I have been to a few gatherings of people interested in developing transition communities and in conversations I have noted that some involved in local community development have said that communications technologies would not be useful for their projects – these projects being in poorer areas of Christchurch.
At one time, in the early days of computers, I found it difficult to see anything positive in communications technologies, let alone its value for inclusive community building.
I’ve since changed my mind.
There were three main reasons:
1. I noticed how communications technologies (especially in the context of globalisation), were coming to permeate all aspects of our lives. I realised that such trends were going to continue whether I liked them or not.
2. I realised also that new ways of thinking about local community development would be needed both to redress the growing dislocations caused by the speed and impacts of technological innovation, as well as, most importantly, to take advantage of the considerable new opportunities. For instance, the popular site Trade Me has enabled people without capital and formal education in the tertiary sector to set up Internet-based businesses, and engage in successful local and international trade. Likewise, increasingly accessible audio-visual technologies are enabling creatives, wherever they are in the world, to produce and disseminate their work on popular platforms such as Youtube.
3. In the 1990s, I was fortunate to be working with creative community development practitioners – people such as John Wardle and John Gallagher. They saw not only the pitfalls but also some new possibilities in using communications technologies for inclusive and effective development. This development encompassed social, economic and ecological dimensions at both local and wider levels. They helped to conceptualise, and worked, on such projects in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Technological access is increasingly understood to be essential for participation in social, economic and political life. This makes it important to recognise and overcome financial and logistical obstacles to all having access to such technologies and, especially, to knowledge of how they can be deployed productively.
I think this may be a challenge to community developers who might wish to be inclusive of everyone, but do not see communications technologies as an essential part of their developmental repertoire. What do you think?