Tuesday, June 15, 2010

So much for the re-committing...

Well, as you can see it has been tough for me to post regularly here. Just haven't had the time, although there are plenty of very exciting things going on. First, I'm nearing completion of my PhD and finally working on a number of very interesting projects related to sustainable agri-food systems and civic intelligence.

In my work, I'm combining Doug Schuler's civic intelligence model and Anthony Giddens's theory of structuration. While Schuler's model looks at how collectives perceive, process and utilize information in responding to issues of common concern, structuration provides a way to see the ways in which action (of individuals and collectives) interacts with social structures. From this perspective Giddens asserts that structure and agency are bound in a feedback process, where agency influences structure, but where structure ultimately influences agency.

Three of the key features of my research is to:

1.) Extend the civic intelligence model by incorporating Giddens structuration that include the elements of space and time, while also speaking to the agency-structure dualism.

2.) Bring the theory of civic intelligence into the discourse on sustainable food and civic agriculture as a means to understand the evolution of the various associate movements.

3.) Bring civic intelligence in as means to help movement actors begin thinking about ways to improve practice through information, collective cognition, learning and adaptation.

To address these three areas, I'm working on a number of projects in this domain. The first one is an analysis of the evolution of food movements, that brings civic intelligence in as a way to describe this evolution, as well as provide ideas for movement participants to improve practice. This is sort of the conceptual basis for all else that follows. This project is also connected to another project that looks to link the concept of "community capitals" as latent capabilities (eg human capital, social capital, natural capital, etc) with civic intelligence, which I see as the active utilization and expression of these capitals. Again, these are more conceptual pieces that seek to begin a conversation in the sociology of agriculture, and community development literature that has yet be considered.

Some of the more empirical projects are looking sustainable consumption with respect to food and self-provisioning of food through urban gardening. This looks at how individuals learn about and share information with respect to sustainable food provisioning. The second study is looking at how the structural constraints/opportunities that enable and suppress the emergence of civic intelligence in promoting community food security. The third project is looking at how a loosely aligned group of people with divergent perspectives, beliefs and attitudes about development, sustainability, and poverty collaborate to create garden and food networks to provide fresh foods to undeserved families in their community.

These of course aren't the only projects, I have few more that I'm trying to develop. The first is looking to develop a pattern language for civic agriculture and sustainable community development, the second is a social network analysis of online discourse to better understand the ways in which local context and placeless knowledge on food and the environment, intersect to create locally specific manifestations of sustainable food initiatives....


When considering the issues we face with respect to climate change, loss of natural resources and transformation of agriculture on a global scale, identifying the ways in which collective action is enabled and constrained in exerting local autonomy and self-defined development is a critical area of research worth exploring. Furthermore, I find that in the face of all of these looming catastrophes, globalization, bank failures, individuals and communities are desperately seeking a way to exert some sense of control over their lives.

I hope that by look at some of the ways that communities are addressing food sustainability that I might be able to offer some hope/strategies and ideas for affecting positive change at the local level. Not to mention, some theoretical basis for understanding these changes...

Saturday, May 1, 2010


So I am going to try this again. I have been off and on the whole blogging thing lately. Much of it has to do with trying to finish the PhD, finals and life in general. However, there is a lot worth saying these days. For the next few weeks I'm going to try and post something at least every other day, if not every day.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Some new directions, some not so new...

Well, it has been months since I have posted anything on this blog and for the most part it would seem completely dead, but no it is not... Truth be told I have been finishing up classes, passing my qualifying exams for candidacy and working to develop my research program for completion of the PhD.

As some of my later posts indicated I have taken an interest in sustainable agri-food systems, but in many ways I was trying to change some of my interests to fit the literature available to me. However, with my background in IT and the social sciences coupled with my new knowledge in environmental systems it seems appropriate to find a way to integrate all of these elements into some sort of coherent program of research.

With that in mind I began looking for references in the literature on agri-food studies that discuss the role of technology and the internet in particular and their respective influences on the rise of alternative agri-food system projects. This fascinating search revealed one single source and only scant hints at the role of new information and communication technologies for informing civic agriculture.

So to complete the PhD I will be doing 3 empirical research papers with the intent of publishing them in some journals. The first two deal directly with the role that ICTs are playing in supporting the emergence and spread of civic agriculture. The third paper has yet to be approved but I intend to do an ecological footprint analysis on a hypothetical scalability of local agriculture on the Palouse.

The key to this eco-footprint analysis will be the focus on spatial variation with respect to landscape. It is my hypothesis that ecological variations across spatial dimensions will invariably lead to different outcomes with respect to the sustainability of local agri-food systems.

For instance, it cannot all be about GHG emissions and food miles. For instance, biodiversity, water consumption for food production and soil quality all relate to sustainability and therefore should be included!