SOCIAL INCLUSION, ICTS, AND CULTURAL AND MEMORY ORGANIZATIONS

:
AN INSIGHT TO THE

PORTUGUESE STATE-OF-THE-ART

0. Addressing Social Exclusion As a starting point to a venture such as the one intended, a clearly identifiable definition for the concept of social exclusion is needed, so to establish the phenomena addressed by the action of the CMOs subject to analysis. In this sense, we draw on the Community Services Group postulate, according to which «social exclusion focuses on the needs of groups and individuals who are excluded from services (as those offered by libraries, museums and archives)» (Community Services Group, xxxx). Stating that «(…) people with certain backgrounds and experiences are disproportionately likely to suffer social exclusion» (Community Services Group, xxxx), the same study holds that among the risk factors considered to play a key role are contexts such as those of «(…) low income; family conflict; being in care; school problems; being an ex-prisoner; being from an ethnic minority; living in a deprived neighbourhood in urban and rural areas; mental health problems, age and disability (…), refugees and asylum seekers, travellers who are not considered to be from an ethnic minority, and LGBTs (lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered people, people with basic skills needs, single parents» (Community Services Group, xxxx), as well as the unemployed. At the level of identifiable social dynamics, there is a different approach possible, which regards the defining characteristics of social exclusion, namely «(…) the habit of non- participation, the habit of isolation, and a perceived lack of opportunity and choice» (Community Services Group, xxxx), as well as lack of access to power, knowledge services and facilities. 1. ICTs and Social Inclusion

According to a cyber-optimistic perspective, current technology allows, as never before in the History of Mankind, for the broadcasting and enhancing of knowledge and available information (Oliveira, 2000). Ongoing processes of informationalization and globalization of western societies, motivated by diverse networks of power and technology, are reshaping the world (Castells, 1997). Assuming, as Paquete de Oliveira does, that «Information is the new name for Development», and that «Knowledge is the new indicator for a nation’s or region’s wealth and heritage» (Oliveira, 2000), information-based processes of decision making are changing the lives of citizens everywhere (Webster, 2001: 5), to significant levels of extent and depth. And as Pickerill puts it, ICTs are more than just an extension of existing forms of communication since they offer a variety of opportunities earlier unavailable (Pickerill, 2001: 142). These are just some of the many reasons why, as Almeida writes, the access to ICTs should be considered a pre-condition for the quality of life every citizen is entitled to (Almeida, xxxx), and why the access to information they make possible is crucial to the advent of an actual intervening and informed citizen in a truly democratic society (Colodrón, 2000). However, a technical determinism may not be any better than other determinisms (Rocher, 1989: 26). Although it is unquestionable that the ICTs do set new horizons for the coming of a Knowledge Society, the latter will only come to be once the inequities inherited from the Industrial Society are overcome, something which is not taking place according to some scholars (Dordoy and Mellor, 2001: 173; Lyon, 1992). As Rocher states, the technical factor is an important variable, but we cannot assess the real influence it exerts without addressing the cultural context in which it is inscribed (Rocher, 1989: 29). We should bear in mind that the access to such technologies is not – and will not become in the near future – universal. But, according to Hamelink, even the massification of computer usage does not, by itself, change the existing

social inequity at the level of access to and control of such usage (Lyon, 1992; Dordoy and Mellor, 2001: 174): on the one hand, because the ICTs themselves may well be intensifying some of these inequity generating processes (Dordoy and Mellor, 2001: 181), since the vast majority of its users are among the already info-literate ones (Pickerill, 2001: 143); on the other hand, because, as Colodrón wisely states, since social and technological exclusion implies an absence of cultural and technological skills, the simple access to information, even if on a free basis, does not in itself guarantee the fulfilling of its potential benefits; specific skills, a particular kind of technological capital, are required to tackle it exclusion (Colodrón, 2000; Ford, Gil, 2000: 204). 2. CMOs and Social Inclusion In accordance with Silva, information only becomes fruitful when turned into knowledge, the true promoter of development, wealth and well-being; the bigger the ability of a given country and its institutions to convert information in knowledge, the bigger the potential benefits for its citizens (Silva, 20xx). In a democratic society, Rego states, everyone must – and should be allowed the opportunity to – be informed, so to exercise competent citizenship; and this can only be possible through the access to information (Rego, 2000). Fritzinger writes the question of information – and of information technologies – is central to libraries (Fritzinger, 2000). One of the fields in which this statement is noticeable is its role in enhancing the knowledge possessed by the people, and its action in compensating existing inequities in the technological capital held by the citizens. According to Calixto, the spreading of the use of ICTs accentuates the importance of the social roles played by CMOs. These, particularly public libraries, have had a democratic matrix since their birth (Calixto, 20xx), since they offer indiscriminating access to information (Colodrón, 2000). In line with this scholar, democracy implies the existence of

