The Detroit Community Technology Project is excited to welcome Tawana Petty to the team as our Data Justice Community Researcher beginning in January 2016. Tawana has a diverse background of community organizing experience in Detroit, particularly around issues such as water rights, digital justice, and youth advocacy.
In her role as Data Justice Community Researcher, Tawana will lead a participatory research process exploring issues of data rights, digital privacy and racial and economic inequality in the U.S. This two-year research project is supported with a grant from the Digital Trust Foundation.
As a member of the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition, Tawana has collaborated with other coalition members to organize events centered around digital justice principles. She has co-facilitated social media workshops and presented workshops at the recent Data DiscoTech that aim to demystify data and make technology more accessible to communities and grassroots organizations.
Tawana Petty at AMC2015. Photo by Ara Howrani
“I’m excited to work with Tawana because she carries a powerful drive and ambition to see social justice and change in Detroit,” said Diana Nucera, program director of the Detroit Community Technology Project. “Her mix of research and organizing experience, her collaborative and nurturing approach to teaching and learning, and her brilliant writing skills make her a strong fit for this position.”
Tawana’s community involvement includes being a board member of the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center, and working with Detroiters Resisting Emergency Management, We the People of Detroit, and the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition. She is also a mother, poet and author, and was born and raised in Detroit.
Tawana recently joined other members of the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition on a trip to Brazil to learn an international perspective on the development and management of community wireless Internet networks. She recently shared her perspective on community technology in an article published in the Black Bottom Archives.
Welcome to the team Tawana!
Learn more about the Detroit Community Technology Project. Help us grow this important work of digital justice and digital stewardship by making a donation at the link below.
The Detroit Digital Justice Coalition, Detroit Community Technology Project, and Detroit People’s Platform collaborated to organize our first “Data DiscoTech” on September 15th, 2015 at the Samaritan Center. A DiscoTech is a multimedia, mobile neighborhood workshop fair, developed by the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition in 2011.
DiscoTechs create a space where people can discover technology together. Participants learn at their own pace and from people who understand the context of their neighborhoods and communities. The emphasis is on creating a peer-to-peer learning environment where those with a passion and proficiency for technology work and learn alongside communities who may be new tech learners.
Our Data DiscoTech event was organized in response to the “Open Data Portal” released by the City of Detroit earlier this year. At the Data DiscoTech we hosted 15 different hands-on stations focused on how we can make data more accessible and useful for community organizing. Individuals had the opportunity to learn about everything from data visualization, mapping their “data body” and learning about mobile apps designed to serve local communities. We also released the “Opening Data” zine, which presented use cases, opportunities and challenges associated with open data.
Check out our video recap of the Data Discotech!
Read more about the 15 hands-on stations at the Data DiscoTech below. Interested in organizing a DiscoTech or a training for your community? Contact us!
Intro to Twitter
At this station, we learned how to make the most of using this social media tool for social justice. We explored how to tweet using 140 characters or less, and how to utilize hashtags and web tools such as TweetDeck and Twubs.
At this station we used the app Kimono to "scrape data" from websites. This involves transferring website content into datasets or spreadsheets. Kimono is a tool people often use to gather trends or do public polling on Twitter. It can also be used to make data that is only available in digital format available as a spreadsheet or in an analog format.
At this station we demonstrated how data visualization can be a tool to make data easier to understand, more engaging, and interactive. Participants analyzed prepared datasets and conducted mini challenges that used different methods and tools for data visualization.
At this station we learned how to use data creatively by making stencil art based on data regarding water shutoffs in Detroit.
Simple Flyer Making
At this station we explored how to design flyers with a web based design platform called Canva to help support your social cause or event.
Transit Justice: Understanding our Bus System
At this station we learned how to analyze survey data regarding the quality and availability of bus routes in Detroit via “heat mapping.” Participants identified interactions with their own transit routes and explored alternatives.
At this station we provided information and sign-up assistance for people in need of help with utility bills and demonstrated how residents can apply for benefits online.
Your Data Body
At this station participants created maps of all the electronic data that is stored about them. We discussed who collects this data, where it's stored, and who makes decisions about it. Participants gained an understanding of how our "data bodies" impact our daily lives and what we can do to gain more control over them.
