service

Accessibility of Online Information

Pattern ID: 
502
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
75
Robert Luke
University of Toronto
Version: 
2
Problem: 

There are many digital divides -- those based on economics, gender, race, class, and ability. We can understand these divides by dividing them into two main categories -- accessibility to, and accessibility of information and communication technologies (ICTs). Accessibility to ICTs means having access to the technologies that connect one to the network society. Accessibility of ICTs means that these technologies of access are accessible to those with disabilities. But what does it mean to provide accessible ICTs and online environments?

Context: 

"For people without disabilities, technology makes things convenient, whereas for people with disabilities, it makes things possible . . . [this] fact brings with it an enormous responsibility because the reverse is also true. Inaccessible technology can make things absolutely impossible for disabled people, a prospect we must avoid."

Judith Heumann, Assistant Secretary of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, U.S. Department of Education. Keynote address to Microsoft employees and experts on disabilities and technology, Redmond, Washington, February 19, 1998

Discussion: 

Just as buildings are built with accessibility factored into their architecture from the ground up, so too must WWW and Internet architecture factor in accessibility initiatives from the outset to ensure equitable access to online resources. Accessibility standards such as the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Accessibility Initiative (W3C WAI) Guidelines offer developers guidelines for designing inclusive information infrastructures.

The WAI guidelines provide a blueprint for ensuring that ICTs used to access them are accessible to all. They are meant to prevent digital divides from growing disproportionately to the continued use of new technologies. By taking into account accessibility considerations, people with physical and/or learning disabilities are encouraged to become producers of information, and not just passive consumers. This is an important point, and a distinction worth making. It is one thing to ensure that ICTs and online media are rendered accessible for those using assistive devices (screen readers, special keyboards, mouse devices). It is another thing entirely to ensure that people with disabilities can actively participate in creating content for the online world. A key factor of accessibility is ensuring that those with disabilities can access both the information produced for and in the electronic world, and equally as important, can also access and use the tools needed to produce this content.

Here we can return to our accessibility to and ofdistinction. Accessibility of means making electronic information accessible according to the W3C’s WAI guidelines. Accessibility to ICTs means making the tools required to produce electronic content accessible also. These two taken together means ensuring that all people, regardless of ability, can participate equally in the production of the network society, in the information produced and broadcast via communication technologies. Creating knowledge from this information is what defines the network society. To our accessibility bifurcation we must add the ability to assess, to decode, and to use information, central components of what we can call digital literacy. Ensuring this knowledge benefits from all voices ensures that this network society is inclusive, representational, and reflective of the society at large.

Have You Unplugged Your Mouse Today?

What exactly does it mean to make Web content accessible? A review of accessibility issues by various disability groups will enable us to understand the barriers faced by a significant proportion of the population. It is useful to remember that the percentage of people with either a physical or learning disability that may impair access is around 20+% (54 million people in the US alone) (Waddell, 1999), and grows significantly according to age group.

How Many People Have Disabilities (US)?

Age Group Proportion of People with Disabilities
0 -- 21 10%
22 -- 44 14.9%
45 -- 54 24.5%
55 -- 64 36.3%
65 -- 79 47.3%
80+ 71.5%

Visual and hearing impairments are among the disabilities associated with ageing. U.S. Census Bureau (Qtd. in “Accessibility in Web Design” )

Disabilities that may impair access include visual, hearing, mobility, and cognitive impairments. To give you an idea of what barriers these users face, here is a list of some difficulties by disability group:

Vision --include blind and low vision people who use screen readers to access electronic information. Items that may be inaccessible or cause difficulty for vision impaired people include:
· Some Java elements
· Browse buttons
· Poorly labeled form elements
· Inconsistencies in layout
· Inconsistencies in language
· Surprise popup windows
· Multiple frames and nested tables
· Other problems included the illogical display of steps required for task completion, and confusing and ambiguous use of terminology

Hearing -- hearing impaired people need closed captioning for audio so this information will not be lost to the hearing impaired.

Mobility -- people with mobility impairments may use screen readers, laser and infrared head mouse devices, special keyboards and other products to access online and electronic information. They face problems similar to those encountered by the visually impaired.

Cognitive and Language/ Learning Disabilities -- people with these kinds of special needs use a variety of access devices to help improve access and cognition. Difficulty with language usage, the manner in which text and links are encoded, and the use of colors, fonts, sounds, graphics, all may have an adverse impact on LD people. Other issues include:
· Inconsistencies in layout and language
· Absence of alternative formats (no redundant display of information)
· Difficulty with multi-step activities
· Confusing terminology (e.g. "click here")
· Complexities in page/site payout and lack of clear and consistent instructions or other navigational aids.

Other factors affecting all disabled users include:
· Lack of experience with Internet/WWW technologies
· Lack of experience with assistive and adaptive technologies
· Operating system, software conflicts and difficulties
· Sites and technologies that do not support alternative access devices and strategies

Solution: 

Solution:

Following the W3C WAI guidelines is one way to ensure that all online information is accessible to persons with disabilities or to those who rely on adaptive and assistive technologies. Voluntary compliance on the part of all online providers will help the evolving standards of the WWW keep pace with the population. However, it is imperative to seek ways to encourage the accessible design of web materials from their first iteration. Inclusive design practices must take an active role in directing the development of accessible technology.

Equally as important is the need to educate all users and developers of ICTs on accessibility. This includes focusing on the ways in which the network society -- the culture in which ICTs are embedded -- can best respond to the needs of all people. This means looking at the social contexts in which technology sits, and examining the broader issues of access and living in a culture increasingly dominated by various mediating technologies. It means focusing less on individual accommodations and more on providing inclusive network infrastructures from the ground up. We need to develop a cultural or environmental approach to providing accessible ICTs and online environments. By building in “electronic curbcuts” from the ground up, online media and ICTs offer an inclusive opportunity for all people to participate in digital information exchange. Accessibility affects us all: Some of us directly; all of us indirectly.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Digital "divides" are based on economics, gender, race, class, ability, or other factors. We can view these divides in two ways — accessibility to, and accessibility of, information and communication technologies. Accessibility means being able to connect to the network society. It also means that these technologies are accessible to those with disabilities. We must find ways to design for accessibility at the onset. Accessibility affects us all: Some of us directly; all of us indirectly.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
Wikimedia Commons

Positive Health Information

Pattern ID: 
746
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
74
Jenny Epstein
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Health information in the developed world exists in vast quantities, not only for the general public but also for health professionals. Much of this information depicts good health in terms of vigilance against the failings of our own bodies. This serves to create dependency on a high tech, commodity health system.

Context: 

The style of language and the content of information are very important in how information makes people perceive the world. Authors in many fields have noted patterns of communication that create distrust and enforce dependency by emphasizing danger from external, uncontrollable forces. If people have a sense of helplessness in the face of this threat, they do not act upon their own feelings and perceptions.

Discussion: 

Negative language has the effect of emphasizing threats, magnifying fears, and creating dependency. Reminding people of their mortality tends to make them hold more closely to traditional culture (Pyszczynski, Solomon, & Greenberg, 2003); this has implications for mental health, and can also be used to influence mass opinion and behavior. A recent example is the US administration’s use of language to create fear and mistrust among the public by creating the specter of a constant external threat (Brooks, 2003).