informed citizens, as well as social inequity regulating mechanisms of economic, social, cultural, and educational kinds. In this sense, the public library constitutes one of these mechanisms. However, the access, for instance, to the digital information stored in such institutions, requires the use of ICTs, and the necessary skills to make use of them are often not available for free outside the very public library (Calixto, 20xx). This is why, again, the availability of access terminals is not enough: one must take into consideration the conditions in which such access can, or cannot, actually take place (Abreu, 2000). The question of access and exclusion, Abreu says, is usually tied to physical equipment aspects, hardware and infra-structure; but the main issue is undoubtedly cultural: success in dealing with exclusion cannot be met by simply having computers available and ignoring the awareness of its users (Abreu, 2000). Research has shown that low levels of literaly promote the restriction of opportunities and the risk of social exclusion (Oliveira, 2000). The info-exclusion phenomenon thus accompany lower, unqualified social classes, trends which are beyond traditional teaching, and having more to do with the social and cultural environment, and the predisposition to the consumption of cultural products and activities (Oliveira, 2000). Colodrón writes, on this matter, that public libraries can contribute to the democratization of the Information Society by helping citizens to take part in the former not only as information consumers but also as information producers (Colodrón, 2000). One other dimension that should be addressed is the way in which citizen participation can be sought and promoted at the time of reorganizing library services and activities (Colodrón, 2000).

3. The Portuguese state-of-the-art: past and present

“(…) ten years ago (…) the general feeling (…) was that the “new technologies” (…) were for specialized libraries only (…). Ten years ago (…) our priorities were centered around the construction of base infrastructures, i.e., libraries (…). From our initial concerns about routines(…) we quickly started to grasp technologies as a means to the very supplying of information, and new possibilities, new roles and new services started to shape (…). And we also started to understand that we could be an entry point into technologies, and also of technology teaching, so important for large sectors of our communities, particularly the most fragile ones economic- and social- wise (Calixto, 20xx). According to Colodrón, Portugal illustrates the successful national strategies implemented in some countries, showing quite extraordinary results in a very short time span (Colodrón, 2000). Oliveira, on this matter, writes that the existing and expanding public library national network is a remarkable example of successful policies, and one of the most relevant cultural policy facts of the modern Portugal (Oliveira, 2000). Along with his views, and concerning the use of new technologies, this southern European country is all the more justly considered an interesting case study (Oliveira, 2000). In 1992 the RILP – Rede Informática de Leitura Pública (Public Reading Informatic Network) – began being set (Calixto, 20xx). There are, Calixto holds, clear indicators of the role public libraries have played since then, in terms of tackling social exclusion and access inequities to cultural and informative assets (Calixto, 20xx). In 1997 the Livro Verde Para A Sociedade Da Informação Em Portugal (Green Book for the Information Society in Portugal) was

