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13th Prato CIRN Conference: Engaging with Participation, Activism, and Technologies
November 2, 2016 - November 4, 2016
Conference Theme: Engaging with Participation, Activism, and Technologies
For some years now the CIRN Prato conference has focused on the intersection between Community Informatics (CI), Development Informatics (DI), and Community Archiving (CA).
In particular, the 2015 conference focused on information and knowledge as socially constructed artifacts and the ways in which relations of information and knowledge production can reflect unequal distributions of power and privilege, “whether manifested in gendered activity; the primacy given to formalized expertise or particular language codes; restricted access to information, knowledge and production for those not in positions of institutional control; or the production of particular artifacts”. The 2015 conference also questioned the role of the academy in defining terminology and appropriate technologies of memory, viewing this as a form of epistemological colonization on vulnerable groups. The conference sought ways of engaging more meaningfully with practitioners.
In 2016 the intention is to continue to explore and to expand on such issues, bringing a stronger focus on more meaningful and equal partnerships with community, civil society, and NGO organisations around the world.
The overarching theme of the conference, then, will be the further development of Participatory Action Research (PAR) with regard to both theory and practice, as a means of giving communities a stronger voice and especially women’s and other marginalized voices, despite structural and cultural challenges. This will be explored in a variety of contexts, with particular emphasis on the implications for archival, community and development informatics.
One of our keynotes and participants will be Meghna Guhathakurta of Research Initiatives, Bangladesh, an internationally-recognised expert in PAR. Bangladesh has a long history of Participatory Action Research, as part of its struggle for liberation and equality, going back to the earliest days of PAR.
Within that context, a second theme of the conference will be to engage with activist archives, such as theCentro di Documentazione di Pistoia (Italy) or the Interference Archive (USA), which see a more overtly political role for the archive, and which tend to privilege use over collection. The approach of these archives to issues of local memory, knowledge and power, will also be of interest to people working in international development, and provides an opportunity to work towards new modes of collaboration.
We also plan for a workshop on Participatory Action Research, led by Oxfam Bangladesh. This will bring together both practical and theoretical insights on PAR from the North and Global South, including work currently being undertaken in Bangladesh.
Together, these themes provide a rich environment for re-examining theoretical and methodological approaches to working with community, and the potential to address current concerns as expressed within Community and Development Informatics, such as a lack of theoretical and methodological rigour , and concern about the influence of dominant hegemonies whether they represent powerful sectoral interests, as in Community Informatics, or the Global North, as in Development Informatics . Are their bodies of theory (for example, post-colonial, intersectional or critical theory) and practice that are intrinsically (better for the Global South) (or “more appropriate”), or do such theories and associated practices continue to serve academic, rather than development interests?
Our aim for the conference is for it to be an active community practice in, and not just discussions about, pluralism. We therefore encourage participation from a wide range of cultures, races, ethnicities, religions, socio-economic statuses, gender identities, disabilities, and ages. We also encourage proposals for different ways of knowing and sharing. We especially seek to foster dialogue across difference rather than presentation and preservation of homogeneity, when new ICTs in particular allow the existence and fruitful production of multiverses of information and knowledge.
We will also consider papers related to any aspect of Community Informatics, Development Informatics or Community Archiving.
We are particularly interested in papers from researchers and practitioners that can address the challenges of locating community-based research within wider theoretical and practice frameworks.