Much health information, especially advertising from hospital corporations and pharmaceutical companies, uses this technique. A paternalistic (doctor knows best) and commodity-driven medical system produces an endless stream of information that encourages the perception that natural processes, such as growing older or pregnancy, are fraught with danger. This inhibits the spread of health information that is not based on the treatments that this system has to offer.

Language may not only be negative; it can also be empty (Brooks, 2003); complex issues are broken down into broad statements with little meaning. In health care information, this pattern of communication places the cause of ill health on the individual. The complexity of individuals’ relationships to the world they live in and the effects on individual health of pollution, poverty, and unhealthy social norms and values are ignored. People come to construe healthy behavior in terms of dependency on a medical industry that constantly invents not only new cures, but new diseases for the cures it already possesses (Blech, 2006).

Empty language is like empty calories. It tastes good and you can eat a lot of it, but you don’t obtain much benefit. A great deal of health information tempts us to feel that we are well-informed. We are bombarded by advertising and public health campaigns that do little more than create mistrust of the inherent healthy processes we possess. To reduce complex health issues to taking a pill ignores people’s emotional needs and the complex connection between body and mind; instead it emphasizes the negative aspects of their health.

The use of estrogen replacement in post-menopausal women illustrates this. Estrogen replacement was pushed on women as a way if combating the “problems” of growing old such as osteoporosis, heart disease, memory loss and drying skin. The unspoken message was that there was something wrong with growing old that taking medication could correct it. Preventative approaches, that emphasized a lifetime of healthy behaviors and the inherent correctness of aging, were ignored.

In pattern 47, Health Center, Alexander et al. (1977) describe a medical system that emphasizes sickness over health. By contrast, they show the Pioneer Health Center in Peckham, an experiment from the 1930s, as an example of medical care that focuses on health instead of sickness. In the same manner, health information must distinguish between healing and medicine. We need to hear messages of what is right with us and what needs to be done to stay in touch with the inherent health of our bodies.

Many alternative health practices, such as yoga, polarity treatment, or acupuncture focus on the inherent healthiness of the body. In these practices, the underlying concept is on healing, the natural process by which the body repairs itself. The rise of alternatives to conventional medicine reflects, in part, the lack of substance people feel from the information they receive after a visit to a doctor. Health-related discussion forums, that include both lay and professional perspectives but avoid the disease-mongering (Marshall & Aldhous, 2006) influence of industry funding, offer a way to make sense of information from various health related sources without falling victim to negative language and information; people put information into the context of everyday life and validate positive perceptions of themselves. This type of information has substance to it, not only because it is active rather than passive; it has the positive effect of engaging people in independent, creative thinking.

Solution: 

Health information should emphasize the idea that people are inherently healthy. It must inspire trust in the body’s ability to heal itself, once a healthy path has been taken. Where information of this kind is insufficient, either create it or supplant it with participant-controlled interactive forums.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Health information in the developed world often depicts health in terms of vigilance against external, uncontrollable forces. This fosters distrust and dependency on a high-tech, commodity health system. Positive Health Information is built on the fact that people are inherently healthy. It inspires trust in the body's ability to heal itself, once a healthy path has been taken.

Pattern status: 
Released

E-Consultation as Mediation

Pattern ID: 
475
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
70
David Newman
Queen's University Belfast
Version: 
2
Problem: 

How can we improve public consultation between citizens and their public servants? How can we facilitate the participation of groups who currently don't take part, and use their input to find policy consensus?

Context: 
  1. Formal public consultations initiated by government agencies.
  2. Informal communications between representatives (MPs, councillors, ...) and their constituents.
  3. Community and voluntary organisations attempting to consult their members and clients to determine their response to a policy initiative or government consultation.
  4. Media or community sponsored discussions on a local issue.
  5. Mediation between anatogonistic communities who have conflicting interests.

Note that the pattern applies most strictly to the final context, where a government body is mediating between competing interests (e.g. in a planning inquiry). It is one of a number of patterns that can be followed in the other situations.

Discussion: 

Current public consultation is deficient in a number of ways. Few people have the time or language skills to respond in writing to 20-page consultation documents. It is mainly professionals with a financial interest who do so. Rarely are public meetings attended by more than a few local retired people. The language of the documents is often obscure and couched in public sector jargon. The questions asked are the ones the officials feel safe asking, not the ones local communities would ask. The style is not one that engages the interest of anyone who is not a committed activist, let alone young people.

This has become very clear in places, such as devolved regions of the UK, where public consultation has suddenly grown very fast. In Northern Ireland, equality legislation forced 120 public authorities to consult on how they were planning to measure the equality impact (gender, race, religion, age, class) of each of their policies over the next 5 years. This led to 120 long documents being sent to the same 80-120 voluntary organizations, with 8 weeks to reply. Their choice was to ignore them (whereupon the officials could continue to do what they had done before) or to spend every day drafting replies, with very little time to talk to the people who would be directly affected.

Contrast this with experimental use of ICTs in public consultations in the Netherlands, the use of Internet chat to hold discussions between young people in East Belfast (the only neutral venue at the time) on human rights, and research into on-line mediation support systems in Germany (for planning disputes).

Can we design an appropriate use of software to support electronic public consultation that improves both its effectiveness in reaching different people, and its efficiency in controlling information overload and consultation fatique?

Consider consultation as an inter-organizational learning process. Knowledge is transfered between citizens and government, as they learn from each other. In particular, the policy makers need to better understand the needs, life experiences, and preferences of different actors in civil society (sometimes called stakeholders). In doing that, they act as both apprentices, learning from citizens, and mediators, managing disputes between different groups of citizens.

When there are strong disagreements between different groups, a mediation or negotiation model is appropriate, based on what we understand about dispute resolution in communities that have been affected by conflict. This can be used to build a pattern of the process, and identify technologies to support different stages in that process.

Solution: 

Considering public consultation as a series of mediation and negotiation processes, it should be possible to participatively design software that supports these human processes, in the stages identified in the table below.The technologies that can be used at different stages are described in more detail in a guide to e-consultation.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

In good public consultations knowledge is transferred between citizens and government as they learn from each other. E-Consultation can be seen as a Mediation process which is run in stages. At the beginning issues and needs can be collected from stories in forums and social media. Policymakers need to better understand people's needs, life experiences, and preferences in order to participatively design solutions to social problems.

Pattern status: 
Released

Equal Access to Justice

Pattern ID: 
806
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
69
Donald J Horowitz
Wash State Access to Justice Tech Principles Comm
Version: 
2
Problem: 

The fundamental principle of full and equal access to the justice system, particularly for those who suffer disparate barriers or are otherwise vulnerable, faces new opportunities and challenges from the advances in information and communication technologies, which can provide increased pathways for quality access but can also perpetuate or exacerbate existing barriers or even create new ones.

Context: 

This pattern is based upon a trailblazing effort by the Washington State Access to Justice Board, an agency of the Supreme Court, to define principles and develop implementation strategies, means and methods, for ensuring that technological capabilities and advances are effectively incorporated throughout the state justice system in ways consistent with the fundamental principle that all persons should have equal access to justice. A recent legal needs survey had revealed that 87% of all low income people in the state who had civil legal problems were unable to secure legal help, and that residents of rural counties had substantially less access to technology-based resources than their urban counterparts. Therefore the overriding intent of the effort was to develop, implement and institutionalize principles within all justice system agencies to increase access to justice system information, resources and services for all, and especially those who most need it.