published, setting nation-wide policies to foster technological, cultural and social developments and to prevent the emergence of a class of info-excluded citizens, in which considerations were made about the privileged position held by the public libraries for dealing with infoexclusion (Calixto, 20xx; Livro Verde Para a Sociedade da Informação, 1997) such as the one in which it is clearly stated that «Public libraries should and ought to be an open door to the new world of digital and multimedia information, access point to the cyberspace for those that, for socio-economic and cultural reasons, don’t have from beginning, means to do it at home» (Livro Verde Para a Sociedade da Informação, 1997. The Instituto Português do Livro e das Bibliotecas - IPLB – (Portuguese Institute for Books and Libraries) was set to follow objectives in this field such as promoting new services in the public libraries network – specially those related to lifelong learning –, and to reinforce the role of the public libraries against social exclusion. The ECDL project also allowed users to become certified, through courses attended at several public libraries, in the use of ICTs, not only to make the best of the existing resources at the libraries but to gather enduring skills. In 2000 the Ministério da Ciência e Tecnologia (Ministry of Science of Tecnology) conceived another national course of action, the Plano de Acção “Para uma Sociedade do Conhecimento e da Informação, 2000-2006” (Action Plan for the Knowledge and Information Society) based on two articulated operational programs: the Programa Operacional Ciência, Tecnologia e Inovação – POCTI – (Science, Technology and Innovation Operational Program), with a mid-term strategic orientation intended to compensate for the country’s scientific gap; and the Programa Operacional Sociedade da Informação – POSI – (Information Society Operational Program) intended to permit the convergence of policies and sectorial programs, envisaging the

stimulation of accessibility and civic participation (Silva, 20xx). Some of the measures inscribed in the POSI are, among others: a) to promote the accessibility and use of computers and the Internet, through the making available of the Rede de Ciência, Tecnologia e Sociedade – RCTS – (Science, Technology and Society Network) to every cultural and scientific organizations, on a free of charge basis for users; b) to foster every local and regional project which store, make available, promote, develop, and adapt the existing knowledge, particularly libraries and networked archives, digital libraries, and telematic cultural services; c) to understand the social, economic, political and legal mechanisms of adoption and use of ICTs, specially through the development of new forms of organization which promote social inclusion and equity in opportunities (Programa Operacional Sociedade da Informação, 2000).

4. Portuguese Case Studies As for a more empirical-based grasp of what the Portuguese reality is, concerning the development of social inclusive practices by CMOs, the following case studies provide useful insights. The Pavilhão do Conhecimento/Programa Ciência Viva (Knowledge Pavillion / Live Science Program) is a science museum that combines the use of traditional approaches towards the public with the use of multimedia and Internet in order to reach a wider public. It’s integrated on a national network, entitled Ciência Viva whose goal is to promote social and economic inclusion through the promotion of the need to increase the scientific knowledge of the population. Given the need considered by the Portuguese government to invest in the scientific

skills of the population (through an increase in the number of young people choosing science and technology as their studying subjects in higher education) the Pavilhão do Conhecimento and the network Ciência Viva use new information technologies as one of their instruments to promote inclusion. The Pavilion of Knowledge - Ciência Viva is an interactive science and technology museum that has been open to the public since July 25th 1999. It is an integral part of the Ciência Viva Centres Network and serves as both the driving force and resource centre for this network. The main objective is to stimulate scientific knowledge and promote scientific and technological culture among all citizens. The exhibitions and activities proposed allow visitors to explore many wide-ranging themes with interactive Exhibits, relaxing and having fun at the same time. Besides the major theme exhibitions, the Pavilion of Knowledge Ciência Viva promotes various scientific and educational initiatives. The Ciência Viva programme is a national initiative for scientific and technological culture. Since 1996, true to its guiding principle of bringing scientific and school communities together in order to improve basic education, Ciência Viva has promoted the following projects: support and financing for science experiment projects in schools; a nationwide science awareness-raising network of interactive centres; national science awareness-raising campaigns, stimulating associative science and giving the population opportunities for scientific observation and direct contact with experts from different fields. The Museu Nacional de Arqueologia’s (National Archaeological Museum) site on the internet was, in 2002, distinguished by UNESCO as the world’s best site in 2002. Through their website the Museu Nacional de Arqueologia tries to promote new links with young people, researchers and teachers, offering access to their collections and promoting educational tools through the Internet. Besides the exhibitions, the Museum offers society (Portuguese and foreign) numerous other services; regular publications (of which the scientific magazine “O

