Community Networking to Support the Social and Ecological Resilience of Rural and Indigenous Communities

Geographers have long been interested in exploring the social processes that mediate access to digital technologies. Early GIS & Society debates not only highlighted inequalities in geospatial knowledge production, but also produced rich, participatory research that supported marginalized communities to engage with emerging technologies. Geographers are now extending questions from the Critical GIS research agenda to explore the impact of a broader set of information and communication technologies (ICTs). Unfortunately, much of this work has focused on urban contexts – critical and applied research is underdeveloped in the area of rural ICT use. This project addresses that gap by exploring how rural communities leverage community networks to reimagine their collective futures. Community networks are Internet infrastructure (e.g., access networks) that are co-designed, owned, and operated by local communities. Our project explores their potential with the Maijuna Indigenous people of the Peruvian Amazon, and asks the following questions:

1. How do community networks position rural communities in relation to multi-scalar political, economic, and social systems?
2. How can localized digital applications be designed to mediate the negative impacts of connectivity and support community resilience?
3. How can rural community networks be used to facilitate interepistemological collaboration between Indigenous communities and scientists, in support of shared ecological goals?

To answer these questions the research team will employ participatory co-design methods to implement a community network and customized digital services that support Maijuna social and ecological goals. It will pair this with qualitative interviews and focus groups to critically examine the impact of connectivity for the Maijuna. The project will offer new models for understanding how rural and Indigenous communities negotiate digital connectivity, and it will produce new strategies that offer communities more control over the long-term impacts of connectivity. Findings will contribute to discussions in the areas of digital geographies, ICTD, decolonial computing, Indigenous studies, traditional ecological knowledge (TEK), and more.

Grant Info


Jason Young


Kurtis Heimerl

Start Date

Jun 26, 2020