Creating Community Connections: Sociocultural Constructionism and an Asset-Based Approach to Community Technology and Community Building

Pinkett, R. "Creating Community Connections: Sociocultural Constructionism and an Asset-Based Approach to Community Technology and Community Building"


The intersection between community technology programs seeking to close the "digital divide," and community building efforts aimed at alleviating poverty, holds tremendous possibilities, as both domains seek to empower individuals and families, and improve their overall community. Ironically, approaches that combine these areas have received very little attention in theory and practice. As community technology and community building initiatives move toward greater synergy, there is a great deal to be learned regarding how they can be mutually supportive, rather than mutually exclusive. This thesis sheds light on the possibilities inhered at this nexus.

The project that constitutes the basis for this thesis is the Camfield Estates-MIT Creating Community Connections Project, an ongoing effort at Camfield Estates, a predominantly African-American, low- to moderate-income housing development. As part of this project, we worked with residents to establish a technological infrastructure by offering every family a new computer, software, and high-speed Internet connection, along with comprehensive courses and a web-based, community building system, the Creating Community Connections (C3) System, that I have co-designed. The project combined these elements in an effort to achieve a social and cultural resonance that integrated both community technology and community building by leveraging indigenous assets instead of perceived needs.

In relation to this work, I have developed the theoretical framework of sociocultural constructionism and an asset-based approach to community technology and community building. Through this lens, I examine the early results of the project in the areas of community social capital and community cultural capital, based on quantitative and qualitative data resulting from direct observation, surveys, interviews, server logs, and case studies. These findings included expanded local ties, a heightened awareness of community resources, improved communication and information flow at the development, and a positive shift in participants' attitudes and perceptions of themselves as learners.

Finally, based on these and other findings, I discuss the challenges and opportunities of a sociocultural constructionist and asset-based approach, presents lessons learned, and offers recommendations for future community technology and community building initiatives.

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