About this site

Larry Stillman

Larry Stillman

This site contains information about Larry Stillman’s work. I am a Senior Research Fellow what is  now called the Organisational and Social Informatics ‘area of expertise’ of the Department of Human Centered Computing at Monash University.

I seek to understand how community and non-profit organisations work with information, knowledge, and technology. My PhD was a deep study of these issues in community-based organisations. I do work in Australia and increasingly in South Africa & Bangladesh in the Development Informatics area.  From 2015-2019 I was lead researcher in the first-stage of the joint project “PROTIC” (which means sign or symbol in Bengali), with Oxfam in Bangladesh, working with women villages in different parts of Bangladesh. We will be working continue to work on issues associated with mobile technologies through participatory action research until 2024 because of new  philanthropic funding.  Now I have gone part-time, though I am still too busy!

What’s the rationale for this interest?

Since the early 90s I have worked in and with community-based organisations in various information, community development, and research roles, including a number of technology innovations. With the advent of the internet, I saw great opportunities for change — and also great challenges to how we do our work.

I began to become interested in how we know what we are doing with technology, is ‘right’, ‘wrong’, or somewhere in between. I’m particularly interested in how we know what is valuable to both communities and people (usually government) who support such initiatives– their information and knowledge.

Different discourse frames and power relations mean that very different world views are frequently on stage (and all the shades therein). I’ve also become active with various networks of practitioners and researchers locally and internationally. A lot of my time has been engaged in organising conferences and workshops because much of what we do and understand doesn’t make for easy writing or documentation. It’s also an obvious truth that nothing works as well as people getting together and–networking! We are engaged in not just simple research, but applied action and research.

I’ll add content as time permits.

You might like to look at the piece on ‘community informatics’ (the academic term that is bandied around these days) that I started off in Wikipedia, and add to it. An increasingly important, cooperative space for community informatics discussions and contributions is cirn.wikispaces.com.

I’ve also got a few political and social justice obsessions which I also blog or and / or put on Facebook.  So look for me there.

In my senecditude, I am returning to my real academic love, Assyriology, and the Akkadian language, the greatest language of antiquity.  Unfortunately, except for references in the Bible and a few elsewhere, Mesopotamian civilization was lost under the sands of Iraq and Aramaic, Greek, Latin, and then Arabic and Persian took over.   I am involved with a project to publish all the texts that have ended up (surprisingly) in museums and other collections in Australia and New Zealand. The internet has of course, revolutionized such allegedly obscure academic fields, with a huge number of resources online.  More recently, I have taken up the Anglo concertina and the  whistle as a release from some of  the insanity that surrounds being in academia

Contact: larryjhs_ AT _ fastmail.fm, and remove all the bits that should be removed to make this work.

Sociotechnical Transformative Effects of an ICT Project in Rural Bangladesh


A bit of speculation here about the parts and the whole in social-technical change.

This article is not the perfect piece by any means, but it considers the PROTIC project in Bangladesh as a modeling force for innovation and pressure on established sociotechnical structures. In this analysis, we follow what Donner defines as the “interrelationship” perspective, as applied to ICT4D. In particular, the notions of niche, regime, and landscape will be used to frame the changes that a village-level project may activate or respond to at the micro, meso, and macro levels of sociotechnical interaction, following the  about what is known as the Multilevel Perspective.  We also make some comments about the complexities of trans-national and cross-cultural/gendered research at the village level and upward.

Stillman, L., Sarrica, M., Farinosi, M., Anwar, M., & Sarker, A. (2020). Sociotechnical Transformative Effects of an ICT Project in Rural Bangladesh. American Behavioural Scientist. https://doi.org/10.1177/0002764220952126


“After the Smartphone has arrived in the Village….”

women in village IDIA2020: 11th International Development Informatics Association conference. United Nations University Institute on Computing and Society Macau SAR, China, March 25-27, 2020.

It is interesting stuff. There was a lot more to say about microlevel change but there was a page limit. It’s a paper about how to measure change with a technological intervention.   In any case, it also highlights the complexities of researching complex (and distant) change initiatives with different partners, different languages. Field conditions made it difficult to get all the data we wanted, but we accounted for this.  Despite all the limitations, things have changed in this community.

Larry Stillman1, Mauro Sarrica2 Tom Denison1 Anindita Sarker1 Faculty of Information Technology, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia 2 Department of Communication and Social Research, Sapienza University, Rome, Italy


Stillman, L., Sarrica, M., Denison, T., & Sarker, A. (2020). After the Smartphone Has Arrived in the Village. How Practices and Proto-Practices Emerged in an ICT4D Project BT – Evolving Perspectives on ICTs in Global Souths. In D. R. Junio & C. Koopman (Eds.), volving Perspectives on ICTs in Global Souths. 11th International Development Informatics Association Conference, IDIA 2020, Macau, China, March 25–27, 2020, Proceedings. CCIS 1236 (pp. 81–94). Cham: Springer International Publishing.

