About this site

Larry Stillman

Larry Stillman

This site contains information about Larry Stillman’s work. I am a Research Fellow at the Centre for Community Networking Research, 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.


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 knoweldge.

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 teaching a wonderful informal group once a week. It’s the best thing I’ve done academically in a long time. It may become a credit course at some point in the future, but the bureaucracy involved is a real disincentive. The internet has of course, revolutioned such allegedly obscure academic fields, with a huge number of resources online.

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

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Book review

Philip Mendes, Jews and the Left: The Rise and Fall of a Political Alliance in Labor History 107, November 2014 may interest some people. My methodological and theoretical concerns are made clear. A longer version which details further concerns is also appended.

Mendes Labour History Review

Long Review

Full text: The book, Theories, Practices and Examples for Community and Social Informatics

Theories, Practices and Examples for Community and Social Informatics, edited by Tom Denison, Mauro Sarrica and Larry Stillman is now available online at no cost.

Themes include: social order mediated through ICTs; community and cohesion; class and power; social psychology and technology; the relationship between personal agency and social structure mediated through technology; and the nature of institutional or community formations in the age of ICTs.

Francesca Comunello, University of Rome, Italy
Alberta Contarello, University of Padova, Italy
Tom Denison, Monash University, Australia
Manuela Farinosi, University of Udine, Italy
Leopoldina Fortunati, University of Udine, Italy
Aldo de Moor, CommunitySense, The Netherlands
Tomi Oinas, University of Jyväskylä, Finland
Veli-Matti Salminen, Church Research Institute in Tampere, Finland
Mauro Sarrica, University of Rome, Italy
Larry Stillman, Monash University, Australia
Sakari Taipale, University of Jyväskylä, Finland
Emiliano Treré, Autonomous University of Querétaro, Mexico
Jane Vincent, University of Surrey, England

Understanding the use of mobile phones in difficult circumstances.

This is a chapter from a recent collection of essays in community & social informatics. It is probably pushing the boundaries a bit, but we need to get political.

Stillman, L. (2014). Understanding the use of mobile phones in difficult circumstances. Theories, practices and examples for community and social informatics. T. Denison, M. Sarrica and L. Stillman. Clayton, Vic. : , Monash University Publishing 127-149.

Phones in Difficult Circumstances 2014

The Capability Approach and Community Informatics

Larry Stillman, Tom Denison: The Capability Approach Community Informatics

The Information Society (2014)  30(3): 200-211.
“This article integrates key theories and concepts associated with the Capability Approach to community informatics (CI), a domain of sociotechnical theory and practice concerned to improve the lives of people in need. While the social value propositions for community informatics are useful for orienting pragmatic research and practice, they are currently not well considered theoretically.Sociological theory is therefore explored to provide a stronger anchor to community informatics as compared to the narrower theoretical agenda of information systems. Within this framework, the Capability Approach is identified as one example of a strong social theory with potential for adaptation into community informatics. This would have several effects, including strengthening internal theory, and building capacity to engage in stronger dialogue with other disciplines, including sociology and information systems. This new approach to CI theory via sociological theory
also allows for the adaptation and testing of other bodies of theory”

Capability Approach, TIS 2014

The Informationalisation of the Australian Community Sector

Rebecca French and Larry Stillman

Based on research in Australia, this article offers explanatory concepts about how welfare workers deal with contradictions between the rationalising ‘informationalisation’ of welfare system governance and the demands of people-centred welfare practice, or ‘technologies of care’. While the situation in Australia with respect to the relationship between government, funders and welfare workers may not be mirrored in other places, the concepts are relevant for the development of local research, insights and practice. Suggestions are also made for further action to bridge the gap between information systems design and welfare practice through the adoption of a dialogic and representational system for more effective interoperable design that reflects the needs of the major parties involved, including funders, designers and particularly welfare workers.

Keywords: Social-technical systems, data doubles, electronic children, bricolage, informationalisation, governmentality, electronic welfare work.

Social Policy & Society (2014)  doi:10.1017/S1474746414000098

Article, SPS 2014