Discussion: 

Currently, technology is creating opportunities for people to use their home or nearby library branch or community center to find out about, initiate or respond to court or other law related needs, obligations or requirements, communicate and exchange documents with their legal service provider or others in or associated with the legal system less expensively, using less time and effort, without having to travel to a central city, and with less time away from work or other necessary resources. This can be especially important for the elderly, persons with disabilities, persons with limited financial means, and those who can’t afford to miss time from work for reasons of financial need or jeopardizing their employment. Similarly, a person with limited mobility or hearing may be able to get information electronically about his or her rights as a tenant; a victim of domestic violence can learn on the Internet what she can do and in fact be able to start the legal process of protecting herself. The courts and other parts of the justice system can operate more productively and less expensively, making court and legal records and information more readily available, and receive filings, fees, documents and information, all electronically.

However, the means of using these very possibilities also create the risk of worsening old barriers or erecting new barriers to access, causing greater disparities. While the opportunities described above seem positive, these innovations assume access to a computer, reasonable proficiency at using them and their necessary software programs, reading capability, fluency in English and sufficient phone or cable and electricity availability and capacity at affordable cost to support sufficient connections and streams of information and interactivity. Without all of that, those who have the tools and means, the proficiency and the necessary infrastructure available get further ahead, and those without fall further behind in having the justice system work for them. The lack of equality gets greater, not less.

On December 4, 2004, the Washington State Supreme Court became the first court in the United States, perhaps the world, to formally adopt by Court Order, a set of authoritative principles to guide the use of technology in its justice system. The stated purpose was to ensure that the planning, design, development, implementation and use of new technologies and the management of existing technologies by the justice system and associated organizations protects and advances the fundamental right of equal access to justice. Over a three-and-a-half year period, the Washington State Access to Justice Board drew on the input and involvement of a diverse group of approximately 200 people and organizations from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds to develop formal Access to Justice Technology Principles to serve as the practical operating norm for justice system organizations and entities throughout the state.

The Access to Justice Technology Principles broadly define access to justice as the meaningful opportunity to: (1) assert a claim or defense and to create, enforce, modify, or discharge a legal obligation in any forum; (2) acquire the procedural or other information necessary to improve the likelihood of a just result; (3) participate in the conduct of proceedings as a witness or juror; and (4) acquire information about the activities of courts or other dispute resolution bodies. Access to justice, moreover, must include timeliness, affordability and transparency.

Briefly paraphrased, the six Access to Justice Technology Principles are:

1. Requirement of access to justice: Introduction of technology or changes in the use of technology must not reduce access or participation and, whenever possible, shall advance such access and participation;

2. Technology and just results: The justice system shall use and advance technology to achieve the objective of a just process by impartial and well-informed decision makers and reject, minimize, or modify any use that reduces the likelihood of achieving that objective;

3. Openness and privacy: Technology should be designed to meet the dual responsibilities of the justice system of being open to the public and protecting personal privacy;

4. Assuring a neutral forum: All appropriate means shall be used to ensure the existence of neutral, accessible, and transparent forums which are compatible with new technologies

5. Maximizing public awareness and use: The justice system should promote ongoing public knowledge and understanding of the tools afforded by technology to access justice

6. Best practices: Those governed by these principles shall utilize “best practices” procedures or standards to guide the use of technology so as to protect and enhance access to justice and promote equality of access and fairness.

A broad-based interdisciplinary implementation strategy group then developed a set of practical strategies and initiatives to transform the principles from the words of a court-ordered statement of vision into a pervasive operational reality through the state justice system. Once the principles are truly institutionalized in justice organizations, then, as a matter of ordinary routine, the design for every new technology project would incorporate accessibility and usability and increase transparency of and information about the justice system for all users, especially those who are or may be excluded or underserved as well as those experiencing any barrier to accessing justice system services. Essential actions include: (1) Development and maintenance of a Web-based Resource Bank; (2) Initial and ongoing communication to and training for justice system and associated agencies about the ATJ Technology Principles and available resources for implementation; (3) Demonstration projects; (4) Public awareness and usable information. Additional requirements address policy-level governance and guidance as well as ensuring the continuing relevance, effectiveness and use of the Principles over time.

Solution: 

A great deal has been said and written about what has come to be called “The Digital Divide,” both domestically and internationally. Respect for and use of the rule of law is an essential way to move to a less divided, more equitable society and world. Accessible quality justice for all individuals and groups is a recognized worldwide value that crosses cultural as well as geographic lines. Meaningful access to justice can and does empower people to be part of creating their own just societies. This effort is the first such undertaking, and can provide a useful example that can be adapted and used not only in other places, but in other sectors of basic public need, such as access to health care, access to food, access to safety, and other essentials.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

The principle of full and equal access to the justice system faces opportunities and challenges from new technologies. While technology can provide new pathways it can also exacerbate existing barriers or create new ones. Technology can allow people to use their home, library, or community center to find out about, initiate or respond to law related requirements, and communicate and exchange documents less expensively, using less time and effort.

Pattern status: 
Released

Privacy

Pattern ID: 
589
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
65
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project (CPSR)
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Everybody has information, activities, thoughts and events from their lives that they'd rather keep to themselves. Unfortunately for them, corporate marketeers, government security forces and criminals, both amateur and professional, are working hard to uncover and exploit these secrets. While it's clear that some information of this sort needs to be uncovered for the common good (news of an impending terrorist attack, for example), this need is sometimes invoked as a pretext for trampling on privacy protections. Without adequate safeguards, dictators and other authoritarians (including many in putatively democratic societies) spy on critics of their regimes, an activity that can result in harassment or even torture or death of the critics in many places around the world.

Context: 

Legitimate governments, civil society, and concerned individuals must work together to prevent the all-too-common privacy abuses where the powerful prey upon the less powerful. In what the Kinks call "the wonderful world of technology" the basic ingredients including massive amounts of personal information in digital form, ubiquitous communication networks and inexpensive and miniscule surveillance devices, coupled with the social equation of eager snoops and unsuspecting dupes, has helped create an explosion of privacy abuses and the potential for untold others. The fact that human identities themselves are now routinely "stolen" reveals the severity of the threat and how much "progress" is being made in the advancement of privacy abuse.

Discussion: 

In 1763, the noted English Parliamentarian William Pitt in his "Speech on the Excise Tax" declared that "The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the force of the Crown. It may be frail; its roof may shake; the wind may blow through it; the storms may enter; the rain may enter – but the King of England cannot enter; all his forces dare not cross the threshold of the ruined tenement."

Now nearly 250 years after Pitt's speech modern day rulers use technology to easily enter the tenements, both ruined and intact, of millions of people without a warrant or the problems associated with actual physical entrance. In the campaign to re-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger to the governor's office in California, according to Michael Blood (2006), "The Schwarzenegger campaign has stockpiled millions of names, phone numbers and addresses with consumer preferences, voting histories and other demographic information." Then, based on assumptions about consumer preferences (a Democrat, for example, is more likely to drive a hybrid vehicle, while a Republican is more likely to drive a pickup truck or Cadillac), they employed "microtargeting" to carefully craft messages to appeal to the people they believe they now understand based on their interpretation of the data. According to Blood, "The idea is an outgrowth of techniques that businesses have long used to find new customers. ... Few people might realize how much information is publicly available, for a price, about their lifestyles. Companies collect and sell consumer information they buy from credit card companies, airlines and retailers of every stripe."

