Non-instrumental Use study begins pilot testing in Brazil

by , September 23, 2010

Category: Featured, In-depth Studies, News, Non-Instrumental Use

For the Non-instrumental Uses of ICT as a Component of General ICT Skill Acquisition Study, principal investigator Beth Kolko and researcher Judith Yaaquobi are currently in Brazil to pilot test research instruments and finalize the survey sampling strategy.  Another goal of the trip is to learn more about the different public access places, what differences they will experience in the communities, and what possible challenges will come up during the implementation of the Non-instrumental Use study.

The following is the update Beth and Judith sent from their time in Brazil:

The study’s research partner, PensamientoDigital, connected us with local researchers and internet professionals in Rio den Janeiro and Porto Alegre (in Rio Grande del Sul). In Rio de Janeiro, we had the chance to chat with a LAN house owner in one of the poorest neighborhoods, Favela Rocinha, about his experiences. He provided valuable insights on user habits and limitations of the study. We also visited two other favelas, both of which are part of a new government program of “pacification”: Santa Marta and Cantagalo. In Cantagalo,we visited a social center called Crianca Esperanca (the visit was featured on their blog. Find their entry here.). The art community center allows free, unrestricted computer access for children starting at the age of three years. In Santa Marta, we were accompanied by researchers currently doing mapping and survey work for the Global Impact Study surveys, and we were delighted to be able to learn from the survey team’s community contacts. We also visited two LAN-houses and a community radio station.

We have been surprised by the significant differences between the two LAN-houses; despite a shared label, the location and clientele were significantly different. We also spent an afternoon at a private LAN-house in a working class neighborhood in the northern part of the city where they piloted instruments with users and watched a roomful of young boys spend the day playing Warcraft on pirate servers. During the visit so far, we have seen public access venues that welcome gaming, those that ban it, and those that block social networking and gaming when there are many users waiting for the computers.

We are currently in Porto Alegre, where we have visited governmental telecenters, a social center called Villa Cruzeiro, LAN houses, and cybercafes. Every visit contributes to a deeper understanding of what people do in public access points. Through screening questions that inquire about their gaming habits, their social-network use, as well as their more instrumental uses like creating resumes and working in spreadsheets, we have been able to create profiles that will be used for the study’s sampling strategy.

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About the author

These are project updates made by members of the Technology & Social Change Group (TASCHA) at the University of Washington Information School. TASCHA is responsible for the implementation for the Global Impact Study.

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5 Responses to “Non-instrumental Use study begins pilot testing in Brazil”

  1. Jay Freistadt Says:

    Sounds very interesting. I hadn’t heard of the governmental use of ICT as “pacification”. That, I’ll be curious to know more about.

  2. Marta Says:

    Hi Jay, this is Marta from Brazil, there is a new pacification program for favelas areas in Rio de Janeiro, but it is not directly related to ICT: for about 20 years local government was not present in these areas, and drug dealers had the areas domain, and local non registered micro business provided the community with things like internet access ( not legal) and other service, Now, in some favelas in Rio de jANEIRO, there is the UPP: Unidade da Policia Pacificadora, which means: police unit for pacification. So in these places, the police is constantly there, policemen get involved in some social activiites, and state (government) is providing some service like internet, for free, inside these communities.

  3. Jay Freistadt Says:

    Ah, Marta, entendi. So, it’s more about having a transition to government services than using internet access to “pacify”. I’ve got to admit, sounds like a good idea to normalize the presence of the police in the favelas this way. I’d be interested to hear on what the Brazilian public thinks about this, as well. So far, from the more “humilde” families, it’s been a very positive response to the Lula administration’s programs such as “Bolsa Família,” while the wealthy generally are against such measures.

  4. Pedro Ferreira Says:

    Great project!

    I was doing fieldwork in Vanuatu with similar concerns, and am now writing some papers about it (hence stumbling upon this site).

    I would like to leave a comment though. I find non-instrumental use of technologies a crucial aspect for us to study, and the whole point of the research center I work at (Mobile Life in Sweden) is precisely that. How technology contributes to the “good life” so to speak.

    However, when you frame your project as looking at how this non-instrumental use can contribute to, for instance, acquisition of ICT skills, then that usage becomes instrumental. You have then took part of the impact and benefits of non-instrumental ICT usage and made it instrumental, and this way you risk leaving out a vast and interesting body of work. I believe that in some ways this supports the mainstream rhetoric about how ICTS should be only used in instrumental ways (find the ways in which the now non-instrumental is actually instrumental).

    I believe you are on to something big, and my comment would be to avoid that reductionist “pitfall” and embrace all usages, even if they do not seem to bring about any clearly measurable benefit…

    I hope I got my point across, and again kudos on the topic of your project… it is a very exciting arena!



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