Community Wireless Networks For You!
This station offered an open Q & A on community wireless networks with a running demo of a community wireless network and examples of local applications such as wikipedia and the Music Box community radio station.
Navigating Open Data Portals
This station introduced residents to information available through the City of Detroit's Open Data Portal as well as Data Driven Detroit's Open Data Portal. Participants explored how this information can help them gain a better understanding of activity conducted by the City of Detroit and how that affects their neighborhood.
Data Justice Survey
At this station participants filled out a survey about what kinds of data justice provisions should be applied to the City of Detroit's current Open Data Executive Order. Participants were asked to attend two stations prior to attending this station: “Your Data Body” and the “Detroit Data Portal 101.”
Environmental Justice with Land Data
This station encouraged participants to think about a collection of plant seeds as data collection. We shared a collection of heirloom seeds, or a “seed bank”, with participants and then introduced them to an online gardening tool that can be used to envision gardens for vacant lots in Detroit.
Detroit Mobile Apps
This station informed people on Detroit-specific applications that were created with open data such as Text My Bus and Improve Detroit. These apps show how data can be useful in our everyday lives in Detroit.
At this station we used the website Motor City Mapping to work with residents to identify vacant lots in their neighborhoods and how to use this data to support communities in building land trusts.
At this station we learned how we can use data creatively through “Data Murals,” or public art that engages community members in a dialogue about data-driven representations and misrepresentations of their community. Organizers from Detroit Future Schools shared their process for creating data murals.
The Detroit Community Technology Project is hiring a Data Justice Community Researcher for a two year research project made possible through a grant from the Digital Trust Foundation. The project will explore issues of data rights, digital privacy and racial and economic inequality in the United States. Partners include the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition, Detroit Community Technology Project and the New America Foundation.
The Detroit Community Technology Project facilitates and advocates for the use and development of technology rooted in community needs that strengthens our human connections to one another and the planet.About the Data Justice Community Researcher
The Data Justice Community Researcher will lead a participatory research process which will include:
- organizing community technology fairs in Detroit
- conducting one-on-one interviews
- facilitating focus groups
- co-creating educational tools and materials, and
- synthesizing and analyzing data.
The Data Justice Community Researcher will work in collaboration with Detroit Community Technology Project staff, leaders from the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition, and a national team of researchers at the New America Foundation who are investigating similar questions in Los Angeles and Charlotte, North Carolina.
The Data Justice Community Researcher position is based at the offices of Allied Media Projects in Detroit and will report to the Director of the Detroit Community Technology Project.
This is a contract position with the expectation of 16 hours of work per week at a rate of $22 per hour beginning January 2016 and ending March 2018.
The deadline to apply for this position is November 15, 2015. The ideal start date for this position is in early January, 2016.Specific Responsibilities
- Work with community organizations in each of Detroit's seven districts to organize "DiscoTechs” or community technology fairs around the theme of data (one in each district).
- Work with local data technologists to develop workshops and educational materials for DiscoTech events that demystify data and empower residents to use data for community organizing efforts.
- Facilitate focus groups about people's' interactions with state and private data systems, the results of which will inform a popular education guide and local policy recommendations.
- Organize and conduct one-on-one interviews and focus group interviews.
- Synthesize and analyze collected data using the qualitative data analysis software Dedoose.
- Contribute to a popular education guide and workbook of community education activities based on research results.
- Work with the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition and national researchers to create bottom-up policy analysis and recommendations for data justice.
- Travel to annual research convenings (travel funding will be provided).
- Share knowledge and build connections with researchers and organizers in Los Angeles, CA and Charlotte, NC.
- Contribute to reporting requirements required by the grant.
Training will be provided in participatory research methods. We will look for the following qualifications in consideration of candidates for this position:
- Familiarity with Detroit’s neighborhoods and the community organizing landscape in the city.
- Ability to work collaboratively, as well as ability to self-direct.
- Experience in organizing community events.
- Experience in creating community-driven policy.
- Strong interpersonal and time-management skills.
- Desire and ability to work in diverse communities.
- Basic computer skills.
- Spanish or Arabic fluency is a plus.
- Familiarity with popular education approaches and methods a plus.
- Social science research background welcomed, but not required.
