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Colloquium - Le Dantec

Community Computing: Building Socio-Technical Infrastructures of Participation
Georgia Tech

In the U.S., as in other Western nations, new forms of information and communication technologies (ICTs) are rapidly changing how we interact with each other. On one hand, ICTs have enabled us to develop and recognize new forms of community that are divorced from traditional geographic and familial constraints. On the other, ICTs have helped existing communities, from close knit social groups to individuals who merely co-habit public spaces, to interact with each other in novel ways. Simply put, access to computers, to mobile phones, and to data connectivity has opened new avenues of interaction and experience and at the same time created expectations about the flattening of society through the democratization of information.

This notion that modern digital technology holds promises of democratization via information and of enabling new and meaningful social interactions fails to acknowledge that the realization of these benefits relies upon devices and infrastructure whose availability reflect socioeconomic contours; that marginality is often reinforced rather than obviated due to enabling technologies having been designed for the preferences of the well educated and relatively affluent. It is from this assessment that I have chosen to explore the design of technologies to support participation among the under-represented and disenfranchised.

Most recently, my research has focused on the urban homeless as a community in which to explore issues around how ICTs might be productively deployed to support the relationships and information needs that arise when trying to re-establish stable housing. I have specifically addressed the ways mobile technologies empower the urban homeless, and how they impact their ability to utilize social services, establish stability, and interact as socially legitimate individuals within the broader urban community. While this work is highly contextualized within the realm of urban homelessness, it provides a point of departure for examining and supporting different kinds of participation among communities that may not normally be substantially engaged in or supported by existing social computing infrastructures.

Christopher Le Dantec is an Assistant Professor of Digital Media in the School of Literature, Communication and Culture at Georgia Tech. His research in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) and Computer-Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) is focused on integrating theoretical, empirical, and design-based investigations of community technologies. He is particularly interested in developing mobile information technologies for the disenfranchised and marginalized segments of U.S. society, such as the urban homeless and the working poor. By focusing on uncommon communities of users -- communities for whom technology use might be considered a secondary concern -- he examines alternate constraints on mobile computing in urban life and how participatory design can develop a discourse about technology where none such previously existed. His research touches a number of different domains, including computer-supported cooperative work, social computing, urban computing, human-computer interaction, and values in design.

Department of Computer Science
University of Colorado Boulder
Boulder, CO 80309-0430 USA
May 5, 2012 (14:13)