DIGITAL EXPLORATIONS

Enhancing Community Connections with Digital Media

The Centers for Digital Exploration: A Brief Overview

Our Vision Rural communities face enormous pressure to develop quickly or to erect walls against the world. Local public institutions founder under the burden of fear, inertia and a crumbling economy. It can be difficult to fill volunteer ranks of fire departments, school boards, and agencies. As Robert Putnam notes, neighbors no longer know neighbors in what Barry Wellman calls this era of "networked individualism." Do we hunker down within our homes and attend to our own? Do we grow ever fearful of the unknown, the different, even within our own increasingly diverse communities? Or are we active, inclusive participants in the shaping of our home communities? How does technology bring us together? Rural towns can struggle to utilize the connective, creative, and communicative practices of the Web or combine them with equally powerful in-person practices. How are we using digital technologies pervading social, work and educational spaces? To better ourselves as individuals? To connect with people who think as we do? Or to reach out across our physical communities and to the world beyond to connect, collaborate, and create better worlds? How do I, as a community member, use a blog, a wiki, a YouTube channel, to share what I know, to inform my politicians or my constituents about my views? How can local artists reach a broader audience, use digital technologies in their work?? How can I share my expertise with my community while learning from my neighbors? To discover possible answers to these questions, come down to your local Center for Community Digital Exploration. We hope to open the first center(s) in 2010.

Contact us at info@digitalexploration.org or at 802 989 1885

DIGITAL EXPLORATIONS
Enhancing Community Connections with Digital Media

A Sampling of Possible Center Activities We envision that Centers for Community Digital Exploration belong to the community and bring rural residents together to explore participatory online learning in a place where people converse as much as produce, where we ground the individual benefits of online interaction within the community's well-being. In partnership with local institutions, such as museums, schools, libraries, local-access television stations and other media services, elderly centers, teen centers, and small businesses, Digital Explorations seeks to assist communities to set up vibrant third-places where people gather to: • • • Avail themselves of educational and creative expression opportunities Sustain deep community bonds Build bridges to other communities

Contact us at info@digitalexploration.org or at 802 989 1885

DIGITAL EXPLORATIONS
Enhancing Community Connections with Digital Media

Community members organize, teach and participate in workshops, seminars, discussions, performances and other activities centered on digital technology and participatory learning, such as digital storytelling, social networks, blogging, online worlds, gaming. Digital Explorations helps to guide the process of center design and set-up in each community, and offers training in its workshops in social media and digital expressive media. Over the course of the first year of existence, Digital Explorations trains volunteer staff and is readily available for programming assistance. In subsequent years Digital Explorations will continue to assist the development of programming to serve the townspeople although the center itself belongs to the community and is not a franchise. * * * * * * * *

Each center, well equipped with computers and digital media equipment, houses a flexible-space computer lab/meeting space and an exhibition space offering a range of opportunities for community connection, learning and collaboration. Each center will tailor its offerings to its own community and offer online spaces as well as an offline gathering/learning place. All members of the community are invited to participate in and to initiate the activities of the center. These physical centers will be places where people from across a community’s spectrum gather in person to discuss and learn and explore and share the connected and expressive practices of the Web. We envision that all or almost all programs will be free of charge, offered by volunteers. Exceptions would be modest fees for “office rental” in the spirit of Being Spaces or Hubs. * * * * * * * *

Within this neutral, mentored non-school, people can freely explore these tools and practices. Those with no computer or internet access at home, youth and the elderly, can share stories and expertise, engaging in reciprocal apprenticeships, as they teach one another invaluable lessons about life. Nonprofits and agencies can gather to learn from one another and help one another both online and in person. Individuals can avail themselves of the computers, the space, the mentors to engage in hybrid learning. We also hope to add mobile labs--Digital Explorations On Wheels--much like the Books-on-Wheels model. Our fully equipped computer labs will circulate among the villages surrounding a center's location, offering workshops, computer time, and mentoring on digital arts projects.

Contact us at info@digitalexploration.org or at 802 989 1885