Email applications preferred. Send a resume, cover letter, and the names of three professional references to Diana Nucera at firstname.lastname@example.org on or before November 15, 2015. The email headline should read: "Data Justice Community Researcher position"
Please combine resume, cover letter, and names of three professional references into one PDF document and attach it to the email. Alternatively, send applications by postal mail to Detroit Community Technology Project, 4126 3rd Street, Detroit, MI 48201.
We strongly encourage people of color, women, LGBTQ, and disabled candidates to apply.
We are excited to introduce the 11 seed grantees awarded funding in 2015 for community-controlled communications infrastructure projects. The Open Technology Institute and the Detroit Community Technology Project have utilized funding provided by the Human Rights & Democracy Fund of the U.S. State Department to award each grantee with $10,000 USD in support of their community wireless projects. These projects use a community organizing process to plan, build and govern a shared communications infrastructure in their city or region.
The funding is provided in a context in which digital communications and technologies creates both opportunities and challenges for underserved communities.
Digital communication and technology has been an important tool for enhanced local community media, improved transparency, and organizing on social justice issues. However, technology has also been used within systems of control to enhance surveillance, decrease personal privacy, aggregate the control and creation of information, and exacerbate disparities between groups that have the resources to benefit from a new technology-based economy and those that do not.
To resist these systems, people continue to build community-based technology projects and demonstrate an alternative vision. We are inspired by these small acts of resistance to digital control in neighborhoods, small towns, and rural areas around the world. These projects are rich with lessons in what the role of technology can be to restore neighborhoods, build new relationships, and develop new systems that encourage collaboration and creativity.
Each of the 11 projects that we have funded shares a vision of community technology and digital justice that includes:
- Mutual learning that encourages practice and action, investigation and listening
- Participatory planning and collaborative design
- Collective self-governance
The 2015 Community Technology Seed Grantees are:
AlterMundi, Argentina: AlterMundi is an organization that researches, experiments and disseminates technologies and practices that facilitate the development of a sustainable society, tending to the common good and in harmony with the environment. They will document the technical and social aspects of their successful network so others may replicate their model, and will add support for local applications to LibreMesh, an open source mesh firmware. Learn more here.
Alternative Solutions For Rural Communities, Chin State, Myanmar: This project will build the capacity and stability of an existing community network established by the organization, and allow them to add local server content and increase digital literacy training.
Collective of Community Radio and TV in North Kivu (CORACON), Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo: Building on their network of community media partners, CORACON will facilitate the establishment of a community network to support the creation of local digital media content and sharing of educational content. The network will provide a chat communication platform, radio programming, and educational resources in French. In partnership with Free Press Unlimited.
Falanster, Belarus: Falanster was founded to create the foundation and conditions for sustainable development of civil and cultural side of our society through use of digital technologies. Falanster is establishing a Mesh Club to share information and practice about wifi and mesh networks in our society. Learn more here.
Fantsuam Foundation, Kafanchan, Nigeria: Fantsuam Foundation will build a network to link several villages, as a means of increasing the tempo of civic education and political accountability, conflict resolution, and provide access to secure livelihood information. Learn more here.
School of Computing University of Namibia (UNAM) and Glowdom Educational Foundation (GEF): Connecting Eenhana, Namibia: Staff and students at UNAM are in partnership with GEF, an NGO that works to support learning amongst community members of the small town of Eenhana and surrounding villages. The project aims to support generating and sharing local content and to increase access of schools to educational content, including for learners and students at a Special school for Deaf learners. It also enables UNAM's students to apply their technical knowledge in the real world in supporting local technological empowerment. The evolving network includes an intranet of digital content, analog telephony, a digital noticeboard and solar-powered nodes. Learn more here.
Janastu, COW (Community Owned Wireless) for Devarayanadurga, India: Janastu (“let it be people”) works as a technology research and development support for social and local needs. In partnership with MojoLab Foundation, the project will build a low-cost, autonomous community-controlled network as part of the establishment of a हैकरgram (hackergram) space. The project will pilot and document low-cost technology solutions, such as networked RasberryPi’s to televisions. Hackergram, Janatsu and Mojo Lab are implementation partners for servelots.com
Maria Luisa Ortiz Cooperative (CMLO), Mulukuku Micronet, Nicaragua: CMLO will establish a community network to enhance the capacity of the CMLO to function as a hub for education, media access, local communication and civic participation. This work builds from their community radio station and Internet cafe.
