Non-instrumental Use study begins pilot testing in Brazil

For the Non-instrumental Uses of ICT as a Component of General ICT Skill Acquisition Study, principal investigator Beth Kolko and researcher Judith Yaaquobi are currently in Brazil to pilot test research instruments and finalize the survey sampling strategy.  Another goal of the trip is to learn more about the different public access places, what differences they will experience in the communities, and what possible challenges will come up during the implementation of the Non-instrumental Use study.

The following is the update Beth and Judith sent from their time in Brazil:

The study’s research partner, PensamientoDigital, connected us with local researchers and internet professionals in Rio den Janeiro and Porto Alegre (in Rio Grande del Sul). In Rio de Janeiro, we had the chance to chat with a LAN house owner in one of the poorest neighborhoods, Favela Rocinha, about his experiences. He provided valuable insights on user habits and limitations of the study. We also visited two other favelas, both of which are part of a new government program of “pacification”: Santa Marta and Cantagalo. In Cantagalo,we visited a social center called Crianca Esperanca (the visit was featured on their blog. Find their entry here.). The art community center allows free, unrestricted computer access for children starting at the age of three years. In Santa Marta, we were accompanied by researchers currently doing mapping and survey work for the Global Impact Study surveys, and we were delighted to be able to learn from the survey team’s community contacts. We also visited two LAN-houses and a community radio station.

We have been surprised by the significant differences between the two LAN-houses; despite a shared label, the location and clientele were significantly different. We also spent an afternoon at a private LAN-house in a working class neighborhood in the northern part of the city where they piloted instruments with users and watched a roomful of young boys spend the day playing Warcraft on pirate servers. During the visit so far, we have seen public access venues that welcome gaming, those that ban it, and those that block social networking and gaming when there are many users waiting for the computers.

We are currently in Porto Alegre, where we have visited governmental telecenters, a social center called Villa Cruzeiro, LAN houses, and cybercafes. Every visit contributes to a deeper understanding of what people do in public access points. Through screening questions that inquire about their gaming habits, their social-network use, as well as their more instrumental uses like creating resumes and working in spreadsheets, we have been able to create profiles that will be used for the study’s sampling strategy.