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Community Informatics: participatory tools for social inclusion and active citizenship

Community Informatics:
Participatory tools for social inclusion and active citizenship
Workshop details for PDC 2000

Main contact:
Peter Day
School of Information Management
Faculty of IT
University of Brighton
Watts Building
Tel ++44 1273 642550


This workshop aims to link Community Informatics into the broader participatory design discourse. In keeping with the "Bringing in More voices" theme of PDC 2000, this workshop seeks to investigate methods by which local community ICT initiatives can and/or do maintain and deepen knowledge about design issues in local communities. From a Community Informatics perspective, the 'system' belongs to community members rather than an organisation or professional experts. In this context, the inclusion and active participation of local citizens in the design, development and implementation of civic attempts to bridge the digital divide is seen as an essential component in complementing the expertise of system designers (Schuler & Namioka, 1993).

To this end the workshop will explore participatory and inclusive practices and methods that not only encourage citizens to utilise ICTs as tools to underpin and develop social networks in local communities (Schuler, 1994) but also encourage them to participate as mutual partners in the design, development and implementation processes. By synthesising Participatory Design and Community Informatics techniques ICTs can be utilised to assist the processes of capacity building and community development Within this framework there should be scope to examine a wide range of issues that exist for communities in the network society. Such options include political work, policy development, engagement with business and other institutions, and, perhaps most importantly engaging with other communities into a larger "network of networks".

Building on the "Designing Across Boarders - the community design of community networks" session hosted by Doug Schuler at the 1998 PDC/CSCW conferences in Seattle this workshop will encourage practitioners, users, academics and policy makers to examine processes that facilitate active citizenship and civic participation through the use of ICTs. A number of brief scene setting presentations will start the workshop, which will then be opened up to informal introductory comments on submitted abstracts, discussion, networking and depending on time and the number of participants - a participatory design game may be introduced. Participants are requested to submit extended abstracts of 1000 - 1500 words in length outlining their work, interests, research, etc. in this area to Peter Day - All extended abstracts will be made available on a web site and participants are requested to read them before attending.

As part of a process of developing this subject area the facilitators intend to pursue publication of papers arising from the workshop, perhaps in the form of a special edition journal. However, just as important as this is the exchange of ideas and information that a workshop such as this enables. The mutual sharing of experiences and knowledge will hopefully provide insights and contacts that can assist us in shaping a more inclusive and participatory approach to the Network Society.




Workshop facilitators:

Peter Day is a lecturer at the School of Information Management, University of Brighton. He is a former chairperson of the Sussex Community Internet Project and a member of the Brighton and Hove Community Information Network steering group.


Mike Gurstein, Research Fellow, Technical University of British Columbia, Board Member of Vancouver Community Network and British Columbia Community Networking Association.


Doug Schuler is a faculty member of The Evergreen State College where he concentrates on Computers and Society issues. He is the author of "New Community Networks: Wired for Change" and is one of the co-founders of the Seattle Community Network. He is currently setting up the Public Sphere Project for CPSR.


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