Nuvem, Fumaça Data Springs, Brazil: Nuvem is dedicated to the development of projects related to different types of autonomy, whether in the arts, communications, nourishment and life in the rural areas in general. They will engage community members to set-up an autonomous network providing local applications and cellular service, in an area that currently has no communications infrastructure. Learn more here.
Radio Maendeleo, Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo: Established in 1993, Radio Maendeleo is a critical provider of news and cultural content in North and South Kivu. The project will help create digital infrastructure in Bukavu to enhance the community media ecosystem, provide a platform for sharing knowledge, and support their digital engagement activities. In partnership with Free Press Unlimited. Learn more here.
Santa Unipessoal, Maubisse, Timor-Leste: Santa Unipessoal’s Youth Media Mesh project will conduct media-making workshops, create content on the local network for cultural preservation and historical documentation projects, and build a community wireless network linking various sites in Maubisse. The project will be will be led and maintained by Leublora Green School, the first informal educational institution in the country to teach Timorese youths about sustainable use of natural environment and resources, its impact on their lives, and the importance of sustainable development.Latin American Community Wireless Meetup in Brazil
From October 7-11, the Latin American Community Wireless Meetup will convene our SEED grantees in Central and South America and our community wireless colleagues from Washington D.C for a five day gathering in Visconde de Maua, Brazil. At the meetup SEED grantees will share their community wireless practices and organizing strategies in order to build a strong global network of exchange. The meetup will include hands-on workshops, peer-to-peer consultancies, local application skillshares, and alternative energy skillshares.
Seed grantees attending are Falanster, Belarus; AlterMundi, Argentina; Nuvem, Fumaça Data Springs, Brazil; and Maria Luisa Ortiz Cooperative (CMLO). Network partners attending are the Open Technology Institute and Rhizomatica. DCTP supported in developing the agenda for this event. Stay tuned for more updates from this gathering!
Resources for communities to build their own wireless networks are available in the Community Technology Fieldguide, which includes a neighborhood network construction kit, facilitation tools organizing models and more.
Ryan Gerety is a senior field analyst at the Open Technology Institute, where she continues to work at the intersection of technology and social justice both domestically and internationally.
The Detroit Community Technology Project (DCTP) and the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition (DDJC) are excited to present the Opening Data zine. The Opening Data zine offers a primer on open data, real-world examples of data discrimination, use cases of data in organizing, creative data storytelling, and more.
This is the fifth “digital justice” zine in a series developed by the DDJC and DCTP. You can buy print copies or download digital zines here.
The Opening Data zine was developed in conjunction with the very first “Data DiscoTech” taking place this Saturday, September 19, 11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. at the Samaritan Behavioral Center at 5555 Conner Street in Detroit.
In the Opening Data zine, we answer questions such as:
- What is data?
- What makes “open data”?
- Where can I get open data?
- What might open data mean for my communities?
- What are the harms of open data I should be aware of?
- How can I use open data?
Contributors to the zine include community technology activists, researchers, bloggers, educators, and grassroots organizers. Many contributors are involved in member organizations of the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition. The design of the zine is by the Work Dept.
On June 18th, 2015, at the 17th annual Allied Media Conference, over 90 people attended the first ever Community Technology Network Gathering. The event was was an unprecedented gathering of people from all over the world working on technology and inclusion issues. It included coders, civic technologists, network engineers, community wireless advocates, youth media practitioners, bloggers, as well as international participants from Brazil, Spain, Germany, and Mexico.
The gathering was coordinated by Diana Nucera, program director of Detroit Community Technology Project; Jack Aponte, worker-owner at PalanteTech; Andy Gunn, Field Engineer at Open Technology Institute; and Janel Yamashiro, coordinator at Co.Open.
The agenda for the daylong network gathering was structured around a common goal of understanding the major questions and challenges people have within their community technology work and exchanging practices and strategies to address these challenges.
