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Who's Online in Philadelphia?

Broadband Mapping, Internet Access, and Emerging Digital Participation Research

This Tuesday the 27th, a group of researchers, thinkers, planners, and policymakers will talk about broadband access for Philadelphia's communities.

The panel discussion will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, 3620 Walnut Street, on Penn’s campus. It is sponsored by the Open Technology Initiative at the New America Foundation and the Annenberg School for Communication.

“Knowing who is and is not online in Philadelphia can be an indicator of socioeconomic status – income, race, and education levels,” says Open Technology Initiative Director Sascha Meinrath. “Understanding these factors can contribute to a broader understanding of digital inclusion and media justice.”

E-governance, online civic engagement, citizen journalism and media, and the equitable distribution of resources across the city depend on understanding the answer to who is or is not online, says Meinrath. "As employment opportunities and government services move online, it is incumbent upon communication researchers and policymakers to get real answers to questions about who’s actually included in our networked communities."

Following brief presentations by these researchers on their methods and primary conclusions, we will hold a discussion of alignments and disagreements among these projects and their outcomes, as well as the growing importance of spatial dynamics, scale, and urbanism in the field of communication. The goal of the evening is to create avenues for collaboration as well as directions for future research, analysis, and policy.

Panel participants will present emerging and recently released research around current digital participation initiatives:

• Technically Philly (Brian James Kirk): TP has collaborated with the City's Office of Innovation Technology as part of the  Freedom Rings Partnership's Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) to produce an online map of broadband resources throughout the city.

• Open Technology Initiative/Azavea (Greta Byrum and Tamara Manik-Perlman): Freedom Rings Partnership (FRP) member Open Technology Initiative has partnered with Philadelphia firm Azavea to map levels of adoption and access to FRP's BTOP Public Computer Centers for underserved populations.

• Temple University (Charles Kaylor): In collaboration with the City's Office of Innovation and Technology, the Geographic Information Systems Lab at Temple has produced analyses of the use and accessibility of BTOP Public Computer Centers in relation to transit and other city services.

• The Investigative Reporting Workshop (Jacob Fenton): The IRW has mapped publicly available Internet adoption data gathered from Internet Service Providers by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)'s Form 477, which shows the density of broadband connections countrywide.

• The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Philadelphia Research Initiative (Larry Eichel): has just released a report showing that finds that the Free Library of Philadelphia -- like urban libraries across America -- is struggling to keep up with the changing demands of city residents who have come to rely on their neighborhood libraries to provide Internet access.


Jacob Fenton is Editorial Engineer at The Sunlight Foundation in Washington, D.C. Previously he was Director of Computer-Assisted Reporting at American University's Investigative Reporting Workshop, where he mapped census tract-level broadband adoption rates nationwide. He's worked as a newspaper reporter in Pennsylvania and as a software developer in California. He holds a bachelor's degree in Physics from Reed College.

Brian James Kirk is a co-founder and a full-time partner of Technically Media, publisher of Technically Philly. Kirk leads coverage of digital access and education issues at Technically Philly. Most recently, Kirk was Web Editor of PlanPhilly, an independent online news resource covering planning and development issues in Philadelphia. Previously, Kirk was an adjunct multimedia journalism professor at Temple University and a freelance writer in Philadelphia.

Tamara Manik-Perlman is a project manager at Azavea, where she leads the spatial analysis team and manages the development of web- and mobile-based geographic software applications. Recent projects have ranged from developing a hydrologic modeling game to writing a whitepaper on legislative redistricting and geographic compactness.

Larry Eichel is the project director of the Philadelphia Research Initiative at The Pew Charitable Trusts. The initiative provides timely, impartial research and analysis on key issues facing Philadelphia for the benefit of the city’s citizens and leaders. Prior to arriving at Pew in November 2008, Eichel was a reporter and editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he covered issues ranging from urban affairs to national politics, including the 2008 presidential campaign.

Greta Byrum (gretabyrum.com) is a Policy Analyst for the Open Technology Initiative at the New America Foundation, where she works on communication and technology policy as well as strategies for participatory technology design. She studied Urban Planning at Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Participation.

Charles Kaylor is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Geography and Urban Studies at Temple University in Philadelphia. He works with localities and places that are grappling with the implications of being in a technologized world. His work focuses especially around digital government and governance, and broadband and technology planning channeled through his academic work and professional interests with the Public Sphere Information Group.

Event Time and Location

Tuesday, March 27, 2012 - 5:00pm - 7:00pm
University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication
3620 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

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