Arqueólogo Português”, published since 1895 and the most important of its type in Portugal and with a net of over 300 correspondent institutions all over the World, stands out), the conservation and restoration of archaeological goods, seminars, conferences and courses of the speciality, an educational and cultural extension service, a specialized library (the most important in Portugal and the only one which today continues regularly open to the public in the group of national museums), shop and bookshop, fundamental scientific research, etc. The Biblioteca Municipal de Almada (Almada County Library) works in cooperation with the regional employment agency on the training of unemployed people in computer skills. This training tries to ensure that all the participants will end their learning having acquired skills on the use of Internet that will allow them to have better job opportunities. The Biblioteca Municipal de Almada is one of the ten libraries participating on Rede Nacional de Bibliotecas Públicas, in cooperation with the IPLB (Portuguese Institute of the Book and Libraries). The libraries working on this project become certification centers for the European Computer Drivers License. The Fundação Mário Soares, founded in September 12, 1991, is a private non-profit organization related to the former President of the Portuguese Republic, Mário Soares, and its mission is to promote and sponsor cultural, scientific and educational events in the human rights, political science and international relations fields of study. Through the Digitisation Project of the Mário Soares Archive wishes to preserve the Mário Soares Archive (M.S.A.) and to gradually open it to the public.

5. Bibliography o Abreu, P., (2000), Uma biblioteca pública numa sociedade de informação obcecada pelo mercado: desafios e oportunidades, http://www.citidep.pt/papers/pfa/pfabnt.html o Almeida, A. (2000), Tecnologias da Informação e Comunicação: o o Biblioteca combate Municipal de à Almada info-exclusão, http://www.mhttp://www.telecentro.org/documentacao/comb_info_exc.asp

almada.pt/website/main.php?id=60 o Calixto, J.A., (1999), "As bibliotecas públicas portuguesas face aos desafios da sociedade da informação” in Liberpolis : Revista das bibliotecas públicas, nº2, , http://www.liberpolis.pt/revista/revista_1.htm o CASTELLS, M. (1997), The Power of Identity, Oxford, Blackwell o Colodrón, V., (2000), Resumo final da Conferência "Bibliotecas públicas: Inventando o futuro", http://rbp.iplb.pt/iniciativas/conferencia/vitoriano_colodron.html o Community Services Group, (2002), Social inclusion and libraries: a resource http://www.cilip.org.uk/groups/csg/si/definitions.htm o DORDOY, A. e MELLOR, M., Grassroots environmental movements – mobilization in an Information Age, in WEBSTER, F. (2001), Culture and Politics in the Information Age – A new politics?, Routledge o FORD, T., GIL, G., Radical Internet use, in DOWNING, J. (ed.) (2000), Radical Media – rebellious communication and social movements, London, Sage Publications o Fritzinger, A., (2001), Bibliothèques publiques et nouvelles guide,

technologies: Combattre l’exclusion des « publics défavorisés », http://bbf.enssib.fr/bbf/html/2001_46_2/2001-2-p98fritzinger.xml.asp

o Fundação o Livro Verde

Mário

Soares

-

http://www.fundacao-mario-

soares.pt/english/central-index.htm Para a Sociedade da Informação (1997),

http://www.gov.cv/rafe/download/livroverdePortugal.pdf o LYON, D. (1992), A Sociedade da Informação – Questões e Ilusões, Celta Editora o Museu Nacional de Arqueologia - http://www.mnarqueologiaipmuseus.pt/?a=8&x=2 o Oliveira, P. (2000), Novos Media e Fenómenos de Exclusão, http://rbp.iplb.pt/iniciativas/conferencia/paquete_oliveira.html o Pavilhão do Conhecimento/Programa Ciência Viva -

http://www.pavconhecimento.mct.pt/home/index.asp? accao=changelang&lang=en o PICKERILL, J., Weaving a Green Web – Environmental Protest and computer-mediated communication in Britain, in Webster, F. (2001), Culture and Politics in the Information Age – A new politics?, Routledge o Programa Operacional Sociedade da Informação (2000),

http://www.posi.mct.pt/gerais/documentos/pdf/po001.pdf o Rego, M. (2000), Como combater a exclusão dos info-pobres?, http://www.citidep.pt/act/bntintrolivro.html o ROCHER, G. (1977-1979), Sociologia Geral, trad. Ana Ravara, Lisboa, Editorial Presença o Silva, G. (1999), Sociedade da Informação: rioridades para Portugal, http://www.recyt.org.ar/Gabriela.htm o WEBSTER, F., A new politics?, in WEBSTER, F. (2001), Culture and Politics in the Information Age – A new politics?, Routledge

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