Why is technology so crucial — and so threatening right now? The quick answer is plenty of product and buyers. The laundry list of new technology is growing daily and institutions are not afraid to (ab)use it. Some, if not most, of the technology is plagued by problems that are either "built-in" (or otherwise inherent or inevitable) to the technology and/or subject to misuse. "Face recognition" software, at least currently, falls into the first category. John Graham, for example, of the Giraffe Project, faced a problem in the second category when his name showed up on the U.S. "No fly list" for no discernible reason. After several letters to the government he finally received word that his "identity has been verified," meaning, presumably that yes he is the "John Graham" in question. Currently his name has not been removed from the list, whether this is attributable to incompetence, work overload, or basic mean-spiritedness is not easily determined.

According to Privacy International,

"Privacy is a fundamental human right. It underpins human dignity and other values such as freedom of association and freedom of speech. It has become one of the most important human rights of the modern age.

Privacy is recognized around the world in diverse regions and cultures. It is protected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and in many other international and regional human rights treaties. Nearly every country in the world includes a right of privacy in its constitution. At a minimum, these provisions include rights of inviolability of the home and secrecy of communications. Most recently written constitutions include specific rights to access and control one's personal information. In many of the countries where privacy is not explicitly recognized in the constitution, the courts have found that right in other provisions. In many countries, international agreements that recognize privacy rights such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights or the European Convention on Human Rights have been adopted into law."

The organization also points out that "The recognition of privacy is deeply rooted in history. There is recognition of privacy in the Qur'an and in the sayings of Mohammed. The Bible has numerous references to privacy. Jewish law has long recognized the concept of being free from being watched. There were also protections in classical Greece and ancient China.

Although privacy is seen as a fundamental and universal right, it's not easily to define. For one thing, it does depend to some degree on culture and context. New communication technology as well as new surveillance technology has shown also that privacy — and the threats to it — also change over time. Generally speaking, "privacy protection is frequently seen as a way of drawing the line at how far society can intrude into a person's affairs" (Privacy International, ____). United States Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis explained privacy simply as the individual's "right to be left alone."

Privacy can be divided into the following separate but related concepts (Privacy International, 2006):

Information privacy, which involves the establishment of rules governing the collection and handling of personal data such as credit information, and medical and government records. It is also known as "data protection";
Bodily privacy, which concerns the protection of people's physical selves against invasive procedures such as genetic tests, drug testing and cavity searches;
Privacy of communications, which covers the security and privacy of mail, telephones, e-mail and other forms of communication; and
Territorial privacy, which concerns the setting of limits on intrusion into the domestic and other environments such as the workplace or public space. This includes searches, video surveillance and ID checks.

Each of the types of privacy concept mentioned above has a variety of ways in which the privacy can be abused or invaded. What can be done to stop or slow down these abuses? You can spy on some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time. You can't spy on all of the people all of the time… yet.

The ultimate aim is self-restraint where government and other groups and institutions that have a propensity o invade privacy stop doing it. Whether apocryphal or not, there was a feeling that "Gentlemen don't read other people's mail." Although it's not always obvious, there are always (presumably) limits to what people or institutions do that are either self-imposed by habit or by fear of retribution or other penalties.

Unfortunately it's not the case that people should just trust governments or businesses or other people or institutions who might feel obliged to invade your privacy. What can individuals do to protect their rights? And what can individuals do to get out from problems where privacy has already been invaded? As individuals and as members of organizations (like the American Civil Liberties Union, Electronic Privacy Information Center, and Privacy Rights International) who stand up for privacy rights we must anticipate abuses, monitor powerful (and otherwise snoopy), develop policy, negotiate and engage with authorities (law enforcement, legislators), redress abuses. There are many ways in which people can — and should — take personal initiative. These include encrypting e-mail, shredding, protecting yourself from identity theft; and, generally, falling for scams. Initiating lawsuits against the government and corporations for breaches in privacy can be an effective tool of the citizenry in behalf of privacy although ideally it would be much preferred if these institutions could be counted on to police themselves adequately.

The idea that "an innocent person has nothing to fear" is an illusion. Worse, it shows a lack of knowledge that is almost breathtaking. If privacy is the "right to be left alone" then different people will have draw different boundary lines — but everybody will draw one. On the other side of that boundary are institutions and people who will cross that line if they are emboldened to do so. There are also of course times when government or police are legitimately obligated to cross that line, but they will need to do so in a manner that is legitimate for the times. There is never a time when there is no line. Thus privacy is important to everybody in the world. It is also an important policy to consider for groups of people as well. When, for example, would it be necessary to forcefully bring a small group that existed communally for centuries into a cash economy. When is it ethically acceptable to bring the "word of god" (one of them at least) to people of another religion? When does one bomb a country to bring the benefits of democracy to it?

We'd like to think that people would not have to resort to extraordinary measures to protect themselves from privacy intrusion and invasion After all, in the "best of all possible worlds" people wouldn't bother about privacy. Fortunately we don't live in the best of all possible worlds. There is ample evidence in fact that the assault on privacy has only just begun. There are a number of problems that are simply "waiting to happen" Google, for example, owns an immense amount of information about virtually everybody who has ever searched for anything online. While it may be true that, as their mission statement states, they'll "do no evil," how can we be sure about the company in five or ten years time. And just as spammers keep finding way to send electronic dreck, the unethical collection of personal information may be done by new types of spybots, which could be part of e-blackmail rackets, possibly in conjunction with faked digital evidence. Although some people have less reason to fear government, business or criminal impinging on their privacy we all face problems, real and potential of abuse. For that reason privacy rights are often strongly associated with human rights, for example. Privacy is not just an issue for dissidents or political activists.

Solution: 

We are all living in an era when new technology and security concerns — both genuine and feigned — raise tremendous threats to privacy. The threat is real and the struggle against it must be equally as strong. Be cognizant of the critical importance of privacy and work conscientiously on all fronts to protect privacy rights. Public education is important in this area as are public campaigns against privacy invaders.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Everybody has information, activities, thoughts, and events that they'd rather keep private. But marketeers, security forces, and criminals are uncovering and exploiting these secrets, leading, sometimes to harassment or even torture or death. We need to be aware of the importance of Privacy and work to protect privacy rights and resist privacy invaders.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
John Thomas

Community Currencies

Pattern ID: 
789
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
63
Burl Humana
Gilson Schwartz
Version: 
2
Problem: 

People have always traded or bartered with each other, using different tools and materials to represent and store value in various kinds of transactions; trade, investment, consumption, production, marriage, kinship, sacrifice. In complex, urban and global capitalist societies, money expands the potential for growth and accumulation, while also creating new forms of wealth and power concentration, regulated by central banks and other supervisory authorities at national and international levels. Community Currencies or “complementary currencies” offer a solution for local markets deprived or unserved by global or national currencies.

