CFP: Special issue on Linking the Local with the Global within Community Informatics

Below find a call for papers for a special issue of the Journal of Community Informatics, co-edited by ISDT faculty member Douglas Schuler. I’ve included the entire call because it’s an interesting read and raises some great points — and questions — about the field.

Call for Papers for Special issue on Linking the Local with the Global within Community Informatics

Guest editors: Liisa Horelli and Douglas Schuler
The Journal of Community Informatics is a focal point for the communication of research of interest to a global network of academics, Community Informatics practitioners and national and multi-lateral policy makers.

We invite submissions of original, unpublished articles for a forthcoming special edition of the Journal that will focus on Linking the Local with the Global within Community Informatics. We welcome research articles from different disciplines, case studies and notes from the field. All research articles will be double blind peer-reviewed. Insights and analytical perspectives from practitioners and policy makers in the form of notes from the field or case studies are also encouraged. These will not be peer-reviewed.

What is Community Informatics?

Community informatics

…links economic and social development efforts at the community
level with emerging opportunities in such areas as electronic commerce, community and civic networks and telecentres, electronic democracy and online-participation, self-help and virtual health communities, advocacy, cultural enhancement, and e-planning among others.

…is concerned with carving out a sphere and developing strategies for precisely those who are being excluded from this ongoing rush, and enabling these individuals and communities to take advantage of some of the opportunities which the technology is providing. It is also concerned with enhancing civil society and strengthening local communities for self-management and for environmental and economically sustainable development, ensuring that many who might otherwise be excluded are able to take advantage of the enormous opportunities the new technologies are presenting.

- Michael Gurstein in Community Informatics:

Enabling Communities with Information and Communications

Why a special issue on Linking Local with the Global within Community Informatics?

Community informatics (CI) is the study and practice of information and communication systems (especially involving networked digital systems) in the community. Regardless of the agreement on the broad definition, there are inherent tensions within the CI community and with the CI perspective itself. The “simple” idea of community is the source of one tension since there are a multiplicity of definitions and usages of the word “community”, many of which are semantically loaded or ambiguous. Is, for example, a “virtual community” a real community?

Another source of tension is between the local and the global, the focus of this special issue. What’s local and what’s global? What is their significance in terms of our focus on “community”? How do we define the two terms so that they are meaningful and useful to our work? Perhaps these terms distract us from conceptualizing our enterprise in ways that are more useful? What characterizes phenomena or artifacts as belonging to one or the other (and how do they influence each other)?

Interestingly, the community of community informatics researchers, practitioners, and activists itself is part of a new hybridity that blurs local and global. The term glocalization has been coined to focus on the intermixing of local and global influences which are present and active everywhere. Although the phenomenon is not new, it has intensified in recent years due to the Internet, mass communications, mobile telephones, air travel, war, migration, economic interdependence, environmental impacts, and other aspects of 21st century mobilities. But identifying and naming a phenomenon is only the beginning. We must not mistake our use of a new term for understanding. For example, how would glocalization help us understand a network of local communities?

The availability of urban and community ICT could allow people to understand the larger impacts of their everyday decisions. It could also enable people to understand and promote not only the particularities of the local but also commonalities of the global, and to engage with the broader global “sphere”. Consequently, people could become actors who are engaged in the glocal networks of mobile people, goods and information.

However, glocal influence or interaction could be directed from the top-down, laterally, or from the bottom-up. CI implicitly embraces the tension between the local and the global. On some level, global and local pit two types of forces against each other. How does CI consider this clash or intermingling of forces? Does it advocate larger barriers, shelters, or hiding places, from these forces or does it inspire or promote the type of collective intelligence that goes beyond “using ICT?”

The recent debate on the CI-research list brought up the idea that CI could be used, in addition to the benefit of communities, to the benefit of global communities. This debate raised arguments that both supported and questioned the claim. On the one hand, there is the risk that glocalisation can dilute (and downgrade) the “community” to some larger (and less individually significant) whole. In that case, it may be important to preserve the ‘local’ as it maintains the community’s domains of control and power over the circumstances that impacts it.

It can be reasoned that greater globality essentially removes self-control and self-governance. On the other hand, glocalisation provides new strategic options for movements who seek resources and support far beyond national boundaries, such as the Chiapas, in Mexico. The global opportunities even begin to play part in the way local activists frame the issues they raise locally. Thus, the “outside world” affects communities, but communities exert forces outwards as well. Local communities can also share experiences and strategies, thus mutually strengthening each other. We need to figure out, how we are going to make the glocal or translocal connections work most effectively. This special issue is intended to help surface the opportunities, challenges, and risks around this theme.

These issues give rise to a large number of research questions. Some of these are listed below but there are many yet to be identified and researched. What processes underlie the forces of globalization? Which are forces of localization? How are people affected by each? How do these forces originate, diffuse, and make their effects felt? Do these forces affect all communities equally or are gender, ethnicity, or other features significant factors? And what should CI researchers /practitioners do in relation to those forces? Is the issue trying to help communities use ICT more effectively, or is it working in a general way to develop communication systems that will help local communities intelligently address the problems that they (and the rest of the world) face? In some situations, for example, this means helping to develop collective problem-solving tools so people can more effectively resist oppression or fight the status quo. Or should their inhabitants be full citizens of the world with the rights and responsibilities that accompany that status? How can we characterize the new diversity of global / local relationships? What patterns exist? In what ways might (hyper?) localism breed parochialism and isolationism? Can we embrace CI without unnecessarily valorizing the local community? What are the opportunities (and what should the limits be) to our research and activism on behalf of and with the local community?

Because CI is a brand new field of research and practice we have the rare opportunity to define our field. Is it useful — or even possible — to conceptualize a social enterprise that is relevant today without explicitly acknowledging climate change, environmental degradation, oppression, poverty, human rights, war and militarism, and other “global” problems that face us all, however indirectly. How should these manifest “global” concerns be factored into our enterprise? And how does the role of information and communication, the foundations of our enterprise, change — if at all — the way we answer these questions? This positioning of our enquiry at such a point should enable a new set of opportunities. CI integrates research and engagement. So its view of localism and globalism needs to be informed through those perspectives.

We invite authors to submit in English both full articles for peer-review, as well as short pieces on specific experiences and/or policy and regulatory issues, to be reviewed by the guest editors.

Please note the deadlines:
Deadline for abstracts: 28 February 2010
Deadline for submissions: 30 May 2010
Publication date is forthcoming
For information about submission requirements, including author
guidelines, please visit:

For further information, clarifications, comments or suggestions, and to send abstracts of papers for consideration, please contact:

Dr. Liisa Horelli
Helsinki University of Technology
Centre for Urban and Regional Studies
liisa.horelli at

Douglas Schuler
The Public Sphere Project and The Evergreen State College

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