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...