We broke down the day’s activities, including “Life Mapping,” defining “Community Technology,” the “Big Question Generator” and “World Cafe” in our recap below!Life Mapping
The day began with a “Life Mapping” exercise: a creative exploration of an individual’s personal journey to community technology work. The aim was to identify themes from people’s lives that brought them to the gathering.
While every participant’s life journey was unique, there were many shared elements and ideas. Many people had a mix of community organizing, activism, and technology in their life maps. Often, there was a turning point: either someone worked in a technology field, then found community organizing; or a community organizer or activist began to work more intentionally with technology. In addition, many people saw the lack of equity in the access to technology, and altered the way they work or organize to address that.
After developing a personal life map, participants were invited to move around their table and around the room to view other people’s journeys in community technology. Many of these maps were then hung on the walls of the gathering space for participants to continue reflecting on later.
Understanding Community Technology
After the life mapping exercise, groups worked together to collectively define what Community Technology means to them by documenting its many landscapes and themes. Groups articulated five ideas that embody community technology to the group. These ideas reflected the context of the participants that were seated at the table, and drew from the life maps they created earlier.
Some common themes that emerged across different group’s definitions were: access, empowerment, privacy, ownership, resource sharing, collective expression, and organizing and movement building. These themes recurred throughout the day’s conversations.
Big Question Generator
The core activity of the day was understanding and defining the “Big Questions” around community technology, which are the main challenges everyone faces in their work. Each group worked together to brainstorm problems that their communities face, as well as what skills and practices could address that challenge. They then worked together to synthesize a single question that investigates the problem. The guideline sheet for the Big Question generator can be found on the AMC CommTech website.
The big questions that emerged from the Big Question Generator process were:
- How do we put technology in a political context?
- How do we build trust in our communities?
- How does access to technology help communities of color become more autonomous and self-reliant?
- How do we share the resources and spaces we have to fight racial segregation?
- How can we create spaces that change the power dynamics around sharing tech knowledge?
- How do media literacy and media-based organizing skills take us from passive, selfie-centric consumers to active, energized, community-minded collaborators?
- How do we create a community based-owned infrastructure to facilitate online exchanges and transactions that we care about most?
- How do we make sure that greater access to technology comes with the necessary literacy for using that technology?
- How do we help partner abuse survivors take control of their digital footprints to ensure greater safety and privacy?
- Can community tech “for us and by us” help identify and connect emerging audiences?
- How can we use organizing and education to build movements online and offline?
- How can we get people out of their tech comfort zones and consumer mindset so they see the benefits of community tech?
The afternoon session involved three rounds of the “World Café” activity, where participants engaged in dialogue in small groups to respond to the big questions generated earlier in the day. Participants picked the three questions they wanted to discuss and work on with others from the gathering. Notes on each discussion were gathered in a collaborative note-taking platform. The full text of notes taken by participants is available on the AMC CommTech website.
The day concluded with a full-group, fishbowl-style discussion. Participants were invited to sit in a small circle, five people at a time, and reflect on community technology issues and the big questions generated earlier in the day. When someone from the larger group wanted to participate in the discussion, they would tap one of the individuals in the smaller circle and take their place.Network Gathering Outcomes
The stated goals of the Community Technology Network Gathering were to:
- Build stronger relationships.
- Discover new approaches to the problems we are trying to solve.
- Grow a shared sense of priorities and values that we can take back to our own projects and communities.
From the positive response the organizers received, the copious notes taken, and the various artifacts (life maps, landscapes, and hundreds of sticky notes!), we were excited to have achieved our goals.
Participants made solid connections with each other through the shared practice of discussion and problem solving. They were able to carry the big questions and ideas from the gathering to the rest of the Allied Media Conference and continue to strengthen the relationships started during the gathering through the rest of the weekend.
Problem Solving Approaches
We provided a packet of materials for participants including worksheets for the activities from the network gathering. These worksheets, along with the dozens of stories and processes that were shared from person to person, gave each participant a new set of tools and approaches to work on challenges they face in their own communities.
Shared Priorities and Values
There is no single set of priorities or values for community technology. Just as each community is unique, the practices and technologies in use in each is unique. Despite that, there are many lessons to be learned from hearing the stories of other technologists, organizers, and activists from around the world. There were many common themes across our discussions, including: building trust, growing autonomy and self-reliance, equitable access and digital literacy, producing media, and facilitating connections between people.
