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Free e-Book: Connecting Canadians: Investigations in Community Informatics

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A. Clement, M. Gurstein, G. Longford, M. Moll & L. R. Shade (Eds.), Connecting Canadians: Investigations in Community Informatics. Edmonton: Athabasca University Press.

“Connecting Canadians represents the work of the Community Research Alliance for Community Innovation and Networking (CRACIN), the largest national and international research effort to examine the burgeoning field of community informatics, a cross-disciplinary approach to the mobilization of information and communications technologies (ICT) for community change.

Funded for four years by the SSHRC’s Initiative for the New Economy, CRACIN systematically studied a wide variety of Canadian community ICT initiatives, bringing perspectives from sociology, computer science, critical theory, women’s studies, library and information sciences, and management studies to bear on networking technologies. A comprehensive thematic account of this in-depth research, Connecting Canadians will be an essential resource for NGOs, governments, the private sector, and multilateral agencies across the globe.”

Download the book or single chapters for free: http://www.aupress.ca/index.php/books/120193

Paper: From Cyber to Digital Anthropology to an Anthropology of the Contemporary

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Philipp Budka’s Paper at the DGV (German Anthropological Association) conference in Vienna, 14-17 September 2011, Workshop “Cyberculture” organized by Alexander Knorr

Abstract
This paper is first taking a look back on the “anthropology of cyberculture”, formulated as anthropological research area, concept and issue by Escobar in 1994. Inspired by science and technology studies, he painted a very vivid picture how anthropology and ethnography could contribute to the understanding of new bio and communication technologies as society’s transforming driving forces. Pushed by powerful digital media technologies, such as internet applications and services, anthropology labelled as “digital anthropology” is currently tempted to forget about cyberanthropology’s holistic effort of understanding the sociocultural construction and interpretation of bio and communication technologies. What is the legacy of the anthropology of cyberculture when dealing with new digital practices? Is it actually necessary to construct branches of anthropology that deal with contemporary sociocultural developments? Or should we just open the discipline to an “anthropology of the contemporary”, as Rabinow and Marcus (2008) propose?

References
Escobar, Arturo. 1994. Welcome to Cyberia. Notes on the anthropology of cyberculture. In Current Anthropology, 35/3: 211-231.
Rabinow, Paul, Marcus, George E. (with Faubion, James D., Rees, Tobias) 2008. Designs for an anthropology of the contemporary. Durham: Duke University Press.

Text (PDF)

Links
http://www.tagung2011.dgv-net.de/

http://www.tagung2011.dgvnet.de/workshops.html

http://www.univie.ac.at/ksa/

Concept map: Sociotechnical system in an anthropology of technology

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This concept map builds on Bryan Pfaffenberger’s article “Social anthropology of technology”, Annual Review of Anthropology 21(1992), pp. 491-516, in which he discusses the use of sociotechnical systems in an anthropological context. This map tries to visualize the concept. It was done by using the free CMap Tools (click to enlarge).

Article: How “real life” issues affect the social life of online networked communities

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Budka, Philipp. 2008. How “real life” issues affect the social life of online networked communities. In C. Trupp & P. Budka (Eds.), Austrian Studies in Social Anthropology – Sondernummer KSA-Tage 2007 (Workshop Medien und Film), June 2008, 50-61.
Online: http://www.univie.ac.at/alumni.ethnologie/journal/abstract/budka.html

Abstract

Speaking of “the internet”, one often forgets that this is not a monolithic media technology, but a whole range of applications embedded in the life of people practicing these technologies. This paper explores on the one hand the social life of a publicly accessible mailing list that connects various indigenous and non-indigenous persons to form a global electronic network. On the other hand, it analyses a Usenet newsgroup, which is dedicated to the socio-cultural life in Austria. With the help of two cyberanthropological case studies the interconnections between “real life” or offline issues and “virtual” or online lives on mailing lists and newsgroups is demonstrated. The paper intends to show that “virtual life” never can be separated from “real life” and its issues.

Text (PDF)

Video: Brief history of APC

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A brief overview of Association for Progressive Communications’ (APC) 20 years of online work for social justice.

About APC:

“APC’s strength lies in the fact that we don’t get excited about the internet for the internet’s sake. We are committed activists who want to use it to make the world a better place. We help people get access to the internet where there is none or it is unaffordable, we help grassroots groups use the technology to develop their communities and further their rights, and we work to make sure that government policies related to information and communication serve the best interests of the general population, especially people living in developing countries.

…”

more at: http://www.apc.org/en/about

Brief history of APC from APC on Vimeo.

