New book published: Community action in the net

Book cover for Acción comunitaria en la Red

Some months ago, professor in Social Pedagogy Xavier Úcar approached Francesc Balagué and I and told us he was very worried: after many years working in the field of community action, the Internet had come and changed every definition we had on what a community was, and changed every definition we had on what interaction (or action) was too. He had just found out that community action might be lagging behind the pace of times. And he invited us to write a book on the new communities and how did they interact on the net, so that he and his colleagues could use it to catch up with new scenario after the digital revolution.

An appealing invitation as it was, we had grounded reasons not to accept it: one of us is a pedagogue specialised in instructional technology and the other one an economist specialised in the impact of ICTs and development. Thus, we knew almost nothing about community action, and only had a chaotic approach to new expressions of communities working together in the most different types of ways and goals. That is precisely the point, stated professor Úcar.

Hence the heterodoxy of the inner structure of the book that has just seen the light. Acción comunitaria en la red (Community action in the net) is neither a book on community action nor a book with very clear ideas. It is, but, a book that invites the reader to think, to elaborate their own conclusions, and to find out which and whether these conclusions can be applied and how to their own personal or professional cases.

The full book has been written by 15 authors and presents 8 case studies that depict and analyse how a specific community used the Internet and its different tools and platforms to share information, communicate amongst them, organize themselves and coordinate actions in order to achieve their particular goals. The structure of the chapters analysing the cases was totally free, but some relevant questions had to be answered somehow:

  • What were the history, motivations, goals of the community?
  • What led the community to use the Internet? How was the community articulated digitally? what provided the Internet that could not be found offline?
  • How was the process of adoption of digital technologies, what tools and why?
  • What happened to the sense of membership, identity, participation?
  • What was the role of the mediator, facilitator, leader and how does it compare with an offline leadership?
  • Is self-regulation possible? How was conflict handled?
  • How is digital knowledge, experiences and learning “brought back” to the offline daily life and put into practice?

The cases are preceded by two introductory chapters, a first one on the social web and virtual participation, and a second on digital skills, as we thought some common background would help the reader to better understand some digital practices (and jargon). The book closes with what we, both authors, learnt during the preparation of the book and from reading other people’s chapters. This concluding chapter can be used too as a guideline for the preceding cases.

Table of contents

From the official page of the book Acción comunitaria en la red at Editorial Graó.

  1. Introduction, Francesc Balagué, Ismael Peña-López.
  2. What is the Web 2.0? New forms of participation and interaction. Francesc Balagué.
  3. Brief introduction to digital skills. Ismael Peña-López.
  4. APTIC. A social networking site for relativos of boys and girls with chronic diseases and conditions. Manuel Armayones, Beni Gómez Zúñiga, Eulàlia Hernández, Noemí Guillamón.
  5. School building: new communities. Berta Baquer, Beatriu Busquets.
  6. Social networking sites in education. Gregorio Toribio.
  7. Networked creation and the Wikipedia community. Enric Senabre Hidalgo.
  8. Social networking sites in the Administration: the Compartim programme on collaborative work. Jesús Martínez Marín
  9. Local politics, organizations and community. Ricard Espelt
  10. Towards cyberactivism from social movements. Núria Alonso, Jordi Bonet.
  11. Mobile phones, virtual communities and cybercafes: technologicla uses of international immigrants. Isidro Maya Jariego
  12. Concluding remarks. Ismael Peña-López, Francesc Balagué

Acknowledgements

There is a lot of people to be thankful to for making the book possible.

The first one is Xavier Úcar. I have only seldom been granted such a degree of total confidence and trust, not only in my work but in myself as a professional. He was supportive and provided guidance to two ignorants in the field. He totally gave us a blank cheque and one of my deepest fears during the whole process was — and still is — to have been able to pay him back with a quality book. I really hope it has been so.

The authors of the case studies were just great. Some of us did not know each other and I can count up to three people which I still have to meet personally (i.e. offline). They also trusted in us and gave away a valuable knowledge and work that money won’t pay. Many of them won’t even make much use of adding a line on their CVs for having written a book chapter. I guess this is part of this sense of new communities that the whole book is talking about.

My gratitude (but also apologies) to Antoni Garcia Porta and Sara Cardona at Editorial Graó. I am fully aware that we made them suffer: we succeeded in transferring some of our chaotic lives to them when they had not asked to. Being an editor today must be both a thrilling and a difficult challenge. We all gave away time in the making of the book but the published they represent invested money too, and that is something that we quickly forget these days.

Last, but absolutely not least, it has been a real pleasure working with Francesc. I think we only met once during the whole process: when Xavier invited us to coordinate the book. Francesc then packed and went around the world for 14 months. Luckily he took his laptop and would connect every now and then. Our e-mail archive and Google Documents can testify that almost everything is possible if there is the will to do it.

