"To measure or not to measure: that is the question"

(attributed to a lost work of William Shakespeare)

The Conference Program is now viewable

*Please note it may of course be subject to revisions*

CIRN CONFERENCE - 9-11 November 2011, Monash Centre Prato, Italy

We are seeking submissions from academics, practitioners and PhD students for a conference at the Monash University Centre, Prato Italy (near Florence). The Centre for Community Networking Research, Monash, in conjunction with the Community Informatics Research Network, has held many highly successful events since 2003 in Prato, as well as associated workshops over the years, in the UK, France, and Portugal. The conference is a great opportunity for exchanging ideas in an Italian environment, and a wonderful chance for PhD students to get feedback on their work.

This year is the 10th Anniversary of the Monash Prato Centre, and this conference is a special event.

What is Community Informatics?

Community Informatics is the theory and practice of empowering communities with information and communication technologies. There is a widespread expectation that Community Informatics will cultivate civic intelligence, enhance democracy, develop social capital, build communities, spur economies and empower individuals and groups, and result in many different forms of positive social change. Community Informatics, in bringing together communities and technologies, works across at least three dimensions, though there may be others which are relevant.

  • The Context and Values held by different stakeholders in Community Informatics
  • The Processes and Methodologies which are brought to bear in Community Informatics enterprises
  • The Systems (both technical and social) which influence Community Informatics and those which Community Informatics influences

What about measurement?

The question of measurement kept coming up at CIRN 2010 as it has at other other conferences in the past. Everyone struggles with how to develop, measure and justify social-technical outcomes to different audiences and at a theoretical level. The conference is intended to explore the issue in all its complexity and /or simplicity, from grounded practice, to policy and high level theorizing.

The concept of measurement, linked concepts of validity, proof, truth, causation and exactitude, as well as the nature of evidence have been hallmarks over discussions over the nature of research in both traditional scientific, quantitative research, as well in the more interpretive social sciences. Thus, the attempts of the Vienna Circle in the 1920s to develop a universal theoretical framework which could express all scientific propositions in a logical manner came under attack for its positivist and flawed understanding of the complexities of human reality. Not everything is logical and rational, and in the social sphere, non-predictability, and the use of open forms of language to create and describe activity are fundamentally different to scientific activity (Winch). In addition, the tradition of nineteenth century social science also came under the thrall of a methodology drawn from the experimental sciences, and this has been subject to considerable controversy.

While some consider all forms of measurement and truth to be cultural constructs, others take the view that there are certain axioms that can be accepted for particular forms of endeavour. Or others argue that there are no axioms and 'truth' is relative, and that talk of 'science' may even be voodoo (Feyerabend) or that communities of research develop paradigmatic ways of thinking that are challenged and develop into new paradigms (Kuhn).

Culturally, the public sphere, and political and agency funding and evaluation appears to be strongly affected by a scientific paradigm: that most effects are objectively definable and measurable, and this form of analysis of effect should be given a priority as a form of 'truth'. Of course, the reality of project research, grounded in the interaction between communities and technology is often very different. However, interpretive and qualitative research is often greeted with a certain scepticism or qualification, based upon a belief in that the only truth that is acceptable is that which is 'verifiable'. This, of course, is a familiar story for all disciplines which use interpretive research in its encounters with strong beliefs in such things as objectivity and absolute measurability.

In order to contribute to an open discussion on this topic, please also see this page

How do we deal with this problem?

  • What methods do we use to convince people that 'reality' is quite complex else, and qualitative work can be strongly indicative of particular effects?
  • For those who do use quantitative and mixed methods in Community Informatics, how do you work to incorporate the unpredictable, the measurable and non-measurable in your work?
  • What are the different theories concepts and audiences for measurement that you work with?
  • Is measurement static or evolving?
  • What about causation and its linkage to measurement: can you measure a social movement (look at the effects of social media in North Africa)?
  • What about social media, time and space and multidimensionality? Are we on a different planet?
  • In the world of practice, does it really matter?
  • What bodies of theory are most relevant in working through these problems?
  • What are strategies to win the academic, funder, and policy argument?
  • How can your project or research contribute to this discussion?
  • Discovering the right way to measure what you do, effects, and processes. How do you do it?