This was the first network gathering of its kind at the Allied Media Conference. While the event itself was successful, we are excited to explore ways in which this work can continue throughout the year. We are currently developing a follow-up survey to pose to the participants of the network gathering. The feedback from these communications, as well as the shared notes and media from the event, will be available at the Community Technology Network Gathering website.
The Detroit Community Technology Project, in partnership with the Open Technology Institute, presents the Re(Building) Technology Zine, a collection of tools, stories and practices that support the growth and development of the community technology movement.
The zine, compiled by Ryan Gerety, Andy Gunn and Diana Nucera, was developed for the first ever Community Technology Network Gathering at the 17th annual Allied Media Conference, June 18 - 21, 2015.
The zine explores digital justice issues, community facilitation best practices, collaborative network design, and examples of projects from Belarus, Detroit, Red Hook, India and more. Read the intro to the zine below and download or view the pdf here.Introduction to the Re(Building) Technology Zine
“Our Common Infrastructure”
Today our shared digital infrastructure underpins mass digital surveillance, online bulk data collection and marketing, corporate control of Internet services, school performance metrics, workplace monitoring, and other systems of control. To resist these systems, people continue to build community-based technology projects and demonstrate an alternative vision. We find these small acts of resistance to digital control in neighborhoods, small towns, and rural areas around the world inspiring and rich with lessons in what the role of technology can be to restore neighborhoods, build new relationships, and develop new systems that encourage collaboration and creativity.
Examples of these alternatives include shared computer centers, privacy and counter-surveillance trainings, community wireless and cell networks, media training programs, government transparency projects, storytelling platforms, community radio stations, and more.
Technology and the Internet have the ability to transform our communities, assist in economic development, and help residents understand and utilize the power they already have. Community technology is a method of teaching and learning about technology with the goal of restoring relationships and healing neighborhoods. Community Technologists are those who have the desire to build, design and facilitate the healthy integration of technology into their communities.
In this collection, we aggregate a handful of tools, stories, and practices to support the growth and development of the community technology movement.
The Detroit Community Technology Project has been hard at work building out a community wireless network called CassCo, which will begin its adoption phase this fall. CassCo is a mesh network that allows communities to distribute and share Internet access from one or more gateways. Every community wireless network has an intranet, a local network in which users can send and receive information wirelessly without connecting to the Internet. This network can also host local applications, such as chat and text apps, file sharing, community wikis and more.
The Detroit Music Box is our first application on the CassCo community wireless network! This application will be used as a neighborhood radio station to broadcast stories and media from people living in the Cass Corridor. The shows will combine music from the neighborhood, audio from the streets and interviews with neighbors to make a feature track that asserts an identity and vision for Detroit. The Cass Corridor is the area bounded by Warren to the north, Woodward to the east, Mack Ave or Martin Luther King Jr Blvd to the south, and the Lodge to the west.
With the rapid development and changes happening in the city, we hope to use this digital space on the mesh network to archive people’s stories and the cultural history of the Cass Corridor. The Detroit Music Box empowers communities to claim this digital space in the midst of gentrification and revitalization. The intranet can be an organizing tool for neighborhoods, facilitating private communications to share community activities, alerts, and more.Submit Your Story!
We are collecting your stories to broadcast on the Detroit Music Box application, which will be available on the the community wireless mesh network this fall.
Do you live in the Cass Corridor? Do you have stories about about the people, places, movements and changes in the Corridor? We want to hear them! Submit an audio piece such as poetry, music, storytelling or any other forms of audio media. It’s easy and you can do it on your phone!
- Send an SMS or MMS (picture message) from your phone to email@example.com
- or call +1 (313) 451-7359 to record your audio story
- or email us. If you have longer audio pieces that you would like to submit, send the files to firstname.lastname@example.org
You can check out the feed of stories as they are submitted here! We can’t wait to hear your memories, experiences and hopes for the Corridor.
This project was made possible with support from the Knight Arts Challenge.
The Detroit Community Technology Project (DCTP) supports the use and development of technologies that address community needs, strengthen our human connections to one another and to the planet.
