Promoting Digital Literacy in the Community: A Social Lab Approach - School of Computing Seminar Series

This research seminar discusses work in-progress pertaining to the set up and implementation of a Digital Literacy Social Lab (DLSL) in Hamilton, Canada. The Digital Literacy Social Lab is a social innovation lab carried out by the Community Campus CoLab (a unit based out of McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada) in partnership with the Hamilton Public Library. A social innovation lab, or social lab for short, is a new approach to solving complex social problems such as poverty, chronic disease, and climate change. Rather than attempting single solutions by a narrow set of stakeholders to solve these problems independently, a broad and diverse set of people and organizations experiment with various approaches to solve these problems and learn from each other over a sustained period of time about what works best. It’s a holistic approach to solving social problems that are systemic in nature and where solutions address the root causes of systemic challenges, rather than focusing on mere symptoms.
The Digital Literacy Social Lab is based on the premise that as the world becomes more digital, it is essential that individuals become more digitally literate in order to fully participate and engage in their communities, whether these communities are local or global in structure. In this regard, any initiative with the goal of promoting digital literacy skills and digital literacy awareness among members of the Hamilton community would be a valuable sub-project within the larger DLSL initiative. The primary goal of DLSL is to launch a series of digital literacy projects co-led by community and university partners in the Hamilton area. These projects will investigate a variety of approaches that develop the digital literacy skills of Hamilton community members and/or increase Hamilton community member interest in digital literacy.
This research seminar will provide an overview of the Digital Literacy Social Lab and report on the initiatives underway to rally community partner and university researcher participation in this area. This includes discussion of a Digital Literacy Summit held in November 2017, actions to set up a collaboration space for digital literacy projects, and plans for a second Digital Literacy Summit in 2018. Importantly, details of a research project investigating the utility of a social lab approach to solving digital literacy concerns will be presented. Using Activity Theory as a conceptual framework, the research project will explore various congruencies and contradictions in the setup and running of various digital literacy initiatives underway in the Hamilton area. Examples of such initiatives include coding clubs, library makerspace workshops, media literacy training, and digital skills development opportunities. Methodological elements include the running of project retrospectives, one-on-one interviews, and analysis of data collected in an online collaboration space for the Digital Literacy Social Lab.

Dr. Brian Detlor is Professor of Information Systems and Chair of the Information Systems Area at the DeGroote School of Business at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada. He also is Visiting Professor at the Centre for Social Informatics, School of Computing, at Edinburgh Napier University in Scotland. He currently teaches courses in Project Management, eBusiness Strategy, and Qualitative Research Methods. His research has been published in several leading Information Systems and Library & Information Science journals, such as the Journal of Management Information Systems, Information Systems Journal, Government Information Quarterly, the Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, and College & Research Libraries. His current research projects investigate the use of digital storytelling by city cultural organizations, as well as the running of digital storytelling workshops in library makerspaces as a means to promote the digital literacy skills of digitally disadvantaged community members. Dr. Detlor is a founding member of the Digital Literacy Social Lab – a social lab project carried out by the Community Campus CoLab (a unit based out of McMaster University) in partnership with the Hamilton Public Library. More information about Dr. Detlor can be found at www.degroote.mcmaster.ca/profiles/brian-detlor.