Context: 

Thomas Greco states three basic ways in which conventional money malfunctions: there is never enough of it, it is misallocated at its source so that it goes to those who already have lots of it, and it systematically pumps wealth from the poor to the rich. The symptoms of a "polluted" money supply are too familiar: inflation, unemployment, bankruptcies, foreclosures, increasing indebtedness, homelessness, and a widening gap between the rich and the poor. However, the ultimate resource of the community, the productivity, skills, and creativity of its members, is not limited by lack of money. (Meeker-Lowry, 1995)

Discussion: 

According to Michael Linton, "Money is really just an immaterial measure, like an inch, or a gallon, a pound, or degree. While there is certainly a limit on real resources -- only so many tons of wheat, only so many feet of material, only so many hours in the day -- there need never be a shortage of measure. (No, you can’t use any inches today, there aren’t any around, they are all being used somewhere else.) Yet this is precisely the situation in which we persist regarding money. Money is, for the most part, merely a symbol, accepted to be valuable generally throughout the society that uses it. Why should we ever be short of symbols to keep account of how we serve one another?" (Meeker-Lowry, 1995)

"The proper kind of money used in the right circumstances is a liberating tool that can allow the fuller expression of human creativity. Money has not lived up to its potential as a liberator because it has been perverted by the monopolization of its creation and by politically manipulating its distribution -- available to the favored few and scarce for everyone else."2 Creating community currencies may foster exchanges among people that need it most.

Conventional money is strictly regulated by central authorities at a federal level. Its regulated scarcity is a major source of powerful economic policy (i.e..raising interest rates to curb inflation) that plays on the rules of capitalist competition. Community currencies, on the other hand, are designed to counterweight scarcity by promoting exchanges founded on cooperation or collaboration. The emergence of new information and communication technologies has promoted numerous local projects that use “open source money” or “collaborative money”. Both “conventional” money and “community” currencies, however, rest on the same foundation, that is, confidence in the agreed on rules of production and supply of monetary and financial instruments (credits, loans, time sharing, etc.). Both are “conventions” designed and operated by living human communities.

Community currencies may also be qualitative rather than quantitative, so that the “purchasing power” of the currency takes advantage of specific ranges of skills and resources (child and social health care, environmental campaigns or edutainment projects), unlike the conventional economy which values certain skills and devalues or ignores others as effects of blind market forces. The move toward “community” currency is motivated by the desire to bridge the gap between what we earn and what we need to survive financially.

Local currencies are seen as a community-building tool. Communities may range from solidarity economies in slums and vulnerable social areas, to game players, to collectors or charity donors; spread throughout the entire world as digital networks promote new forms of community life. Community currencies not only prove a commitment to community building and to supporting what’s local but also may function as a path towards a greater experiential understanding of the role of economics and money in our daily lives. Any community can, in principle, design currencies backed by something, tangible or intangible, that the community agrees has collective value.

Hundreds of community currency models are at work these days. These are a few of the community currency reference sites - Bernard Lietaer,
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernard_Lietaer; Resources for Community Currency Activists, http://www.communitycurrency.org/resources.html; Luca Fantacci, "Complementary Currencies: a Prospect on Money from a Retrospect on Premodern Practices", http://akira.arts.kuleuven.be/meijifin/node/52; Social Trade Organisation, http://www.strohalm.net/en/site.php; Open Money, http://www.thetransitioner.org/wiki/tiki-index.phppage=Open+Money+home+page.

ITHACA HOURS, where everyone’s honest hour of labor has the same dignity and LETS, Local Exchange Trading Systems are examples of such models. These two community currency models illustrate new forms of social and communicative practices that have a real impact on living structures at a local level.

The ITHACA HOURS system was created in 1991 by Paul Glover, a community economist and ecological designer. With ITHACA HOURS, each HOUR is equivalent to $10.00 because that’s the approximate average hourly wage in Tompkins County, Ithaca, New York. Participants are able to use HOURS for rent, plumbing, carpentry, car repair, chiropractic, food (two large locally-owned grocery stores as well as farmer’s market vendors accept them), firewood, childcare, and numerous other goods and services. Some movie theaters accept HOURS as well as bowling alleys and the local Ben & Jerry’s. (Meeker-Lowry, 1995)

The LETS model was created on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, as a self contained network in which members buy and sell services to other members and are paid in the LETS currency. Every member has an individual account which records their debit or credit. Members do not "owe" the person or business providing the service, instead their debt is to the LETS system, and their debt is thus socialized.( James DeFilippus, 2004)

"Currencies are powerful carriers of feedback information, and potent triggers of adjustments, but on their own terms. (Jacobs, 1984) “A national currency registers, above all, consolidated information on a nation’s international trade." (Jacobs, 1984) National dollars tend to flow out of local communities where they are needed the most to those who already control large pools of wealth like banks and corporations. Community currency is also a tool that can help revitalize local economies by encouraging wealth to stay within a community rather than flowing out. It provides valuable information about the community’s balance of trade and collective values. (Meeker-Lowry, 1995)

People who are time-rich and cash poor can be socially and economically productive without necessarily using only national or international, centrally regulated money. If community currencies can also be used in conjunctions with national currency their use does not have to become an all or nothing proposition, thus leading to the notion of “complementary” currencies.

Local currencies empower their members to improve their circumstances and environment while protecting the general community from the negative influences of other capital flows. This gives the community more control over investments and allows the poor to become emancipated beings in the economic choices and conditions that affect their daily lives. Local currency systems offer the opportunity of transforming labor power or working time into local purchasing power. (Meeker-Lowry, 1995)

Solution: 

There are unique challenges in implementing a community currency system, both technical and political. Shared values and multiplayer commitment by community members are needed to build a sustainable currency. Adequate management at the local level may involve monetary policy issues similar to those experienced at national or international spheres. The community may be local, but also involve participants from distant places acting towards a common goal that can be social, educational and cultural. If successful, a community currency system can leverage local projects in economically depressed areas of the map and put them on the road to a hopeful and fruitful future.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

People have always traded with each other, using various ways to represent and store value. In complex capitalist societies, money encourages growth, accumulation, and new forms of wealth and power concentration. Community Currencies can offer a solution for local markets deprived of or unserved by national financial policy. If successful, it can promote local projects and put them on the road to a hopeful and fruitful future.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
http://www.samarasproject.net/images/hours.jpg -- permission sought

Online Community Service Engine

Pattern ID: 
498
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
62
Fiorella De Cindio
University of Milano
Leonardo Sonnante
RCM - Milan Community Network - Italy
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Researchers and practitioners often trivialize the relevance of the software in determining the sustainability and success of online communities. Opinions differ widely between two extremes: some implicitly assumes that any software for managing online forums is sufficient (cf. Kim A. J., "Community Building on the Web", Addison-Wesley Longman Publishing Co., Inc., 2000); others, including E. Wenger (Wenger, 2001), suggest a large set of features (up to 73) must be included in software for managing online communities—encompassing several different applications, from access to expertise and synchronous interactions, from e-learning spaces to project spaces—resulting in complex and expensive proprietary solutions. Between these two extremes, we believe it is necessary to identify a set of basic macro-functionalities that an Online Community Service Engine should provide as well as a framework for extending these functionalities as required. In the course of this effort, support for communicating across community boundaries is as vital as focusing on individual communities.

Context: 

Communities are more and more seen as powerful means for addressing significant problems in many fields of human activities. Virtual and/or online communities extend these possibilities as they remove the time and space constraints of physical communities while preserving the advantages of sharing knowledge and experience, developing mutual trust, and ultimately cooperation.

