Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Advancement through interactive radio
by Sterling, Sarah Revital, Ph.D., University of Colorado at Boulder, 2008, 358; 3337188
Abstract (Summary)

This research focuses on a new approach for increasing the status and empowerment of women in developing communities, with wider application to the field of Information and Communication Technologies for Development. AIR (Advancement through Interactive Radio) is a software and hardware system that adds interactivity to community radio, giving community radio listeners, especially women, a voice with which to respond to programming, and to participate in the creation of programming content. AIR enables women, who are the primary economic driving force in community development, to "talk back" to the community radio station, in order to better facilitate participation as well as demand and produce information that contributes to their advancement.

Women are frequently excluded from Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICTD), which negatively impacts both women's and community development. Community radio, enhanced to provide the means for listeners to communicate with broadcasters, represents a potential way to address this exclusion. AIR is based on the hypotheses that (1) providing a limited incremental increase in interactivity in community radio will have a positive effect on the empowerment and status of women in the community, and (2) creating an interactive virtual "radio space" will provide a venue to discuss issues that otherwise may be considered marginal or sensitive–often the very issues that thwart community advancement. This research validates these hypotheses, making the case for an ICTD intervention that is focused on women and community radio, while addressing key research questions about gender, voice and empowerment.

AIR builds upon relevant work in, and at the intersection, of social and computer science, and is grounded in gender and development theory, feminist poststructuralism, spatial theories, and participatory action research. Analysis through these approaches demonstrates a positive relationship between the production of voice and women's empowerment in the context of "radio space." The AIR project creates social spaces for empowerment and transformation while serving as a vehicle for critical content; both the production of women’s voices and the construction of social spaces of empowerment are an underexplored area in ICTD research. This dissertation also describes the technical rationale, design, implementation and evaluation of AIR, including a pre-deployment study using digital voice recorders to gauge receptivity.

In addition to validating the research hypotheses, analysis of the AIR project findings to date has introduced new research areas for consideration, including the production of space, place and power. There is significant positive support for future work; the AIR project demonstrates clear evidence that the experiences of articulation and audibility have begun to positively impact both women’s self-esteem and community appreciation of women’s social status.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Bennett, John K.
Commitee: Amadei, Bernard, Grunwald, Dirk, Huyer, Sophia, Rubinoff, Donna, Sicker, Douglas, Weiser, Phil
School: University of Colorado at Boulder
Department: Computer Science
School Location: United States -- Colorado
Source: DAI-B 69/11, Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Womens studies, Mass communications, Computer science
Keywords: Africa, Community, Development, Gender, Interactive radio, Radio
Publication Number: 3337188
ISBN: 9780549918776
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