University of Tasmania
whole_McEachernCallumMacdonald2010_thesis.pdf (11.74 MB)

Learning for rural places in 'the digital future'

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posted on 2023-05-28, 08:32 authored by McEachern, CM
The thesis examines the linkages between changes in rural community relationships with place and the deployment of digital technologies. Though these technologies are becoming pervasive, ubiquitous and powerful within both formal and informal learning processes, little monitoring and evaluation of how the rapidly emerging 'digital future' will manifest within rural communities is occurring. The unprecedented transformative power of digital technologies is widely expected to enhance rural quality of life and deliver sustainable, innovative and democratic policy outcomes for rural regions. Analysis of empirical data gathered from interviewees in two similar rural regions in Tasmania (Australia) and Norway suggests that these assumptions may be ill-founded and that the development of individual needs and community assets may be negatively shaped by digital technologies and, thus, contrary to the highly optimistic expectation of positive outcomes that prevails. There is also uncertainty about the development of the critical, cooperative and creative capacities that are required by rural communities if they are to claim ownership of the future. Using elements of qualitative, case study and grounded theory methodologies, concerns raised by interview respondents are explored. Similar concerns exist in both study regions. These indicate a decline in shared responsibility for place assets, with digital technologies complicit in the spatial, temporal, informational and communicative stresses that are identified. The findings are triangulated through analysis of similar trends in a wider, not specifically rural, context. As digital technologies transform relationships with geographical place, the capacity of rural communities to recognise, understand and act on these impacts is only weakly promoted within formal and informal learning structures. It is argued that the loss of agency over rapid change processes affecting rural communities and their assets will intensify without improved competencies and conditions for decisionmaking about 'the digital future'. With a new generation of digital technologies rapidly emerging, it is imperative that the loss of agency within rural communities be rectified.


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  • Unpublished

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Copyright 2010 the author. Thesis (PhD)--University of Tasmania, 2010. Includes bibliographical references. Ch. 1. Introduction -- Ch. 2. Theories and policies -- Ch. 3. Rural change processes and the case study contexts -- Ch. 4. Case study findings: changes in thinking, actions and conditions -- Ch. 5. Capacity development and impact of ICTs -- Ch. 6. The case findings in a wider context -- Ch. 7. Gaps, risks, solutions, and conclusions.

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