Article: Menschen – nicht Medien – revoltieren

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von Philipp Budka in “Die Presse”, Print-Ausgabe, 30.01.2011
Online: die Presse.com

„Social Media“ wie Facebook gelten als neuer Zunder der Revolution. Interaktive und vernetzte Medien sind aber schon lang wichtige Werkzeuge sozialpolitischer Bewegungen.

Die Bedeutung von neuen Informations- und Kommunikationstechnologien für die sozialpolitischen Umbrüche in Tunesien sowie die Proteste in Ägypten wurden und werden sowohl in der österreichischen als auch in der internationalen Medienlandschaft intensiv diskutiert. Kaum ein Beitrag, der „sozialen“ Medien wie Facebook oder Twitter nicht wesentlichen Anteil an der „Revolution“ in Tunesien oder den Protesten in Ägypten einräumt.

Bei allem Respekt vor Journalistinnen und Journalisten, die mittels Handy und Twitter direkt aus Krisenregionen und an staatlich kontrollierten Massenmedien vorbei berichten, vor einem Künstler, der sich musikalisch via YouTube gegen ein autokratisches System stellt, und vor einem Piloten, der sich weigert, Mitglieder des unterdrückenden Regimes außer Landes zu fliegen und dafür zu Recht auf Facebook gefeiert wird: Nicht vergessen sollten wir etwa bei der tunesischen „Revolution“, dass dieser politische Umbruch auf der Straße herbeigeführt und entschieden wurde.

Digitale, interaktive und vernetzte Alternativmedien waren schon lange vor den sogenannten „Social Media“ wichtige Werkzeuge von sozialpolitischen Bewegungen. Prominentes Beispiel ist der Aufstand der Zapatistas in Mexiko, der 1994 mittels Newsgroups, Mailing-Listen und Webseiten eine internationale Gegenöffentlichkeit erzeugte. Diese wiederum war bemüht, Druck auf die mexikanische Regierung auszuüben, um der indigenen Bevölkerung endlich Menschen- und Landrechte zuzugestehen. Rückblickend war es aber vor allem die geschlossen auftretende mexikanische Zivilbevölkerung, die durch landesweite Märsche, Demonstrationen und Petitionen maßgeblich zur Unterstützung der unterdrückten Indigenen Mexikos beitrug.

Neue soziale Online-Medien wurden dann beispielsweise 2009 im Zug der Wahlen im Iran verwendet, um auf staatliche Unterdrückung und gewalttätige Übergriffe auf Regierungskritiker international aufmerksam zu machen. Aber auch hier war es der sozialpolitische Druck der Straße, der dem iranischen Regime ernsthafte Probleme bereitete. Internettechnologien wie Twitter, YouTube oder Facebook konnten solange als alternative Kommunikations- und Informationsmittel eingesetzt werden, bis der Staat, vor allem dank europäischer Softwaresysteme, in der Lage war, auch diese Kommunikation zu kontrollieren, zu zensieren und zu unterdrücken. Ähnliches spielt sich nun auch in Ägypten ab.

Digitale Medientechnologien sind wunderbar geeignet, um Bilder, Texte und Augenzeugenberichte eines politischen Umbruchs schnell an eine online vernetzte „Weltöffentlichkeit“ zu vermitteln. Wie die aktuellen Beispiele Tunesien und Ägypten zeigen, finden vor allem mobile Kommunikationstechnologien in zunehmendem Maß für die lokale Protestorganisation Verwendung.

Dennoch – abseits des Hype, auf dem Boden der Tatsachen, sollten zwei Punkte besonders betont werden: Erstens hat nicht die gesamte Weltbevölkerung gleichermaßen Zugang zu digitalen Technologien (einerseits aus finanziell-wirtschaftlichen und infrastrukturellen Gründen, andererseits, weil politische Regimes versuchen, diesen Zugang aktiv zu kontrollieren). Und zweitens sind es auch im Zeitalter von Facebook & Co. die Menschen auf den Straßen, die die entscheidenden Handlungen setzen, um „Revolutionen“ herbeizuführen oder eben nicht.

Philipp Budka
Initiative Teilnehmende Medienbeobachtung
Institut für Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie der Universität Wien

New Book: Theorising Media and Practice (Bräuchler & Postill 2010)

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Bräuchler, B. and J. Postill (eds) 2010. Theorising Media and Practice. Oxford and New York: Berghahn.

From John Postill’s blog:

This book is very much a product of the numerous conversations we’ve had down the years on the EASA Media Anthropology Network on practice approaches to media. We’re really grateful to all chapter contributors and to all of network members who have helped us think through some of the key questions.

