Workspaces:The changing environment of infomediaries



Changing Environment
Background Material


Changing Environment

This section of the workspace, which is led by Evangelia Berdou, brings together articles specially commissioned for IKMemergent. The articles highlight initiatives, actors and issues that illustrate new developments in the production and dissemination of information relevant for social, economic and political development. These developments form part of a changing information and communication environment that is characterised by an increased potential for learning and collaboration, even as it is burdened by persistent inequalities and new barriers. The contributions will frame the role of development research communication intermediaries, such as those participating in the IKMediary network by placing them in the context of forces that regulate access to online information at a fundamental level, either by limiting or framing existing information flows or by creating new possibiities for information exchange and collaboration. The articles, which are written by practitioners and academics, are organized into four themes:

  • Efforts to establish and protect a digital commons

In this theme different facets of efforts to establish and protect a digital commons [1] are highlighted. The idea of the information commons was developed to establish the idea of information a shared resource, jointly managed by groups and of varying sizes and interests, which was seen as threatened by efforts to enclose and commodify it through patents and intellectual property rights. In the first article of this theme, Victoria Reich and Irene Perciali discuss their efforts to establish an archive for the open access community.

Victoria Reich and Irene Perciali: CLOCKSS: An archive for the open access community

  • New layers and agents of control in online information flows

In this theme we explore three important emerging issues around layers and agents of control in the new information and communication environment. In the first article, Jeremy Shtern examines why Net Neutrality, the institutional and technological arrangements that ensure that all online information flows are treated equally, is important in maintaining equitable access to information, especially for developing countries. In the second article featured in this section Claire Milne explains how mobile service providers have a pivotal role to play in determining how information is shared across mobile platforms. The third forthcoming contribution will consider the role of search engines in regulating access to online information.

Jeremy Shtern: The network neutrality debate: Implications for developing countries

Claire Milne: The importance of mobile providers as information gatekeepers

  • The role of virtual communities in information production and dissemination

How do online communities of volunteers that coalesce around common ideals and new technologies  change the landscape of resources, perspectives and discussions that we can tap into as global citizens? The articles in this theme explore this question from the perspective of leading members of initiatives involved in providing the tools and framework for collaboration that enable these virtual information sharing communities to form and thrive. In the first contribution, Chris Salzberg, a long time translator of Global Voices Online, a community of bloggers that highlight stories and perspectives not often featured in mainstream media, shares his views on 'social translation', the translation of the blogosphere by dedicated teams of volunteer translators. In the second article, Curt Beckmann draws from his experience in setting up Appropedia, a wiki built to support the sharing of sustainable technological solutions in areas such as water sanitation and energy, to discuss how virtual communities complement or challenge the work of traditional infomediary organisations.

Chris Salzberg: Translating the social: a new space for news

Curt Beckman: How virtual communities alter the development landscape

  • New tools for collecting and disseminating information

New visualisation tools and collaborative platforms, such as Google Earth, are democratising access to technologies that were previously only available to experts. At the same time, information is increasingly designed both for consumption and participation. Web 2.0 services afford users the possibility to remix and combine data and content in all sorts of interesting and creative ways. Combined with the mobile revolution in the South, these developments open up exciting possibilities for coordination and political action. The authors of the articles included under this theme explore different aspects of the production and use of new platforms for information  collection, dissemination and visualization. Erica Hagen discusses the lessons and challenges learned in the Map Kibera project which combines social media and participatory geographical information systems (GIS) to create a map of the physical and socio-demographic characteristics of Kibera, one of the largest slums in Africa. Ken Banks draws from his experience in developing Frontline SMS, a low-tech text messaging solution to investigate dynamics innovation in this area and Juliana Rotich exposes the lessons learned through the deployment of the Ushahidi platform, an open source solution that makes it easier to collect information from multiple sources and visualize it. 

Erica Hagen: The story of Map Kibera

Ken Banks: Mobile Applications for Development 

Juliana Rotich:  Lessons from Ushahidi