We welcome refereed papers, practitioner papers, speculative papers, poster sessions, and PhD presentations for the conference, as well as workshop proposals. There will also be a a session devoted to ideas and project exchanges.

In addition, contributions from all areas of Community Informatics or Development Informatics are sought.


In order to provide us with guidance, and possibly the truth on these matters, the conference will feature two excellent keynotes.

andy.jpgDr Andy Williamson, Hansard Society, UK Andy has led the Hansard Society’s Digital Democracy Programme since January 2008. He has an extensive background in research and consultancy relating to digital media and social policy, with a focus on digital engagement, digital inclusion and broadband. Andy holds a PhD from Monash University, Australia in which he developed a model for emergent eDemocracy in local government. Andy was previously Managing Director of a New Zealand-based research and consultancy company focussing on policy and strategy relating to information and communications technology and has been the inaugural Director of a research centre, where he headed projects in community informatics and ICT for development. Andy has held numerous public and private board positions, is the former Deputy Chair of the New Zealand Government's Digital Strategy Advisory Group and advisor to a number of governmental and parliamentary agencies. An internationally respected writer and presenter, Andy is well known as a thought leader on eDemocracy.

walsham.jpgProfessor Geoff Walsham worked for four years as an operational research analyst at BP Chemicals before taking up academic posts in operational research and then information systems. He has extensive international experience having worked as a teacher, researcher or consultant in over 25 countries in Europe, the Americas, Africa and Asia. He was part of the senior management team for the telecommunications company Analysys during its start-up and early growth phases. Professor Walsham has also held university management posts including being Director of the Cambridge MBA. He has wide editorial experience, having been a Senior Editor of both MIS Quarterly and Information Systems Research, and he is currently an editorial board member of a number of other academic journals. Geoff is the author of many highly respected articles about the nature of research, including Walsham, G. (2006) "Doing interpretive research." European Journal of Information Systems, 15(3): 320-330.

Call for Papers

  1. Full papers for blind peer review (up to 10 pages, including references).
  2. Works in progress and more speculative pieces (reviewed and selected, but not peer reviewed)
  3. Non refereed papers, including practitioner reports (up to 10 pages, including references).
  4. PhD papers which provide an outline of current or proposed PhD research (between 2-3000 words, including references
  5. Proposals for workshops or panel discussions
  6. Proposals for posters

There will be a conference proceedings and selected papers will be published in a special issue of a journal. Commendations in refereed and PhD categories will be awarded.

Dates and Processes: Call to papers, abstracts, submissions, format etc

Abstracts and proposals can now be submitted.

In order to enhance the quality of papers in all streams, Program Chairs will take an active role in guiding papers through the review process and deadlines will be adhered to.

The following kinds of papers are sought:
  1. Full papers for blind peer review (up to 6000 words).
  2. Works in progress and more speculative pieces (reviewed and selected, but not peer reviewed)
  3. Non refereed papers, including practitioner reports (up to 6000 words).
  4. PhD papers which provide an outline of current or proposed PhD research (between 2-3000 words, including references
  5. Proposals for workshops or panel discussions
  6. Proposals for posters

Conference papers for all categories MUST use the conference format, which is available Prato 2011 format.doc

There will be a conference proceedings and we will seek to publish leading papers in a special issue of a journal. Commendations in in refereed and PhD categories will be awarded.

All full papers in the refereed category are subject to 'blind' peer review by at least two reviewers, and reviewers' comments returned to the authors. Authors may be then required to make changes and if necessary, a further review conducted before final approval. This is a publication (E1) for a conference publication for Australian participants.

  • Call for papers & proposals. Expressions of interest uvia conference website.
  • Acceptance/modification/ rejection notices
As soon as possible thereafter
  • Full papers and abstracts for all streams due
  • Papers in the peer review section reviewed by 15 August.

