Understanding Red Hook Wifi through Participatory Action Research
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
PAR is a form of inquiry in which the line between “the researcher” and “the researched” is blurred. The team, an academic researcher (the author) and eight community researchers (the Digital Stewards) collaboratively selected the research topic, completed data collection and analysis, as well as decided what action should happen as a result of the research findings. Every participant had an expertise to contribute to the project whether it was an intimate knowledge of the neighborhood, the Red Hook Initiative and Red Hook WIFI, experience as a Digital Steward, or training in research methodology. The benefit of PAR is that it brings together many forms of situated knowledge and lived experience to offer more valid interpretations of information. For policy makers this can be critical to ensuring all voices are represented in policy decisions.
The main research questions addressed through the survey included:
• Who in the neighborhood is using and benefitting from Red Hook WIFI?
• In what ways are these people using the communication infrastructures?
• How could RHI and the Digital Stewards improve Red Hook WIFI in the future to better address neighborhood needs?
In addition to making sense of the data, this paper also offers reflections on the PAR process from both the perspective of the academic researcher and the community researchers.