Local communities in developed as well as developing countries, communities of practice within and across enterprises, and learning communities each represent very different situations that can be extended and enriched by an online counterpart. More recently, communities arose directly online, as in the case of blogs and blogger communities.

Regardless of these different contexts, online communities are complex socio-technical systems. However, while significant efforts have been made

Discussion: 

While the socio-technical nature of online communities is manifest and a massive volume of literature on online communities now deals with topics such as their sociological aspects and organizational impacts as well as the role they can play is a variety of contexts (within organizations as well as in the society), much less attention has been paid to technological issues. Actually, otherwise satisfactory sociological analysis and identification of general requirements technologies already available - for instance, usability studies (cf. Preece, 2000) -- do not provide clear hints for software developers.

Etienne Wenger has probably advanced the most relevant attempt to identify an appropriate technological platform for the features online communities should provide. In his extensive survey (Wenger, 2001), now revised and updated (http://www.technologyforcommunities.com), Wenger identifies a set of critical factors for the success of a community of practice (CoP) and the technological implications for supportive tools in terms of a list of features (73 items) that an online community environment should have if it wants to satisfy its members’ needs.

Inspired by Wenger’s work, and through an analysis of software used for managing virtual community (PhpBB, PhpNuke) and community networks (such as FreePort and CSuite) as well as our direct experience of managing several online communities (first of all community networks which constitute our basic competence, De Cindio et al, 2004) with different software, we have worked out a higher-level classification of the macro-functionalities a Online Community Services Engine should provide, which is:

  • homogeneous, since each macro-functionality is at the same level of abstraction as the others;
  • complete, since the seven macro-functionalities capture the essentials elements of a fully featured online community service engine;
  • general enough to be applied to any kind of online community, that is, communities of practice, community networks, communities of interests, learning communities, etc.

The result is the following list of macro-functionalities an online community service engine should provide:

  1. Users Management characterizes community members and provides differing and personalized views. Allows discriminating levels of access to community resources. This group of functions includes member directories, access rights, profiles, etc.
  2. Communication and dialog include all the typical synchronous and asynchronous communication tools such as email, discussion boards, blogs, private messages, chats, etc.
  3. Information and publishing allow community members to manage content for publishing as with a standard content management system (CMS), but - which we believe essential in an Online Community Services Engine - an effective integration with the communication and dialog dimension (Benini et al, 2005).
  4. Community awareness gives members the sense of belonging to a community that is characterized by rules, roles, history, customs, etc. Examples of these features are: presence awareness (knowing who is online), reputation and ranking, personal history, subscriptions, distinctive look and feel.
  5. Calendaring includes features for storing personal or community events or appointments by date, together with reminders features and the possibility of sharing calendars among members based on access rights.
  6. Workgroup support features. These features are based on the ability to restrict member access to community resources like forums, upload file areas, calendars, etc.
  7. Monitoring and statistics, i.e., features for keeping track of access, the number of posts, liveliness of forums, moderators reliability, etc.; to trace the “health” indicators of the community.

Beside these general-purpose macro-functionalities, an Online Community Services Engine should be able to be integrated with modules that offer features relevant for any specific type of community. For example teaching modules for learning communities, or deliberation facilities for civic and community networks.

To facilitate the integration of basic functionalities with dedicated features necessary to support specific types of communities, the Online Community Services Engine:

  • must have an overall modular architecture for integrating functionalities that were not built-in;
  • must include a User Management component capable of supplying authentication and authorization services to external add-on components or tools (while most of the user management components of the software used to implement online communities - e.g. PHPNuke - do not accept authentication requests from external modules);

Both these requirements have the effect of opening the Online Community Services Engine through standard protocols, thereby facilitating cross-community communication. For the same reason, the Online Community Services Engine should include features such as RSS feeds which enhance information exchange.

All these functionalities are possible if the Online Community Services Engine is implemented on standard “base-technologies,” such as the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) to handle authentication and authorization and Web services for providing standard interoperability among modules.

Solution: 

This classification of the macro-functionalities an Online Community Services Engine should provide, together with the associated architectural requirements, challenge researchers and practitioners to implement and deploy an Online Community Services Engine that can be tailored by the community that uses it; i.e., each deployment of the engine should be created as an instance of the engine, including the set of functionalities necessary for each specific online community. The opening requirement naturally calls for developing software using open-source tools.

Alternatively, the resulting classification can also be viewed as a check list for selecting from available software (proprietary or not), rather than for development purposes.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

An Online Community Service Engine contains generic services that communities need to sustain themselves. These include user management; communication and dialogue; information and publishing; community awareness; calendaring; work group support features; and monitoring and statistics. An Online Community Service Engine should be able to connect with modules that support for specific groups such as educational or deliberative facilities.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
Ambrogio Lorenzetti. Wikimedia Commons

Community Networks

Pattern ID: 
858
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
61
Peter Day
CNA Project
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Communities often lack the information and communication infrastructure needed to: a) support and sustain the social networks of clubs, organisations, associations, groups, agencies, families and individual citizens that constitute the structures, organisation and activities of community life; and b) enable effective organisation, planning and enactment of local campaigns when threatened by external agency.

Whilst network technologies present interesting opportunities to support community networking activities they are not, in themselves, community networks. Furthermore, the dominant ICT agenda of both public and commercial sectors is often hostile to the mutuality, collaboration and communicative processes required for utilising ICT in support of community networking (Day & Schuler, 2004).

Context: 

Building, organising and sustaining active relationships within the social, cultural and economic networks of the community requires appropriate and effective strategies. Building and sustaining community networks requires strategies that facilitate the community appropriation of communication technologies in support of community networking.

This pattern is intended as a contribution to, and perhaps even as a catalyst for, a dialogue about community (ICT) networks. Dialogue participants should include: 1) community members; 2) local activists; 3) practitioners (community developers and community technologists); 4) community researchers; 5) policy makers; 6) local businesses and community economic developers. Whilst not exhaustive, the list illustrates the diversity and levels of knowledge and expertise needed to plan and develop community (ICT) networks that empower and strengthen community relationships and processes through democratic communications.

Discussion: 

It is interesting that community networks are frequently referred to as technological artefacts (Wikipedia, 2006) and appear to be understood in terms of the connectivity they give to ICT rather than the links they facilitate within communities. Yet in his seminal text on the emergence of ‘new’, i.e. ICT based, community networks, Schuler explains how the term ‘community networks’ was a sociological concept – that referred to community communication patterns and relationships (1996) – long before the emergence of the community bulletin boards of the late 1970s (Morino, 1994), i.e. the forerunners for the web-based community networks of the 1990s onwards (Kubicek & Wagner, 1998).

Establishing what lies at the heart of community networking, i.e. the purpose and nature of the relationships within communities and the processes of communication, is central to understanding community. Generating knowledge of what shapes and energizes community life by making connections and interacting with people of diverse values and belief systems is pivotal to developing effective community networks. In this respect the effectiveness of community networks is understood in terms of how they support and sustain community communications, relationships and activities.