The work of DCTP grows out of the hands-on technology lab of the Allied Media Conference and the Detroit Future Media training program that ran from 2011-2013. In 2012 Allied Media Projects partnered with the Open Technology Institute of the New America Foundation to create the Digital Stewards Program, which trains neighborhood leaders in designing and deploying community wireless networks with a commitment to the Detroit Digital Justice Principles.
We launched the Detroit Community Technology Project in 2014 in order to offer community organizing support to a growing number of community wireless networks in Detroit and globally. Through DCTP, we are developing participatory civic technology practices and education toolkits. We are exploring and demystifying technology, and using it to address problems facing low income neighborhoods. DCTP works collaboratively and intergenerationally to address questions of Internet access, digital literacy, and technology infrastructure.
Digital stewards working on the Cass Corridor network
A significant number of Detroit residents lack broadband access. Many households cannot afford Internet service. Through DCTP, we design solutions, such as community wireless networks, to address this lack of access. We emphasize the process of building these solutions, as much as the product.
We ask how can media and technology help restore community and create new economies rooted in local relationships. We explore how Internet infrastructure can be an important part of neighborhood development. In all of our work we take a principled approach to technology projects and Internet access that places value on equity, participation, common ownership and sustainability. We work to expand digital literacy in our communities so that Internet users can be not only consumers of online content, but creators as well.Digital Stewards Program
The Digital Stewards Program continues as an important part of the Detroit Community Technology Project. “Digital stewardship” is a principled approach to local technology that emphasizes self-governance and sustainability. Digital stewards uplift and maintain technology in their local communities in order to foster healthy relationships and increase access to critical information.
With the support of Anderson Walworth, IT Coordinator at DCTP, the Detroit Digital Stewards, a group of community leaders ranging in age from 21-80, are currently working on expanding mesh wireless networks throughout city neighborhoods and community centers including Morningside, Poletown, Field St., The Boggs School, Ewald Circle, and Southwest Detroit. Anderson and Diana Nucera, Director of DCTP, are also digital stewards of the largest community wireless network in Detroit, CassCo, which is located in Detroit’s Cass Corridor. With the support of the Open Technology Institute, they have been building the infrastructure of CassCo for the past two years. We are preparing to launch a resident adoption phase of the CassCo network in Fall 2015.
In conjunction with the expansion of the Cass Corridor network, we are developing a new local radio application, the Detroit Music Box, which will be available on the mesh network this fall. The application was built using open source applications (Podcast Generator and Icecast) and will live on both the mesh server and the Internet. The mission of Detroit Music Box is to tell the story of Detroit’s neighborhoods through sound. Anyone can submit a story about the Cass Corridor!New Projects
As our work continues to grow, we are working with our partners at the Open Technology Institute to support several international community wireless seed grantees located in Brazil, Argentina, Pakistan, Nicaragua, Namibia, India, and beyond. These seed grantees are six month community wireless projects that are built in collaboration with community organizations and OTI technologists. We are facilitating this network of projects in adopting digital stewardship practices such as collaborative network design and community technology gatherings. Our ultimate goal is to assist these projects in developing sustainable community technology practices that will allow their wireless networks to thrive in the long-term.
Seed Grantees in Belarus
Seed Grantees in India
Alongside our growing international network of projects, we continue to work closely with the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition to organize DiscoTechs - multimedia community technology fairs. We are excited to host our first “Data DiscoTech” on August 8, which will teach community members and organizers how to access, analyze, and make use of open datasets about the city and their communities, as well as generate their own community-level datasets. In concurrence with the DiscoTechs, we are developing a set of digital justice provisions in response to the City of Detroit’s recently released open data plan. We strive to demystify open data to make it more accessible to grassroots groups.
Through our work we have learned many important lessons, which we continue to share through ongoing documentation. We have created a wide range of community technology educational materials which expand upon the theories and practices of digital stewardship. These include case studies, facilitation guides, and best practices for collaborative community wireless network design. Check out some of these resources here.
Finally, we are excited to be organizing a Community Technology Network Gathering on June 18 at this year’s Allied Media Conference. This network gathering will convene local and national technologists and organizers to further develop community technology theories and practices. This is an open network gathering with a capacity of 75 participants. Join us and learn how you can support local and national community technology work!