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IDIA2014 Conference
Port Elizabeth, South Africa
3-4 November 2014

An experimental methodology to promote and evaluate the use of community networks for civic engagement

Mònica Garriga
IGOPnet (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, UAB)
Spain

Esunly Medina
Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, UPC
Spain

Narcís Vives
Fundació Itinerarium
Spain

Full paper

Abstract

CitizenSqKm is a project currently based in the Barcelona neighborhood of Poblenou, which aims to explore and extend the potentials of a community owned and managed telecommunications network. The project explores how community networks can increase civic engagement and benefit the citizens of the European Union more broadly.In order to privilege the use of the community network, the project is devising a methodology to engage participants using educational and journalistic techniques. The project is developing a comprehensive evaluation and applied methodology of civic engagement using participatory media. Guided by the philosophy of community networks—principles emerging from the commons of open, free and a non-commodified network—this paper presents the design and development of a specific communication ecology and it’s impact on the community. After reflecting on the existing literature concerning differing research methodologies, this paper will then present the considerations and choices we made in order to design a methodology specific to the context and which exceeds mere diagnosis, to enable actual social interventions. The methodology combines conventional digital methods with more recent participatory and qualitative evaluation methods, such as Ethnographic Action Research (EAR), and its variation, the Network Action Research (NAR), and the Most Significant Change (MSC)—methods currently being used to document the impact of information and communication technologies for transforming communities. This project—despite being at the beginning stage— has already moved to identify and correct flaws in its methodology. And despite the fact that the emerging systematology appears solid, it is still premature to confirm solid results at this stage.

Key words

Participatory design; ICT for development; community networks; geolocation