1.2.1 Key questions to understand a local communicative ecology

  • What kinds of communication and information activities do local people carry out or wish to carry out?
  • What communications resources are available to them - media content, technologies, and skills?
  • How do they understand the way these resources can be used?
  • Who do they communicate with, and why?
  • How does a particular medium - like radio or Internet - fit into existing social networks? Does it expand those networks? How can your initiative connect to its users' social networks?

Once a researcher has built up this bigger picture it is far easier to understand the impacts and possibilities of a particular medium and how communications fit into the other things that people are doing.

It is important to look at everything that could count as a medium of communication.

That is, not just press, broadcasting or telecoms but also roads, buses and trains, visits to neighbours, gossip, and public and private places where people meet to communicate.

It is also important to look at how people combine different media.

Specific media can mean different things to different people.

People within the same communities operate within different social networks.

Male or female, young or old, everyone will be connected to and communicating with a range of people. This may comprise mostly of family members or it may involve a much wider network.

We can learn to understand different communicative ecologies within the same space: women and men, boys and girls, different castes or religions will have different social networks, different access to media, and understand media differently. Their communication patterns and needs may also differ. We can work better with each group if we understand the specific problems each face

We can study the effectiveness of our initiative by seeing how these communication processes are changing and improving over time.