Know Thy Community
by Dick Kaser
I learned, way back in journalism school, that if you want to get your point across, you need to understand your audience. The same can be said about community engagement, which is the topic of this issue.
When Fabio Montella set up his AI lab at Suffolk County Community College, he soon learned that faculty buy-in was not automatic. He needed to promote the lab and collaborate with faculty members in order to get the lab accepted, integrated into the curriculum, and better used—which he discusses in the lead case study.
Just imagine what it would take to roll that kind of technology out, if your community comprised senior citizens. But that didn’t stop Rodney Freeman Jr. from trying, as he reports on his efforts to help senior citizens record their personal histories using 3D modeling software. Think of it as going on a trip to Grandma’s house, but when you get there, she’s at her computer.
What if your audience—your community—is everyone who has ever owned a VCR? You may wonder why no one is using your fancy array of equipment for personal VHS-to-DVD conversion, until it dawns on you: They don’t want to spend the time doing it. Why not do it for them? That’s exactly what Nick O’Neal asked, before opening the floodgates to more home-video digitizers than the Kirkwood Public Library had seen in years.
Then, there’s Cate McNamara, who works for a college network that believes in community outreach. How can one effectively draw in and engage a whole community of citizens? As she reports, all you really need is a clear strategy and a whiteboard. Her tech-simple Democracy Wall Project sparked a civic-minded movement in Phoenix on the subject of bike riding.
And if your audience is kids, all power to you. Gamification, as Senovia Guevara observes, may be the way to go. In her article, she shows how one game can teach students about internet privacy. (Ironically, it’s offered by Google.)
If you missed the CIL ’19 conference, please plan to come next year. But for now, columnist Terence Huwe shares his community engagement takeaways from this year’s event.
Dick Kaser, Executive Editor