UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Community Media and Technology at UMass Boston

The College of Public and Community Service (CPCS) at UMass Boston is in the process of launching a series of community technology initiatives-a new degree program in Community Media and Technology, the CTC VISTA Project, and a number of related projects, including sponsorship of The Community Technology Review. Here’s why and more about each.

It is by now axiomatic that most of our information about everything from people and places to pressing social issues and the diversity of world cultures comes to us through mass mediated words, sounds, and images. Particularly, as media and information technologies converge, corporate power is being concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer transnational media and technology companies which play an ever more crucial role in shaping everyday life for millions of people. It is also the case that these very technologies hold out the promise of incredible decentralization and democratization of communication.

There is, of course, a need to challenge the growing concentration of media power and to develop the analytic tools to become critical consumers of existing media fare. Just as importantly, there is a need to develop a community-based telecommunications infrastructure and new democratic and participatory community organizations and institutions that will empower people to become not just educated consumers but skilled producers as well, equipped with the knowledge and tools to tell their own stories, build their own communities and institutions, and mobilize their own constituencies. There are now countless projects all over the country where such goals are being realized. As these media and technologies have become more affordable and more accessible, they have become useful, if not indispensable, tools for even the smallest non-profits and community-based organizations.

Given the increasing relevance of new media and information technologies to public and community service, a major curriculum revision at CPCS has led to the development of a new program in Community Media and Technology (CMT). While we are progressing toward approval of a new major, we have put in place a CMT concentration that can be used in conjunction with other degrees offered at the college, as well as a free-standing certificate for students who already have bachelor degrees. Both the concentration and certificate are designed to provide students with the key competencies they need to appreciate and the dangers and promise of media and technology for community building and incorporate a range of multi-media tools into their primary responsibilities, be they labor activists, community organizers, or agency professionals. Those wishing to explore the curriculum and program in the context of the College’s competecy-based approach to education are invited to explore its online resources [http://www.cpcs.umb.edu/vista/CMTproposal.html].

As a part of the effort to develop its capacities in the arena of Community Media and Technology, CPCS has become the prime sponsor of the CTC VISTA Project [http://www.cpcs.umb.edu/vista] – a collaboration with the Community Technology Centers’ Network (CTCNet [http://www.ctcnet.org]) and AmeriCorps*VISTA [http://www.cns.gov] – providing for the recruitment, placement, training, support, and administrative coordination for AmeriCorps*VISTA members who work in community technology centers (CTCs) in the greater Boston area and across the country. Participating VISTAs receive ongoing mentoring at their home sites and attend a periodic training and orientation institute at CPCS.

Over the last year, a consortium of partners from the CTC VISTA project has come together to develop plans for expanding community media and technology resources throughout the region through developing the Greater Boston Broadband Network (GBBN) [http://www.cpcs.umb.edu/vista/gbbn.pdf]. GBBN is designed to provide an integrated combination of advanced information technology and telecommunications services, including training, multi-media content production and distribution, and access to broadband services that includes building upon the university’s high-speed telecommunications infrastructure.

The GBBN consortium developed a proposal [http://www.cpcs.umb.edu/vista/top.proposal.html] for the Department of Commerce’s Technology Opportunity Program (TOP) [http://www.ntia.doc.gov/otiahome/top/grants], with strong support from local units of government, hoping to give these efforts a major boost. CPCS, the VISTA Project, and the Lowell community technology consortium members are helping forge a multi-campus-community technology project [http://www.cpcs.umb.edu/vista/profdev.html], too.

The CTC VISTA Project and the CPCS CMT program go hand in hand in developing complementary university-community partnerships. The Community Technology Review is part of this package of services and resources. We believe it provides an excellent opportunity to gather information about important community practices and to do so in a reflective, self-conscious way, thus combining the best of both partners is such a collaboration. We look forward to your feedback and involvement with our efforts.

(The preliminary proposal for the major has been signed off at the campus level and is now sitting in President Bulger’s office awaiting a decision that would give CPCS the go ahead to develop the full major.)

Reebee Garofalo ([email protected]) is an internationally known scholar of popular music, professor at UMass/Boston, and former Associate Dean of the College of Public and Community Service, where has taught since 1978.