AM08 2008 START Conference Manager    

Ecovillages and Information Technology: Negotiating Sustainability

Lisa P. Nathan

ASIS&T 2008 Annual Meeting (AM08 2008)
Columbus, Ohio, October 24-29, 2008


This project seeks to provide a rich account of the adaptive process that occurs as individuals with explicit value commitments interact with information technology. Specifically, ethnographic methods are being used to investigate the information technology adaptive process as it unfolds in the daily life of two ecovillages, communities made up of individuals striving to balance their use of technology with a lifestyle that is environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable. This study investigates the negotiability of information technology (IT) through the following questions: 1) How do individuals explicitly trying to live by a core set of values adapt and adapt to IT? 2) How do specific features of an IT support and/or constrain community values? 3) How is tension negotiated by community members between explicit community values and individual goals as IT adaptations take place over time? Specifically, the project draws on Value Sensitive Design to investigate the IT adaptive process as it occurs in two ecovillages, communities that have made a purposeful decision to live according to a set of core values while remaining active participants in mainstream American society. Phase 1 is a year-long period of data collection from a forming ecovillage. Findings from Phase 1 will be corroborated through comparison with data from Phase 2, a one-month investigation in a long-standing, established ecovillage. Anticipated research outcomes include: (1) an analytic description of information technology adaptive process; (2) a categorization of technological functionalities which support or constrain certain values, (3) an empirical extension of Value Sensitive Design, and (4) an analysis of the negotiation around tensions which emerge as a community's values influence the use of information technology features and, reciprocally, as information technology features influence a community's values. Most broadly this work contributes to our larger understanding of how the information technology adaptive process influences the human experience.

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