Synopsis

Although practice theory has been a mainstay of social theory for nearly three decades, so far it has had very limited impact on media studies. This book draws on the work of practice theorists such as Wittgenstein, Foucault, Bourdieu, Barth and Schatzki and rethinks the study of media from the perspective of practice theory. Drawing on ethnographic case studies from places such as Zambia, India, Hong Kong, the United States, Britain, Norway and Denmark, the contributors address a number of important themes: media as practice; the interlinkage between media, culture and practice; the contextual study of media practices; and new practices of digital production. Collectively, these chapters make a strong case for the importance of theorising the relationship between media and practice and thereby adding practice theory as a new strand to the anthropology of media.

More information: http://berghahnbooks.com/title.php?rowtag=BrauchlerTheorising

Article: MyKnet.org: How Northern Ontario’s First Nation communities made themselves at home on the World Wide Web

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Budka, P., Bell, B., & Fiser, A. 2009. MyKnet.org: How Northern Ontario’s First Nation communities made themselves at home on the World Wide Web. The Journal of Community Informatics, 5(2), Online: http://ci-journal.net/index.php/ciej/article/view/568/450

Abstract

In this article we explore the development of MyKnet.org, a loosely structured system of personal homepages that was established by indigenous communities in the region of Northern Ontario, Canada in 2000. Individuals from over 50 remote First Nations across Northern Ontario have made this free of charge, free of advertisements, locally-driven online social environment their virtual home. MyKnet.org currently comprises over 25,000 active homepages and strongly reflects the demographic and geographic profile of Northern Ontario. It is thus youth-based and built around the communities’ need to maintain social ties across great distances. We draw upon encounters with a range of MyKnet.org’s developers and long time users to explore how this community-developed and community-controlled form of communication reflects life in the remote First Nations. Our focus is on the importance of locality: MyKnet.org’s development was contingent on K-Net, a regional indigenous computerization movement to bring broadband communications to remote First Nations. MyKnet.org is explicitly community-driven and not-for-profit, thus playing an important role in inter- and intra-community interaction in a region that has lacked basic telecommunications infrastructure well into the millennium.

Special Issue: CI & Indigenous Communities in Canada—The K-Net Experience

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The Journal of Community Informatics Special Issue: CI & Indigenous Communities in Canada – The K-Net (Keewaytinook Okimakanak’s Kuhkenah Network) Experience

Table of Contents
http://ci-journal.net/index.php/ciej/issue/view/27

Editorial

The K-Net Experience: Thematic Introduction to the Special Issue
Brian Beaton, Susan O’Donnell, Adam Fiser, Brian Walmark

K-Net, Community Informatics and Service Delivery: An Evolving Paradigm
Michael Gurstein

Articles

MyKnet.org: How Northern Ontario’s First Nation Communities Made Themselves At Home On The World Wide Web
Philipp Budka, Brandi Bell, Adam Fiser

How K-Net and Atlantic Canada’s First Nation Help Desk are Using Videoconferencing for Community Development
Mary Milliken, Susan O’Donnell, Elizabeth Gorman

Out from the Edges: Multi-site Videoconferencing as a Public Sphere in First Nations
Fenwick McKelvey, Susan O’Donnell

Representation and Participation of First Nations Women in Online Videos
Sonja Perley

Implementation of Information and Communication Technology in Aboriginal Communities: A Social Capital Perspective
Javier Mignone, Heather Henley

Case Studies

Managing Changes in First Nations’ Health Care Needs: Is Telehealth the Answer?
Josée Gabrielle Lavoie, Donna Williams

Notes from the field

In Search of Community Champions: Researching the Outcomes of K-Net’s Youth Information and Communications Technology Training Initiative
Kristy Tomkinson

A Community Informatics Model for e-Services in First Nations Communities: The K-Net Approach to Water Treatment in Northern Ontario
Michael Gurstein, Brian Beaton, Kevin Sherlock

Reports

Enabling and Accelerating First Nations Telehealth Development in Canada
Valerie Gideon, Eugene Nicholas, John Rowlandson, Florence Woolner

ON-LINE RESOURCES about Keewaytinook Okimakanak, the Kuhkenah Network (K-Net) and Associated Broadband Applications
Brian Beaton

New forms of socialities on the web? – Paper at the Web as Culture Conference

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Budka, P., Mader, E. 2009. New forms of socialities on the web? A critical exploration of anthropological concepts to understand sociocultural online practices. Paper at “Web as Culture Conference”, Giessen, 16-18 July.

