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If communities can access online and digital technology does that mean they're empowered? what else...

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Hi Kim

Good question and my short answer would be, not necessarily. Certainly digital technologies can contribute to the empowerment of communities and can be used in ways that support the community empowerment. In my opinion, community empowerment results from the conscious and collective decision making processes found in community environments, i.e when communities use their resources and capacities to act to make their voices heard or improve their community. In this way community empowerment is connected to community learning and social capital The relationships, communication and knowledge that develops and is shared as a result of community building/development activities/actions contribute to empowerment. It, (empowerment) is the result of social rather than technological processes....although as I said....I do believe that technology can be used to support social processes.

Not sure if any of that makes sense....just rushed of the reply.


"It, (empowerment) is the result of social rather than technological processes....although as I said....I do believe that technology can be used to support social processes."

I love that as a quote :-)

Another quote that stuck in my head from the Digital Engagement conference was something that Nathan from the Kaizen partnership said.

"Just because you buy someone a brand new kitchen does not mean they're going to be empowered to become a chef"

Like where this is heading ie yes but no but yes but...

Here's another snippet from Peter's wise words:
"The relationships, communication and knowledge that develops and is shared as a result of community building/development activities/actions contribute to empowerment."

in which case I'd suggest the question should be:
"in what way can technology help foster and promote the relationships, communications and knowledge sharing which are the essential ingredients of empowerment?"

and as we know that the use of technology can have both positive and negative effects maybe the best answer is:
"by listening to people and helping them to explore and learn to use the technologies which best meet their own needs and those of their communities"

I like the kitchen analogy but too tired to link it back right now

Hi Mark, Kim, Peter - interesting comment from Steven Clift at the end of this thread about the work and tools appropriate for different communities. If I understand aright, Steven is suggesting that e-mail-based issues forums, that now work with other apps, may be more appropriate in some circumstances than huyperlocal blogs. Mark - I think you are using both in Brighton and Hove? Any thoughts (suggesting posting to Steven's comment).
Actually, it can't be an either blogs or e-mail question.

Or e-mail, forums, blogs, Ning social nets, FB Groups, or Twitter hashtags question.

Whatever your core online public space technology is, it must be accessible via the end-users preferred technology to reach enough people at the hyperlocal level where inclusion is the goal.

So if you use a blog, promote e-mail updates on new posts and subscribe to comments like:

If you use Drupal or Ning, default to e-mail alerts selected and make people turn it off.

I think the open question is to what extent you require people to login to a web site to post and whether than drops the percentage of people contributing down significantly to instead use simpler tools that allow e-mail publishing to the community but do not have as much eye candy. (Funders/visitors like eye candy because they can't really get a sense that a site is working simply from text even if it actually is relative to the effort/cost to maintain the online hyperlocal site/community with lots of pretty pictures.)

I think there are two issues here: how to get your online communications read by communities, and how to get communities using online communications. They probably feed into eachother but I'll address them separately for now.

I agree with Steve, that if you want to get your online communications read you do have to use the technology that is preferred by your end-user. That might mean asking them to subscribe via email, it might mean setting up a YouTube channel and embedding video into your site, it might mean doing a podcast and asking people to subscribe via i-tunes. It probably means a selection of all of these (and others that I haven't thought of!) - because at the end of the day you want to welcome all sorts of people to engage with what you're saying.

Getting communities to use online communications to communicate themselves (as well as to read other people's stuff`) I believe will only work with a similar, communities first, approach. For example, my Mum until a couple of months ago had never been on the internet herself. If she wanted to know anything she would get me to look it up for her. She was fine really without the internet in her life - she'd always managed before - so why start now? Until, she realised that there were lots of websites that could help her in creating her family tree. Before, this was a pretty arduous process of going to the library and the archives etc etc. But she discovered this whole online world that made it a lot easier for her.

So to cut a long story short, that was her way in, and from there she has begun to find that she can do so much more online to benefit her life. She now has an email address and sends me big long emails (like letters!) - and the other day we even had a go at instant messaging (but she kept forgetting to press enter after she had typed!). All of this is really great to see anyway.

If I had said to her in the past "Mum you really should get an email address" she wouldn't have listened. She needed to find it out on her own terms - and everyone's journey to that place is going to be different. So the Community Voices ethos is that we want communities to tell us what they want to do with digital media and we will support them in that. Then perhaps they will begin to engage with other forms of digital media if and when they are ready.

Sorry that's long!
More stories from Mums (and others) could be the way to go here ... thanks Kim. Pull out that Flip :-)


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