And it was fun too. Oh, yes it was!

Volunteering from home, the office or the train: online volunteering, social networking sites and smartphones

On July 14th, 2011, I was at the University of Málaga (Spain) where I spoke at the summer course Acción ciudadana y voluntariado en la nueva sociedad global: voluntariado y universidad (Citizen action and volunteering in the new global society: volunteering and university).

My session was called Volunteering from home, the office or the train: online volunteering, social networking sites and smartphones and was preceded by an excellent conference by Luis Arancibia Tapia, where he described how society is changing and how this crisis we are suffering since 2008 is not your usual crisis, but most likely a point of no-return.

That very same point — change and dire transformation of the society — is the one I used to base my speech on. Instead of providing zillions of examples of online volunteering, I tried to explain why is now possible to volunteer online, how are people behaving on the Net and what is the (different) nature of online volunteering and online citizen action.

My conference had four parts:

  1. The change of framework: what has been the impact from an industrial to a digital society.
  2. The direct macro-impact of that change: how have some concepts and practices in development cooperation been radically transformed due to the digitization of information and communications.
  3. The indirect micro-impact of that change: how have some personal practices in development cooperation, volunteering and citizen activism changed, especially in the nature of their contribution to charities and non-profit initiatives.
  4. Some examples, a suggestion for a categorization and a comment on the Arab Spring.

Please see below my presentation. You can also visit my bibliographic file for Volunteering from home, the office or the train: online volunteering, social networking sites and smartphones (the original title) for downloads both in English and Spanish.

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Computers or vaccines? Technology, social networking sites and new citizenship

I was invited to present a keynote during the VII General Assembly of the Spanish Red Cross, on 26 March 2011. I was asked to talk about what should nonprofits do in view of the proliferation of social networking sites, online participation, cyber-activism and so.

In such cases, I generally try to avoid the usual showcase of “best practices” and go instead to what causes made possible those “best practices”. It’s a tougher option, as it often implies a trade-off from the “wow factor” towards the “what-is-this-guy-talking-about factor”. On the positive side, I pursue the trade-off from the “let’s-copy-these-actions” towards “I-know-why-they-worked-and-I-understand-how-to-design-them-myself”.

On the other hand, the representatives of the Spanish Red Cross were choosing their President and the members of the boards of directors of different regional levels. That was a very strong reason to shift towards more strategic issues instead of strictly practical and punctual applications of social media and nonprofit technology.

Thus, the structure of my presentation was explaining:

  1. What caused the transition from an Industrial Society to an Information Society;
  2. how people were leveraging their access to information and communication technologies for activism and self-organization;
  3. what was being the impact like for institutions, especially those that represented people’s interests: governments, political parties and non-governmental organizations.

In a nutshell, the main message was that the Internet, cellphones, social networking sites, etc. are not a matter of how you inform your stakeholders, how you communicate with your volunteers or how you convince your donors, but a dire change of the game-board that requires serious strategic reflections and decisions in the very short term. Evidence shows that many institutions will either go through a deep process of transformation or will simply disappear, and NGOs are included in the set.

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More information and downloads

Access to knowledge and digital divide

Andalucía Compromiso Digital is a volunteering project to foster the use of Information and Communication technologies amongst the Andalusian citizenship, hence, an ICT volunteering project.

On March 27 to 29, 2009, the first Encuentro Andaluz de Voluntariado Digital (Andalusian Conference on ICT Volunteering) will take place in Jaén (Spain) to reflect about the past and draw applied strategies for the future.

I have been asked to make a speech about the impact of the Network Society in our daily lives, especially in everything related to access to knowledge and how this fact determines participation and engagement. I am to frame two following speeches by Juan Sebastián Fernández Prados on volunteering in the Network Society, and Pilar Jericó on personal skills for volunteers to network with people in risk of e-exclusion, thus why I’m standing on a quite theoretical level.

My speech has two main parts:

  1. A first part on development, network society and the different natures of the digital divide.
  2. And a second part on the role of knowledge and digital literacy in determining e-inclusion and, most important, social exclusion.

More information

Acknowledgements:

I want to thank Isabel Díaz for her kind invitation and Antonio “Nono” Pérez for just making it possible.

Voluntariado virtual: acción social en la Sociedad Red

Slides and references for my conference at the 6º Congreso Andaluz de Voluntariado (6th Andalousian Volunteering Congress) in Sevilla (Spain). I thank the invitation of Fran Santolaya, who is, with Isidro Maya, coordinator of e-Voluntas, a referent blog and discussion list about ICTs in nonprofits: online volunteering, ICT4D, etc.