An example of how knowledge of community networking in its broadest sense can be generated and how this knowledge might inform the development of community networks is illustrated by the Community Network Analysis (CNA) project in the Poets Corner community of Brighton and Hove, UK. Early in the project a community profile (Hawtin, Hughes & Percy-Smith, 1994) was conducted to develop a picture of community assets, community needs and community relationships. Interestingly, the 104 groups, clubs, associations, centres, organisations, etc often interpret their shared social environment in different ways. Acknowledging the existence of such diversity is a central part of beginning to understand and work with it as a source of community strength rather than community threat.

Analysis of the community infrastructure reveals 8 main clusters of groups, clubs, etc and 4 smaller clusters. These clusters, or affiliation networks, are organised by a parent organisation, e.g. community associations and places of worship. Affiliation appears to be based around organisational support mechanisms and the availability of physical space. A number of isolated nodes or didactic networks were also identified, e.g. the two schools are exemplars of a didactic network, although both are keen to develop stronger ties within the community.

‘Informal’ network structures in the community are altogether more open and dynamic than their ‘formal’ counterparts but are also transient in nature. Familial or friendship ties usually predominate and networking often occurs in public spaces, e.g. Stoneham Park, local pubs and coffee shops, or serendipitous street meetings. This agora ‘effect’ provides opportunity for knowledge exchange, comfort and mutually supportive transactions.

Informal social network exchanges tend to be self-organising and mutually reinforcing, falling into one of two categories. 1) Spontaneous, e.g. someone’s cat has gone missing and the neighbours organise a search of the locality; neighbours leave bags of good quality but unwanted clothes/toys on the door steps of families new to the area as a welcoming gesture; groups of people pop in to each other’s houses for coffee and a chat – reinforcing and developing social bonds. 2) Organised but with no formal membership, e.g. networks of baby-sitters and parents requiring ‘sitters’ evolve through the local grapevine; a curry club – where participants try new curry recipes is organised at irregular intervals by email; a book club – run along much the same lines as the curry club is organised by mobile phone; or key holder networks among neighbours in the same street – in which spare keys are cut and distributed among trusted neighbours.

Our study reveals that both network types play a significant role in developing relationships of trust and social cohesion in the community. The communication technologies that people feel comfortable with are increasingly being used to support both network links and exchanges. If community networks are to support the diversity of social realities in community then they must provide safe and welcoming spaces that encourage and facilitate participation and engagement. Enabling people to tell their stories and interact with one another in ways meaningful to them and in comfortable environments is central to effective community networking.

A prototype community communication space (CCS) being developed as part of the CNA project attempts to create such spaces. By working with the community to build both the context and the content for the CCS we have been asked to support video and audio podcasting, digital story-telling, digital art, poetry and music. Local communication forums are being established to support the face-to-face forums of community development/building activities. Blogs, wikis and other social software such as social networking applications are also being explored for potential community benefits.

The graphic , draws on Rogers’ diffusion of innovation theory (1995) to illustrate current stages of the CCS diffusion in Poets Corner.

Working from the centre outwards the first ring represents the Poets Corner Residents Society’s (PCRS) invitation to CNA, and the subsequent invitation from their executive committee to work in partnership with them to map and improve community communications. Much of this period was spent getting to know people in the community, building trust, raising awareness and supporting the activities of PCRS and other community groups. A group of enthusiastic project advocates emerged as CCS innovators. With their assistance the project became grounded in and supportive of community activities and needs.

Slowly but surely trust and respect developed between the partners. A number of community groups displayed interest in the project and began collaborating. The second ring shows early adopters within the community infrastructure. By this time, the project was participating in and supporting the planning and organisation of a second summer festival and family fun day. The third ring illustrates the resultant increased involvement from the community infrastructure and the beginning of some involvement from local residents. We describe this as second stage early adoption activity.

During the project the CNA partnership has been raising awareness of the potential of the CCS and interest within the community is on the increase. We are now in what Rogers’ would describe as the trial and evaluation phases of community assessment. Whether or not the CCS will be adopted, and can be sustained beyond the funding of the project will depend largely on the community themselves. The CNA team will continue to collaborate with the community, but our long term objective has always been to design and build a prototype CCS in participation with the community and to explore how the community will take ownership of and sustain that space.

Solution: 

The potential scope for ICT to support, enhance and sustain community communications is immense but effective community networks can only be built through meaningful and mutual partnerships of knowledge exchange. Communities are contested spaces rich in diversity. They embrace or reject technologies at their own pace and in their own way. These processes cannot be rushed and must be respected. Accepting that they might have to step out of their community ‘comfort zone' in order to embrace 'new' technologies can be threatening . Achieving ‘willingness to participate’ requires patience and dialogue. Community engagement will only be sustained if the community understands the benefits to community life. If community networks are to emerge as significant components of modern community life, external partners must understand this in context and content. Only then can they contribute in a meaningful way.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Community Networks must help support two capabilities. The first is supporting and sustaining the social networks of clubs, organizations, associations, groups, agencies, families and individual citizens. The second is enabling effective organization, planning and enactment of local campaigns when threatened from outside.

Pattern status: 
Released

Public Library

Pattern ID: 
464
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
59
Stewart Dutfield
Marist College
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Obstacles to diversity of ideas and freedom of thought are obstacles to human development, whether in wealthy countries, rich in Internet connections, or in rural regions of Peru short of roads and electricity. Not all people have access to information and ideas from which they might benefit, and the proliferation of ideas does not guarantee that people will encounter them. Information does not always want to be free.

Context: 

Public libraries have a history of successful struggle against the obstacles to the access to information and ideas. Among the findings of a recent research report in the US, they remain trusted and valued by the public, even though funding is becoming increasingly difficult. Public libraries are increasingly becoming a community space; while demand for traditional library services remains strong, public libraries are widely perceived as offering solutions to community problems and they have the potential to do more in future (Public Agenda, 2006).

Discussion: 

More than 150 years ago, public libraries started to provide people with information and knowledge that would otherwise have been out of reach. Through a publicly-funded lender, ordinary people such as Samuel Johnson’s “common reader” could discover more and better books. At a library open to all, any ambitious working-class youth could seek self-improvement; Andrew Carnegie, future benefactor of public libraries around the world, educated himself as a young immigrant only through the kindness of the owner of a private library.

Broad public support for the sober and egalitarian institution of the public library allows citizens to encounter difficult, provocative and unpopular ideas. Public libraries embody both the characteristics of their communities and the principles of intellectual freedom. More of one may lead to less of the other. The challenge of liberating libraries is to benefit from the justified pride that communities take in their public libraries while encouraging greater efforts toward intellectual freedom.

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares the right of intellectual freedom: “to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” This freedom of opinion and expression for all citizens underlies a society’s capacity to recognize and realize new possibilities. Civic participation requires access to information and life-long education. Prosperity in a free society depends upon the creativity which comes from diverse and challenging ideas. Democracy's survival over time calls for adaptability and critical thought in the face of change.

Through professional associations such as the American Libraries Association (ALA) and the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA), librarians advocate the principles of intellectual freedom. The pressures that they experience tell us about the obstacles to these principles. Among these obstacles are money, location, coercion, private interests, lack of privacy, and pressure toward conformity.

Public libraries provide services regardless of the ability to pay; they serve everyone equally, including those for whom money would otherwise present an obstacle. Though the public library may enjoy broad public approval, funding for this free and open source of information is seldom easily come by.

