beyond inclusion abstract

The most recent version of the abstract and paper are on the Social Science Research Network here.

From the Digital Divide to Digital Inclusion and Beyond: An Update on Telecentres and CTCs

This update report on Telecentres and Community Technology Centers (CTCs), a follow-up to an earlier presentation, is based on a framework suggested in an unpublished essay by David Nemer, “Literature Review on Digital Inclusion and Digital Divide,” one in which the conception of “digital inclusion” came, for many, to replace the limitations and misconceptions in the idea of the “digital divide” and encompass a new “second wave” of research and practice, only in the end to suffer from distortions and inadequacies of its own.  This review looks at five recent publications in the field that go beyond these limitations and provide examples of a “third wave” of research and practice involving telecentres and CTCs that illustrate the transformative, liberating, radical democratic, community-building dimensions and character of both the institutions and the research itself.

The review begins with a critical summary of the complementary analyses and surveys that combine for a global overview — Ricardo Gomez, Ed., Libraries, Telecentres, Cybercafes and Public Access to ICT: International Comparisons (Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference, 2012) and Panayiota Tsatsou’s Digital Divides in Europe — Culture, Politics and the Western-Southern Divide (Bern, Switzerland: Peter Lang, 2011). Then, to illustrate some of the heroic features of the Third Wave, this is followed by summary profiles of exemplary case studies involving three CTCs that are central to technology’s role in stories of democratic education, development, and transformation: the Native American Palas Learning Center in San Diego County in southern California, the Homeless Women’s Technology Education Project at the Troy-Cohoes YWCA in upstate New York, and the CTC at Harrison Plaza Public Housing in North Philadelphia.

These stories are found in Christian Sandvig’s “Connection at Ewiiaapaayp Mountain: Indigenous Internet Infrastructure” in Lisa Nakamura and Peter Chow-White’s Race After The Internet (NY: Routledge, 2012); Virginia Eubanks’ Digital Dead End: Fighting for Social Justice in the Information Age (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011), based on her article “Trapped in the Digital Divide: The Distributive Paradigm in Community Informatics”; and Melissa Gilbert and Michele Masucci’s ICT Geographies: Strategies for Bridging the Digital Divide (University of British Columbia, Canada, e-praxis epress, 2011).  Along with the first two works, all these studies are freely available online in their entirety, in part, and/or in some alternative version. The review looks at the pedagogical role of the authors as well as the stories and accounts of their community technology projects.

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