Kuhn and Community Informatics

I’m reading Kuhn’s *The structure of scientific revolutions* slowly after glancing at bits of it over the years.

I’m struck by its deliberately archaic and lugubrious tone at times, which I think reflects the Harvard environment it came from (it takes one to know one).  But despite that–it’s got an extraordinary amount to think about in terms of the emergence of what is touted as a  new ‘discipline’, i.e., community informatics, as a one of the applied social sciences (and that is a debatable statement).

C.I. has been pushed into particular paradigms by its key exponents, whether or not those paradigms and what Kuhn calls exemplars are adequate to the task.  This even explains the difficulty of getting the language ‘right’.  Is it community informatics or community technology?  How is ‘community’ conceived, or not conceived and so on? What constitutes the ‘community of practice’?   What are acceptable operations and practices?

Combine that with Foucault’s criticisms of the operations of power and what he calls the technologies of power, and you have an ongoing critical theory that serves to deliberately keep any researcher or practitioner on edge about truth claims, for what is roped in as an academic and practice discipline as people struggle to carve out their niches (as a matter of professional and personal survival).

Having such a critical approach acts as a warning particularly when we are engaged in relationships with dominant powers (ie funders, governments). What are the truth claims that we make?  Are their and our expectations intellectually justifiable and defensible? This might help pull us away from some of the hype about technology into a much better examination and knowledge of the nature of different communities (public communities, constructed communities, professional communities), working with those communities, and the place of technology in the change process in such communities. I assume here that at least ‘change’ is a core value and process in community informatics and technology.

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