Teresa M. Harrison

Communication Technologies and Democracy

My research and teaching interests focus on communication and technology, with a special emphasis on the relationship between new communication technologies and democratic processes and practices. For the last several years I have been involved in organizing several small conferences bringing together scholars sharing technology and democracy, understood from a variety of perspectives. For more information about this work you can visit the web site: https://www.albany.edu/wwwres/edemocracy/

Development of Community Information Systems

I am engaged in the design and development of a community information system in a project funded by the National Science Foundation, with Jim Zappen of the Department of Language, Literature, & Communication and Sibel Adali of the Computer Science Department, both at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. This interdisciplinary team is working with approximately 20 government and not-for-profit community organizations to design and develop a community information system devoted to services and resources for youth and to study its diffusion over time. We are addressing a variety of research questions focusing on the organizational and community considerations that are brought to bear in the development and evaluation of a community information system. Our research works with a numerous constituencies in the local community, including (a) representatives of government and not-for-profit organizations providing programs and resources for youth, (b) kids between the ages of 5 and 18, and (c) parents and other social support personnel, to explore how these diverse community actors view the uses and purposes of a community information system and what information needs and functionalities they would find useful in designing and developing this system. We will also soon be interested in exploring the factors associated with the adoption and use of such a system. Although the Connected Kids information system is still under construction, you are invited to take a look at its current status at http://www.cs.rpi.edu/ck/

Participatory Design in Software Development

Zappan, Adali, and I are also creating a model of processes and practices of participatory design in software system development. Our research is one of few projects that employs participatory design as a strategy for the development of a community information system. In doing so, we take seriously the challenge of determining what community actors want to do with community information. In order to address this issue, we are asking (a) what processes and practices can we use to determine users’ intentions and uses for community information systems, especially in communities of diverse and potentially competing interests and (b) how can we incorporate these interests into a system design that is necessarily complex and multipurpose rather than standardized and single-purpose?

Development of an Action Research Agenda

Zappan, Adali, and I are developing a model of specific steps and considerations in the development of an action research agenda in digital government projects. Increasingly, social scientists are working with computer scientists to develop software systems that constitute interventions in the social, cultural, political, and organizational dimensions of community life. Such interventions constitute new ways of information sharing, deliberation over policy options, collaboration on joint projects, or other aspects of governance. However, very little is known about how such interventions are designed, implemented, and sustained over time. We are attempting to consider this question somewhat systematically in reflecting on how our project has developed and the resources, commitments, and support required for sustainability beyond the period of our project’s funding.

Electronic Journal of Communication

I am currently editing one of the world’s first peer reviewed electronic scholarly journals, the Electronic Journal of Communication/La revue electronique de communication which is published by the Communication Institute for Online Scholarship. The table of contents for the journal can be perused at http://www.cios.org/www/ejcrec2.htm