Abstract

Internet technologies and the World Wide Web promised a lot of things: from instantaneous global communication and fast information gathering to new forms of politics, economy, organizations, and socialities, including a renewed sense of community. By studying these online and “virtual” communities, internet researchers initially focused on their structure and development (e.g. Jones 1995, Smith & Kollock, 1999). Social network theory then changed decisively the way communities on the web have been conceptualized and analyzed. Scholars like Barry Wellman (et al., 2002) and Manuel Castells (2000), argue that in the internet age societies, communities, and individuals all have a network character. Thus the conceptualization of community as social network, by focusing on the interactions in these communities, has become widespread in internet studies.

Community and social network as concepts of sociality have been critically reviewed by anthropologists particularly in the context and process of ethnographic fieldwork. Vered Amit (2002), e.g., states that community is, because of its emotional significance and popularity in public discourses, a rather poor analytical concept. Internet ethnographers hence have been starting to look for alternative ways of understanding online socialities by moving beyond the community/network paradigm (Postill 2008).

In this paper we are critically discussing the potential of alternative concepts of sociality to analyze how people are interacting on the web. In so doing, we are firstly reviewing the quite popular concept of “communitas” developed by Victor Turner to differentiate between society as social structure and society as communitas constituted by concrete idiosyncratic individuals and their interactions. In the context of the sociocultural web, the liminal experience of people switching between these two stages is particularly interesting. Secondly, we are introducing the concept of “conviviality”, coined by Joanna Overing, to internet studies. Conviviality accentuates the affective side of sociality, such as joy, creativity, and the virtues of sharing and generosity, as opposed to the structure or functioning of society. These analytical concepts and tools, derived from anthropological and ethnographic research, are finally applied to an empirical case study of Bollywood fan communities on the web and their sociocultural practices.

References

Amit, Vered (ed.). 2002. Realizing community: concepts, social relationships and sentiments. London & New York: Routledge.
Castells, Manuel. 2000. The rise of the network society. Second Edition. Malden: Blackwell Publishers.
Jones, Steven G. (ed.). 1995. CyberSociety: Computer-Mediated Communication and Community. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.
Kollock, Peter, Smith, Marc A. (eds.). 1999. Communities in Cyberspace. London & New York: Routledge.
Postill, John. 2008. Localising the internet: beyond communities and networks. In: New Media and Society 10(3), 413-431.
Wellman, Barry, Boase, Jeffrey and Wenhong Chen. 2002. The networked nature of community: online and offline. In: IT&Society 1/1, 151-165.

Article: Indigener Cyberaktivismus und transnationale Bewegungslandschaften im lateinamerikanischen Kontext

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Budka, P., Trupp, C. 2009. Indigener Cyberaktivismus und transnationale Bewegungslandschaften im lateinamerikanischen Kontext (Cyberactivismo indígena y paisajes de movimientos transnacionales en el contexto latinoamericano / Indigenous cyberactivism and transnational movements in the Latin American context), in J. Kastner & T. Waibel (eds.) „… mit Hilfe der Zeichen | por medio de signos …“ Transnationalismus, soziale Bewegungen und kulturelle Praktiken in Lateinamerika. Münster: LIT-Verlag, pp. 207-226.

Abstract

Prozesse der Globalisierung beeinflussen vor allem jene Menschen, die an den Rand der Gesellschaft gedrängt werden, wie zum Beispiel ein Großteil der rund 30 Millionen Indigenen Lateinamerikas. Ausgeschlossen von politischen, soziokulturellen und ökonomischen Diskursen, wie sie über die Massenmedien geführt werden, verwenden Indigene Bewegungen im zunehmenden Maße Internettechnologien, um sich zu vernetzen, zu (re)präsentieren, Identitäten zu (re)konstruieren und aktivistisch tätig zu sein. Aufgrund eingeschränkten Zugangs zu Internettechnologien sind sie oftmals auf Akteure angewiesen, die ihre Anliegen vertreten und sich mit ihnen solidarisieren. Wie indigene Bewegungen im lateinamerikanischen Kontext transnational distribuierte Internettechnologien nutzen, adaptieren und praktizieren, wird aus kultur- und sozialanthropologischer Perspektive anhand der Zapatisten in Mexiko und der Mapuche in Chile in diesem Beitrag diskutiert.