Public libraries provide services regardless of location. Whether in inner cities or remote rural outposts, they reach people who might otherwise not encounter the information and ideas that libraries offer.

Public libraries provide services regardless of coercion and censorship. They exist to bring people and ideas together, not to separate them. Public libraries operate at arm’s length from their sponsors, whether government, taxpayers, volunteer fundraisers (such as Friends groups) or private donors. Despite this, they often struggle with the restriction of information by governments, by self-censorship among librarians, and by those who seek to impose their standards or tastes on others.

Public libraries provide services independently of private interests. While respecting intellectual property, public libraries give priority to their patrons over commercial concerns, advocates of particular views, and any other interests which may distort the free flow of information and ideas.

Public libraries protect the privacy of their patrons. They encourage people to access information and ideas by maintaining the confidentiality of what they look for, look at, and communicate.

Public libraries resist pressures toward conformity which arise even where the diversity of information and ideas is growing. They take pride in providing ideas and information which are “unorthodox, unpopular, or considered dangerous by the majority” (American Library Association, 2004).

As an “information commons” (Kranich, 2004, p. 281), the public library provides a forum for information and ideas, it offers new ways to access information, and it recognizes freedom of opinion and expression as the basis of democratic society. Though its strategies and services go beyond the printed word and beyond the walls of the library building, the public library also offers those who love “that magical hinged object, the book” (Holroyd, 1999, p. 143) a refuge from the possibly less subversive distractions of technology and contemporary media.

Public libraries develop access to information in many ways. Individual libraries provide computer access and guidance to patrons, including those who have no other means of using the Internet. Regional aggregation of library catalogs and databases offers patrons a collection much richer than any one library could maintain. Libraries are active in making government information more available, and they work to influence legislation to prevent intellectual property rights from adding new obstacles to access.

Public libraries have long worked to develop skills, most often needed by their underserved constituents, in language, literacy, and technology. As more information of increasingly variable quality becomes available, it becomes more and more necessary to evaluate its integrity and independence. With their staff and their patrons, public libraries are beginning to cultivate information literacy: the skills necessary to find, use, and critically evaluate information from many sources.

Side by side with public libraries' broad mission for an informed and active citizenry is a focus on the local community and civic dialog. The typical public library offers a public gathering space, available to all regardless of opinion or creed. It may provide a network connection to the local school so that youngsters can use library computers to perform their homework assignments. It may maintain an archive of local history and records, and care for cultural artifacts (such as paintings, for example) of local significance. This local focus can lead to collaborations with other local stakeholders; for example, in the case of a major local environmental issue such as industrial river pollution, the library may work with a government agency to host community meetings and include copies of the agency’s reports in a collection of documents related to the issue.

Public libraries have a special mission to serve their underserved or “information poor” (Kranich, 2004, p. 287) constituents. Groups such as urban minorities and rural communities have special difficulty in surmounting the obstacles to accessing and using information and ideas. In some parts of the world, such as the rural north of Peru served by the Rural Library Network (Medcalf, 1999), library services develop literacy through books and storytelling. In situations such as this, public libraries transport books on foot or by pack animal—camels in Kenya, donkeys in Zimbabwe.

The public library is an established institution which offers a model for building new institutions and services. It enjoys broad public respect and support, and promotes principles central to democracy and development: (a) intellectual freedom, (b) access to information and to ideas both fashionable and unfashionable, and (c) serving the needs of the underrepresented. If the Navajo call the library a “house of papers,” it can be much more; through new technologies, new partnerships, and new services it offers what Josh Cohen, director of the Mid-Hudson Library System (www.midhudson.org), calls “one of the cornerstones of democracy and one of the building blocks of a strong community.”

Solution: 

To create access to information, civic participation, and life-long education, use what public libraries already offer and work with them to implement new services. Support public libraries by volunteering, forming Friends groups, and establishing collaboration with other community institutions. Where there is no library, use the power of books to build public support. Wherever there is a public library, work with it to further the principles of intellectual freedom for all.

Categories: 
orientation
Categories: 
organization
Categories: 
engagement
Categories: 
social
Categories: 
products
Categories: 
resources
Themes: 
Digital Divide
Themes: 
Research for Action
Themes: 
Education
Themes: 
Policy
Themes: 
Community Action
Themes: 
Case Studies
Verbiage for pattern card: 

Obstacles to diversity of ideas and freedom of thought are obstacles to human development, whether in wealthy countries, rich in Internet connections, or in rural regions, lacking roads and electricity. The Public Library enjoys broad respect and support, promotes democratic principles including intellectual freedom and access to popular and unpopular information ideas, and serves the needs of the under represented.

Pattern status: 
Released
Pattern annotations: 

Intermediate Technologies

Pattern ID: 
758
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
57
Justin Smith
The Public Sphere Project & St. Mary's University
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Often technologies used in development or transfered to poor communities do not fit the needs of the community that these technologies are designed to help. Instead these tools go unused or are not properly utilized to maximise their benefits due to a lack of knowledge about their use or more commonly their relavance to peoples needs.

Context: 

Often the simplest and most benign level of technology that can effectively achieve the intended purpose in a particular location will be the most relevant. These Intermediate Technologies are particularly useful to underdeveloped rural areas, which may lack the specialised expertise or infrastructure to operate and maintain high technology.

Discussion: 

Intermediate technology, as asserted in the book Small is Beautiful by E. F. Schumacher, tends to promote values such as health, beauty and permanence.

The idea of intermediate technology or "appropriate technology" is meant to highlight an approach to the concrete tools pushed in development practice. For example in a rural area, where literacy is low, where there is a lack of communication lines and even electricity it would not make sense to implement a tele-center to promote information awareness, rather a small local radio station by which people could obtain information through battery operated radios would be much more relevant to transfer information.

In essence the role of an intermediate technology is meant to allow peoples to take advantage of technology but in ways that don't drastically disrupt the cultural integrity of the community. It is ultimately respectful and mindful, to the fact that a treadle-pump for accessing water over walking 2 miles to the river 5 times a day is going to be more relevant to rural woman raising a household than a computer. In fact, there are no shortage of reports of technology transfer programs that failed miserably due to inadequate assessment of community needs. Instead, tools that were perceived to be most relevant based upon a variety of biases were given and yet when later evaluated where found to be dysfunctional or not in use.

Again, that was because they lacked relevance to the lived experiences of the peoples it was intended to help. Unfortunately, it is difficult to produce a list of appropriate technologies since by their very nature require their deployment to be context specific. So in some cases a rural wireless network may be very relevant and yet in others a underground water collection stations for use during the dry season will be most applicable.

Solution: 

Therefore when seeking to promote the livelihoods of peoples through the process of technology transfer it is important to be careful and creative in mapping out projects and types of technologies to be placed in a community to reach maximum use and benefit to those it is intended to support. Consultants and development advocates must ensure that proper measures are taken to ensure relevance and usefulness. In these cases it would seem appropriate for communities and technologists to come together in a participatory process for mapping out needs, infrastructure and culturally relevant solutions.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Often the simplest level of technology that can achieve the intended purpose in a particular location will be the most relevant. Intermediate Technologies are particularly useful to underdeveloped rural areas, which lack the expertise or infrastructure to operate and maintain high technology. Communities need to collaborate with specialists to map out needs, infrastructure and culturally relevant solutions.

Pattern status: 
Released
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