Citation and downloads:

Peña-López, I. (2009). Voluntariado virtual: acción social en la Sociedad Red. Conferencia en el 6º Congreso Andaluz de Voluntariado. Sevilla: ICTlogy. Retrieved February 13, 2009 from http://ictlogy.net/presentations/20090213_ismael_pena-lopez_-_voluntariado_virtual_accion_social_sociedad_red.pdf

References:

Castells, M. (2000). ““Materials for an exploratory theory of the network society””. In
British Journal of Sociology, Jan-Mar 2000, 51 (1), 5-24. London: Routledge. Retrieved January 29, 2007 from http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/links/doi/10.1111/j.1468-4446.2000.00005.x/enhancedabs/
Castells, M. (2004). ““Informationalism, Networks, And The Network Society: A Theoretical Blueprint””. In Castells, M. (Ed.),
The Network Society: A Cross-Cultural Perspective. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar.
Madden, M. & Jones, S. (2008). Networked Workers. Washington, DC: Pew Internet & American Life Project. Retrieved September 27, 2008 from http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/PIP_Networked_Workers_FINAL.pdf
Norris, P. & Curtice, J. (2006). ““If You Build a Political Web Site, Will They Come? The Internet and Political Activism in Britain””. In
International Journal of Electronic Government Research, 2 (2), 1-21. Hershey: IGI Global.
Observatorio Nacional de las Telecomunicaciones y la Sociedad de la Información (2009). Perfil sociodemográfico de los internautas – Análisis de datos INE 2008. Madrid: ONTSI. Retrieved February 02, 2009 from http://observatorio.red.es/hogares-ciudadanos/articles/id/3027/perfil-sociodemografico-los-internautas-analisis-datos-ine-2008.html
Peña-López, I. (2005). e-Learning for Development: a model. ICTlogy Working Paper Series #1. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
Peña-López, I. (2007). “Online Volunteers: Knowledge Managers in Nonprofits”. In
The Journal of Information Technology in Social Change, Spring Edition – April 2007, (1), 136-152. Vashon: The Gilbert Center.
Peña-López, I. (2008). El papel de las TIC y la Web 2.0 en el desarrollo: de las estrategias push a las estrategias pull. Seminar and round table imparted in Cornellà de Llobregat, January 25th, 2008 at the Difundir las TIC en la época 2.0 conference, Observatorio de la Cibersociedad. Cornellà de Llobregat: ICTlogy. Retrieved January 23, 2008 from http://ictlogy.net/presentations/20080125_ismael_pena_tic_web2.0_estrategias_push_pull.pdf
Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (Ed.) (2005). Estudi d’Impacte de les Titulacions UOC. (mimeo). Barcelona: UOC.

Voluntariado virtual: e-learning para el desarrollo

Slides and references for my seminar at the PhD programme of the Social Psychology Department at the University of Sevilla (Spain). I thank the invitation of Isidro Maya Jariego, who is, by the way, doing a terrific work on personal and community networks.

Citation and downloads:

Peña-López, I. (2009). Voluntariado virtual: e-learning para el desarrollo. Seminario de Doctorado en el Departamento de Psicología Social de la Universidad de Sevilla. Sevilla: ICTlogy. Retrieved February 13, 2009 from http://ictlogy.net/presentations/20090213_ismael_pena-lopez_-_voluntariado_virtual_e-learning_for_development.pdf

References:

Castells, M. (2000). ““Materials for an exploratory theory of the network society””. In
British Journal of Sociology, Jan-Mar 2000, 51 (1), 5-24. London: Routledge. Retrieved January 29, 2007 from http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/links/doi/10.1111/j.1468-4446.2000.00005.x/enhancedabs/
Castells, M. (2004). ““Informationalism, Networks, And The Network Society: A Theoretical Blueprint””. In Castells, M. (Ed.),
The Network Society: A Cross-Cultural Perspective. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar.
Peña-López, I. (2005). e-Learning for Development: a model. ICTlogy Working Paper Series #1. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
Peña-López, I. (2007). “Online Volunteers: Knowledge Managers in Nonprofits”. In
The Journal of Information Technology in Social Change, Spring Edition – April 2007, (1), 136-152. Vashon: The Gilbert Center.
Peña-López, I. (2008). El papel de las TIC y la Web 2.0 en el desarrollo: de las estrategias push a las estrategias pull. Seminar and round table imparted in Cornellà de Llobregat, January 25th, 2008 at the Difundir las TIC en la época 2.0 conference, Observatorio de la Cibersociedad. Cornellà de Llobregat: ICTlogy. Retrieved January 23, 2008 from http://ictlogy.net/presentations/20080125_ismael_pena_tic_web2.0_estrategias_push_pull.pdf