The Community Informatics Division in the Center for the Study of Social Justice at the University of Tennessee explores the use of information and communication technologies to enable and empower underserved populations in meeting their needs, goals, expectations, and aspirations. Community informatics is based on principles of community engagement that combine teaching, research, and service activities in the American academy in a holistic and integrated manner to proactively promote community technology building and community development outcomes that make a real difference in people’s lives.
Conceptual frameworks in communication and information studies (including library science) and beyond are combined with interdisciplinary approaches from critical theory, feminist and cross-cultural studies, postcolonial literature, and race and gender research, amongst others, to build teaching-research-service intersections to further social justice and social equity agendas for minority and underserved populations. Members in the Community Informatics Division use qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods including interviews, focus groups, statistical analysis, critical research, participatory action research, situated user-centered library service evaluation/assessment, grounded theory practice, service-learning, needs assessment and community technology analysis, content analysis, narratology/storytelling, and scenario-building, to name a few. Information-based outcomes in critical research applications have included proposed changes in intercultural communication and information system delivery, library service design, institutional policy and technology development, knowledge representation of marginalized domains of experience, curriculum and course planning on social justice topics via virtual and face-to-face delivery systems, development of culturally responsive information resources, print and electronic access to appropriate information resource collections, development and use of community-based social and digital technologies, amongst others.