Abstract. This paper presents a case study of an ICT4D project in rural Bangladesh, and examines the emergence of new practices connected through a theoretical lens. Social Practice Theory and different concepts of place provide a middle-range theory frame for interpretation. Two groups of 100 women living in different remote villages took part in the project and received smartphones and training. The project also established a call center and delivered timely agricultural information by voice, apps and SMS. A mixed design was used to evaluate the project progress. A baseline survey was completed in the two areas before the project started. After one year, the two groups of women involved in the project and two control groups completed a questionnaire on smartphone use practices. Episodic interviews were also conducted with a subsample of 40 participants. Project participants developed new skills and meanings associated with smartphones, which contributed to enhanced communication practices. The new practices and the emerging proto-practices at a micro-level also resulted in new perceptions of time and place and new locations for personal presence and interaction. The use of Social Practice Theory in conjunction with insights from theories of place provides a transferable framework with which to identify and emphasize what is meaningful to individuals and communities in the relationship between skills, materials and ideas with respect to different social-technical initiatives. In this regard, Social Practice and theories of provide new insights into the integration of ICTs in development projects.


Ethics rather than policing for the Internet

A careful oped I wrote for the Daily Star in Dhaka about The control of social media. It is a sensitive issue in Bangladesh. The piece was widely read

Academic Values and Social Impact-the painful contradiction.

The following is the text of a recent rant on Facebook.

This photo came up on my FB page today. I took it about 3 years ago. It is of village women mapping out their community assets as part of the PROTIC project in Bangladesh which looks at at effect of smartphones and sociotechnical networks on community and particularly village life. These women are faced with the effects of climate change in geologically unstable region.

But the subtext here is that rather than being in the reality of a village in a pretty isolated part of the world, the villagers had to come to us because we were grounded due to a difficult security situation. Now, it’s relatively easy to write about the “research? here- the mapping exercise-in a way that gets journal recognition.

But what about the moral and ethical questions here – should we have expected the women to come to us in Dhaka when we could not go to them. In the village? Were we acting unethically? (The judgement call was not made by us, but the partner NGO).

How does academic valuing as it currently stands account for the effort and frequent cross-cultural complexity put into organising such socially important research in which it is impossible to set up perfect experimental social science situations and I suspect even technical situations? What is worth more and has greater impacts?

Is the impact to value foremost in having women innovate in agriculture and grow better food or vaccinate cows, and writing that up descriptively in Bengali, or displayed in billboards and community education for farmers elsewhere? Or is it spending months writing paragraphs of obscure faddish jargon to please the editorial policies of a journal which even if it accepts the paper, will be years out of date? What about the impact on research students?

If we develop a way of aggregating lots of village data so that they can access it instantly on a phone, but it’s not a leading piece of research and won’t get publication points, do we drop it? Or should also we move into looking at the moral and ethical side of things (data aggregation, access and security and surveillance in a country like Bangladesh). Clearly, the hard and soft ends of research can productively come together.

Another grand question- if we think that all this is too hard for IT research and we should well, just leave it for others, then are we giving up on connecting with the grand challenges that face the planet?


Shared collaborative spaces challenges in inter-organisational collaborative projects

Mozhdeh Dehghani Faculty of Information Technology, Monash University Melbourne, Australia

Tom Denison Faculty of Information Technology, Monash University Melbourne, Australia

Larry Stillman Faculty of Information Technology, Monash University Melbourne, Australia e-mail: larry.stillman@monash.edu


This research in progress is based on a qualitative approach with multiple case studies using Nonaka’s theory of knowledge creation and conceptualisation of a knowledge -creating place, Ba. It addresses the high-level  need  to  make  collaboration  more  effecti ve  between  university  and  industry  by  exploring shared  collaborative  spaces  in  collaborative  research  projects.  It  uses  semi -structured  interviews, participant observation, and document analysis to look at the ways in which researchers and industry representatives with different culture within these partnerships create shared collaborative spaces to share  information  and  knowledge.  The  study  will  propose  a  conceptual  model  explicating  effective shared  collaborative  spaces  in  the  university-industry  collabor ation  (UIC)  context  according  to  the active  actors  (researchers  and  industry  representatives)  perspective.  The  model  will  be  an  original contribution  to  research  in  the  area  of  knowledge  management  in  UICs’.  Finding  effective  shared collaborative spaces may be lead to more effective collaboration between university and industry

Dehghani, Mozhdeh; Denison, T om; and S tillman, Larry, “Shared collaborative spaces challenges in in ter-organisational collaborative projects” (2018). PACIS 2018 P roceedings. 199. https://ai sel.aisnet.org/pacis2018/199

Deghani, Denision, LS Shared collaborative spaces challenges in inter-organisational PACIS 2018