions in an economic development sense. Txteagle ( “There are over 1.5 billion literate, mobile phone subscribers in the developing world, many living on less than $3 a day. Corporations pay people to accomplish millions of simple text-based tasks. txteagle enables these tasks to be completed via text message by ordinary people around the globe.” See also: Crowd-Sourcing the World: A startup hopes to tap into the expertise of developing nations via cell phones. By Kate Greene  
  16. 16.     Click to add title involvement: light and lo­tech     16  
  17. 17.     SMS can be used to topple  governments and tip elections (Rheingold, 2005)     17 Involvement US-style participation often involves blogs, videos, letters, etc. In developing countries, participatory campaigns involve forwarding an SMS to self-organise for mass action (often in person). See examples by Howard Rheingold (2005): SETI is actually a developed country example of enabling minimal effort participation It elicits a sense of involvement, of being part of a project, a quest. Image of Howard Rheingold by Joi Ito: CC-By-2.0  
  18. 18.     Click to add title connectedness: small and lo­tech     18  
  19. 19.         19 Connectedness In the US, connectedness is through Facebook. The thinking is big. But of course, connectedness can also be about small. In rural Mexico it is through project Zumbido. Groups of only ten people providing HIV/AIDS support for each other through SMS and voice. See  
  20. 20.     Click to add title conversation: light and lo­tech     20  
  21. 21.         21 Conversations YouTube videos that are “in response to” other videos are a “conversation.” Example:  
  22. 22.     dr.math: What grade are you in? what are you covering in math? Spark plug: 7 dr.math: grade 7? Spark plug: yes dr.math: are u doing quot;pre algebraquot; stuff like What is the value of X if x + 3 = 10? Spark plug: yes dr.math: ok, so what is the value of x if x + 3 = 10? Spark plug: 7 dr.math: ok. how about (15 x 2 ) + x = 35 Spark plug: 5 dr.math: (I am going to use * for multiply so not to confuse it with x, ok?) Spark plug: ok dr.math: (2 * x) + 8 = 18 Spark plug: 5 dr.math: very good. can you explain to me how you figured that out? Spark plug: 18 ­ 8 is 10 so 2* what is 10 and the answer is 5 dr.math: Excellent.     22 This is conversation SA­style between a university tutor and grade 7  learner, happening via mobile instant messaging. Dr Math is a maths tutoring service to school learners that uses MXit, a  South African mobile instant messaging service.  2­8pm, Sunday­Thursday, with some 20 tutors. 1 tutor can handle about 100 kids an hour. 3,200 learners have used service (from grade 3 up) Tutoring mostly done in English, but some Afrikaans cases are occurring Learners contact Dr Math from their homes, while on buses, taxis and on  the sports field. Even from the bath! LATEST: Text­adventure game (interactive fiction) See:­notes/schools­ict­conference­   Text for the image: Butgereit, L. (2007). Math on MXit: Using MXit as a  Medium for Mathematics Education. Presented at Meraka INNOVATE  Conference for Educators, CSIR, Pretoria, 18­20 April 2007.   
  23. 23.     so why participatory? inclusion ownership empowerment     23 A “participatory” approach is not new to development, e.g. participatory community development, participatory design of projects, etc. It is an inclusive, bottom-up approach that is valuable for all of the old reasons. More empowered conception of citizenship (Jenkins et al., 2006)  
  24. 24.     not new, but different ... cheaper easier faster more visible potential for more  people     24 But in a web 2.0 world, it is different ... Both the development of systems that enable participation and also the act of participating are now: cheaper • easier • faster • more visible • potential for more people •  
  25. 25.     which leads to ... greater access to  information better data peer­to­peer learning  across time and  space (Jenkins et al.,  2006) more self­organisation     25 And brings with it new benefits in addition to the old benefits of participation.  
  26. 26.     The barriers to self­organisation have collapsed (Shirky, 2008)     26 Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations by Clay Shirky, 2008 Image of Clay Shirky by Joi Ito: CC-By-2.0  
  27. 27.         27 Let's get back to Cape Gateway. I should've asked: access to information for who? For the citizens, or for government? Both of course. I should've enabled citizen participation. They could let us know about incorrect information and comment or rate every service. I should've realised that we were no longer the gatekeepers to information.  
  28. 28.     are we enabling access  easy enough? to participation? safe enough? affordable enough? meaningful enough?     28 My conclusion: Participation is good ● It is very much a developing country thing ● It just looks different ● We need to ask ourselves: are we enabling access to participation?  
  29. 29.     Thank you Email Twitter  Blog Slides