Please note this website is just a concept demonstration, it was never implemented as intended.
About the Prairienet Community Technology Studio Class
CTCs have been, and remain, an important tool in helping to bridge the digital divide and digital inequalities for underserved urban and rural communities. However, information and communication technology (ICT) infuses all of society, and as hinted at by the recent electoral success of the Obama campaign, when effectively used can become a powerful tool for implementing a more true democracy that empowers an equal voice for all people and can facilitate mobilization of new and existing communities to affect positive change. Further, creating CTCs in diverse community centers can provide an important mechanism for crossing the boundaries between physical and virtual communities. To that end, CTCs are not just public facilities for private learning and work using ICT, but are also physical, public spaces providing face-to-face social interactions while at the same time affording access to online, public spaces and to emerging digital tools.
CTCs can be:
- a place to provide access to, and training on, a wide range of ICT;
- a place where community can explore ways to reappropriate and adapt (e.g., discover new applications of technologies, create data mashups) ICT to develop more effective tools that help them meet their goals;
- a place where community can become active producers of interactive and multimedia content;
- a place where citizen professionals can come together in communities of practice (see http://www.ewenger.com/theory/); and
- a place where communities of inquiry (see http://ecommons.txstate.edu/polsfacp/3/) are formed and regularly meet to bring together diverse groups of people to dialog, investigate, strategize, reflect, and mobilize with the aid of immediately available ICT.
In 2009, Prairienet will implement and host a new Community Media Research and Development Lab in Champaign. This facility will provide a laboratory for CTC research and development, as well as a home for engaged scholarship that bridges the university and the community. Hosting a physical lab makes it possible for researchers at the University of Illinois to follow through from theory to practice to evaluation. Using Prairienet's broad national and international network of partnerships with existing CTCs, research piloted in-house can be further field tested across a range of types of CTCs. More communities are becoming aware of the value of hosting a commons that includes appropriate ICT in the design of their public spaces. Through scholarly publications, quarterly technical reports, regularly scheduled workshops and training, and on-site consultation, researchers will share with both academic community and general public its research findings on the inclusion and effective use of ICT in such spaces discovered through the Community Medial Lab and Prairienet's CTC partners.
During Spring, 2009, a group will collaborate on laying the foundation for the development of the new Community Media Lab. This interdisciplinary group will focus on answering the following four questions over the course of the semester:
- Based on existing publications, what high impact research questions might be addressed in the early phases of lab development?
- What grants might be used to fund early research and development?
- What community and academic partnerships should be developed to facilitate early research?
- What type of facility is needed to house the Community Media Lab? What is the optimal location for such a facility?
- What hardware and software is available to create the inital lab? What equipment needs to be acquired for the initial lab?
- What training needs to be reappropriated or developed to facilitate use of the newly created Community Media Lab?
- What evaluation tools can be reapproprated or developed to create a path for more consistent, reliable evaluation of the effectiveness of CTCs in meeting community goals?
- What are the next steps in the creation of the new Community Media Lab?
Prairienet, founded in 1993, is community information and resource network for Champaign-Urbana and the surrounding East-Central Illinois region, offered as a community service by the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Historically Prairienet has provided a number of services to local groups and organizations, including websites, dial-up networking access, email, listservs, computer labs, and more.
As of 2009 Prairienet is altering their mission and presence to place less emphasis on hardware and internet services provision and instead research new technologies and strategies that can be employed to help communities meet their needs. So far this has centered mostly on prototyping new multimedia and web education programs as well as systems for better CTC management and empowerment.