Los procesos de la globalización influyen sobre todo a aquellas personas que están en el márgen de la sociedad, como por ejemplo una mayoría de los indígenas de latinoamérica. Excluidos del discurso político, sociocultural y económico como lo llevan los medios de masas, los movimientos indígenas utilizan cada vez más la tecnología del internet para conectarse en redes, (re)presentarse, (re)construir identidades y practicar activismo. Debido al restringido acceso a tecnologías de internet muchas veces dependen de actores que representan sus intereses y se solidarizan con ellos. En este artículo se discute desde una perspectiva de la antropología cultural y social de cómo los movimientos indígenas en el contexto latinoamericano usan, adaptan y practican las tecnologías de internet distribuidos transnacionalmente tomando como ejemplos el EZLN en México y los Mapuche en Chile.

Text (PDF) (German)

Report: CRASSH Workshop “Subversion, Conversion, Development”

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Budka, P. 2008. Report on CRASSH Workshop “Subversion, Conversion, Development: Public Interests in Technologies”, Cambridge, 24-26 April.

From the workshop’s abstract:
As part of the “New forms of knowledge for the 21st Century” research agenda at Cambridge University, the workshop will explore why designers and developers of new technologies should be interested in producing objects that users can modify, redeploy or redevelop. This exploration demands an examination of presuppositions that underpin the knowledge practices associated with the various productions of information communication technologies (ICT). A central question is that of diversity: diversity of use, of purpose, and of value(s). Does diversity matter, in the production and use of ICT, and if so, why?

Text (PDF)

Links:
http://www.crassh.cam.ac.uk/events/71/
http://vectors.usc.edu/thoughtmesh/publish/12.php

Community Informatics (CI) in Vienna

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Michael Gurstein held a lecture yesterday about “what is community informatics and why does it matter?” at the Austrian Computer Society in Vienna.

Gurstein states that one of the important aspects of CI is to bring researchers, practitioners, and policy makers together to work within a processual structure.

CI aims to solve real live problems of communities by integrating information and communication technologies (ICT) in different community processes. Thus, the community becomes the “user” of ICT and not the individual. This bottom-up approach should ideally lead to the empowerment of the community through ICT.

In contrary to the concept of the “digital divide”, CI is about “effective use of ICT” and not about access to ICT. Within the context of CI, ICT is to enable people to e.g. decentralize institutions or distribute local knowledge. A good example of such a decentralized institution is the Keewaytinook Internet High School (KIHS) of the KO Tribal Council in Northwestern Ontario, which enables First Nations’ students to stay in their remote communities while attending school.

Jana Herwig wrote a nice report in German about Gurstein’s lecture and the follow-up discussion for her blog.

Telehealth Conference

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Mittwoch und Donnerstag (14. und 15. Juni) fand an der Universität von Toronto die “Ontario First Nation Regional Telehealth Conferencestatt. Mehr als 70 Delegierte und Teilnehmer, mehrheitlich Mitglieder von First Nations aus Ontario, nahmen an der Konferenz teil, um über ihre Erfahrungen mit Telehealth zu diskutieren.

Aber auch Experten und Vertreter von First Nations aus anderen Regionen wurden, teilweise mittels Videokonferenz, in den Konferenzablauf integriert. Dabei wurde schnell klar, dass es nicht sinnvoll und notwendig scheint nach einer allgemein gültigen Definition von Telehealth zu streben, da diese Anwendung von Informations- und Kommunikationstechnologien von jedem anders praktiziert und interpretiert werden kann. (Den Versuch einer Definition unternimmt etwa die Wikipedia.)

Eine solche Videokonferenz wurde auch genutzt, um eine Online-Verbindung zu einer abgelegenen First Nation Gemeinschaft im nördlichen Ontario – North Caribou Lake – herzustellen. So konnten die Menschen vor Ort von ihren persönlichen Erfahrungen mit Telehealth berichten.

videoconferencing
Videoconferencing


Ein Instrument, das für den speziellen medizinischen Einsatz und der Betreuung von Menschen via Computer- und Internetverbindung entwickelt wurde und auch bei der Konferenz eingesetzt wurde, ist der sogenannte “iDoc”. Dieses Gerät erlaubt, mittels eingebauter Kameras, etwa dem
behandelten Arzt eine “Echtzeit” Diagnose über das Internet zu stellen und so beispielsweise einen notwendigen Krankentransport in die Wege zu leiten.

iDoc
Demonstration des iDocs


Am Ende der Konferenz war sich die Mehrzahl der Teilnehmer einig, dass
der richtige und zielbewußte Einsatz von Telehealth von großem Nutzen für die First Nations, ihre Kulturen und Gemeinschaften sein kann.

Wie Telehealth vor allem im nördlichen Ontario eingesetzt wird, veranschaulicht eine spezielle K-Net Website: http://telehealth.knet.ca/