  • Referee reports to participants by
15 August 2011
  • Final version of papers, based on peer review and program committee decisions due
15 September 2011
  • Conference proceedings CD
Available at the conference
  • Registrations
Available from 1 July

Program Committee

Aldo de Moor, CommunitySense, Netherlands (Chair)
Tom Denison, Monash University
Larry Stillman, Monash University
Ricardo Gomez, University of Washington

Conference Committee

Patricia Arnold, Technical University, Munich University of Applied Sciences
Peter Day, University of Brighton, UK
Fiorella de Cindio, University of Milan, Italy
Mike Arnold, University of Melbourne, Australia
Ann Bishop, Univ. of Illinois, USA
Gunilla Bradley, Royal Institute of Tech., Sweden
Wallace Chigona, Univ. of Cape Town, South Africa
Barbara Craig, Victoria Univ. of Wellington, NZ
Tom Denison, Monash University, Australia
Vesna Dolnicar, University of Lubljana
Alison Elliot, University of Sydney, Australia
Manuela Farinosi, University of Udine, Italy
Phil Fawcet Microsoft Research/University of Washington, USA
Leopoldina Fortunati, University of Udine, Italy
Ricardo Gomez, University of Washington, Seattle
Marlien Herselman, Meraka Institute, CSIR, South Africa
Sarai Lastra, Turabo Univ., Puerto Rico
Mike Martin, University of Newcastle, UK
TJ McDonald, Trinity College Dublin
William McIver, Jr, National Research Council Canada
Douglas Schuler, The Public Sphere Project, The Evergreen State College
Eduardo Villanueva Mansilla,Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú
Steve Thompson, Teesside University, UK
Will Tibben, University of Wollongong, Australia
Janet Toland, Victoria University of Wellington, NZ
Emiliano Trere, Univ. of Udine, Italy
Gilson Schwartz, Univ. São Paulo, Brazil
Jacques Steyn, Monash Univ., South Africa
Andy Williamson, Hansard Society, UK
Elin Wihlborg, Linköping University, Sweden
Martin Wolske, University of Illinois, USA




Registration, Costs and Travel Information

The Conference cost will be approximatly €330for early-bird registrations and a moderately priced conference banquet will also be held. Substantial registration concessions will be available for students and people from developing countries. Hotel and other accommodations are reasonably priced.

Accommodation, Tourism, Travel

All travel and accommodation arrangements are the delegate's responsibility. Visa arrangements are also the delegate's responsibility. Sufficient time should be allocated to obtain a visa. Please be aware that visa requirements often require hotel and other required expenses to be pre-paid. Full payment for the conference must be made before any letters are issued to assist with via applications. Registrations for the early-bird rate will be available mid-year.

Please be aware of visa requirements for Italy.The relevant category on the site Tourist Visa. Visas are not required for citizens of the US, Canada, many countries in Europe, Australia, New Zealand and a number of other countries. Please check the Tourist Visa category on the web site for information on visa for citizens of countries not listed above.

About the Prato Centre

Photo near the Monash Centre: Teresa Rivera
Photo near the Monash Centre: Teresa Rivera

Please see the Monash Centre for general information. Additional travel and tourism information will be made available as the conference nears. The Centre is just off the main piazza of a small Tuscan town. It is close to Italian transport hubs including Pisa and Florence airports. The location of the Monash Centre is described on the Monash website. The nearest airports are Pisa and Florence airports, and you can get to Prato by train from Rome in about 2 ½ hours. Please note that we are not in a position to recommend particular airlines or airports, or to provide train schedules. See for train information.

There are many reasonably priced hotels, and many people stay at the Flora or Giardino Hotels. Some semi-serviced apartments may be available at Residence Manassei or Residence Accademia. Refer to the Monash Website for accommodation information The centre of Prato is quite small. Students can stay at the Calamai Riverside Apartments. Refer to this information.

For detailed local travel information, use the following file. travel info

For other information, contact Larry Stillman at prato2011 AT fastmail dot fm

All travel & participation decisions are made at your own risk and the organizers accept no responsibility. The program is also subject to change.