Digital Inclusion in Bristol, UK

The Knowle West Media Centre in Bristol, England, is a cultural institution dedicated to digital inclusion.

Sharon Irish, Center for Digital Inclusion coordinator, recently returned from a trip to Bristol, England, where she has been collaborating with the Knowle West Media Centre (KWMC) since 2010.  KWMC is a non-profit organization committed to digital literacy, based in Knowle West, a council estate (what people in the US call a “housing project”) just outside Bristol. (The “trip hop” artist Tricky grew up there.) Sharon is writing an article with Penny Evans, creative director of a KWMC multimedia project called the “University of Local Knowledge” (ULK). Penny updated Sharon on ULK, and they will submit their article to the International Journal of Progressive Education within the next month (guest edited by GSLIS professor emeritus Chip Bruce.)

The “University of Local Knowledge” features nearly 1000 brief videos of people from Knowle West sharing their knowledge. The contributors range in age and interests, as you’d expect in any community of 5000 households. People show how to make rabbit stew, sew cloth bags, raise chickens, cut hair, belly-dance, draw cartoons, create balloon figures, and so on: the video collection is a marvelous “university” sharing skills and assets of a long-marginalized area. Now that the videos have been produced, the media centre is working with the University of Bristol (UoB) to create a platform for sharing ULK online. The aim is to enable users to organize the videos into “classes” that both resemble a traditional university and upend usual disciplinary boundaries.

Sharon got involved in the project because of the media centre’s collaboration with California-based artist Suzanne Lacy, the subject of Sharon’s 2010 book. Suzanne, in turn, met Penny and others at the media centre through the contemporary arts center in Bristol, the Arnolfini.  Like many community-based projects, ULK has been informed by the various residents, artists, and institutional partners who joined the planning conversations, the performances around topics like horse care and classic cars, the meals, walks and website design. The media centre hopes to launch the ULK website early in 2013.



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