Towards greater systemisation in CI research: an exploration of social development as a framework for comparison and understanding
The theme of complexity alludes to the difficulties community informatics (CI) researchers face when analysing use of ICTs by communities. In response, de Moor (2009a, 2009b) and Stillman (2010) identify the need for greater systemisation of CI research that enables complex socio-technical processes to be analysed over multiple cases. The principle by which such systemisation should occur is open to debate. It seems improbable that a single theoretical approach, at least in the short term, is going to satisfy everyone as greater systemisation is pursued. The paper suggests that, as a first step, efforts should be devoted to better appreciation of philosophical principles that underpin theories and their often unarticulated assumptions. In a spirit of inclusivity, the paper therefore argues that efforts to systemise CI research should seek to include a variety of theoretical frameworks and relate such frameworks on the basis of an accepted framework. As an example of such a framework, the work of Hall and Midgley (2004) in social development is provided to demonstrate the means by which different theoretical approaches can be understood and compared in relation to three dominant areas of discourse in social development. The paper explains this framework using research carried out in relation to community technology centres (CTCs) in regional New South Wales, Australia. While Hall and Midgley's framework reflects three areas of discourse, they leave the way open for additional areas of discourse to be included, namely those derived from indigenous knowledge.
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