The Complex Position of the Intermediary in Telecenters and Community Multimedia Centers

Savita Bailur, Silvia Masiero

Abstract


The critical role of the information intermediary in supporting community participation in telecenters and community multimedia centers [CMCs] has been recognized for some time. However, the literature has largely taken a neutral/positive perspective (that the center manager/staff are necessary social connectors and should ensure equitable access) or a negative one (that they may replicate hierarchies, be unwilling to help, or direct users toward “undesirable” information). Drawing on how identities are embedded within and formed by networks, this article takes a third perspective: Telecenter and CMC information intermediaries are in the complex positions of brokers and translators, and their roles are constantly negotiated and performed within multiple, dynamic, and constructed networks. This interpretive, narrative analysis of interviews with the center manager and staff at Voices CMC in India illustrates that intermediaries can be in an ontologically insecure position, bridging these multiple networks, but can also navigate their roles and create their “spaces of development” within these same networks. Therefore, the article argues that it should not be taken for granted that these intermediaries are simply executing policy; instead, further research into how they interpret and perform it in vernacular terms is necessary because this, in turn, can shape user perception of CMCs and telecenters.

Keywords


intermediaries, telecentres, community multimedia centers, networks

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