University of Colorado at Boulder student Revi Sterling will graduate on Friday, Dec. 19, with the first doctorate degree in technology, media and society from the Alliance for Technology, Learning and Society, or ATLAS, institute.
Sterling's dissertation on advancement through interactive radio, or AIR, dealt with efforts to link disadvantaged women with local community radio stations and other community-based resources such as non-governmental organizations and extension programs. She conducted her research in Nthongoni, Kenya, which is in the southeast part of the country and is off the cellular and electrical grid.
Sterling's research focuses on gender, development and technology and specifically examined the use of information and communication technologies as empowerment strategies for women in developing regions. Radio is the dominant mass media in developing areas, and community radio is rapidly growing as an alternative to commercial and government programming, and to most advanced technologies, she said.
"By letting the women themselves produce radio content, the women involved had a great deal of ownership in the project, and also produced interesting broadcasts, including radio plays, songs and debate programs to discuss such issues as witchcraft, women's health and women's roles, religion, domestic violence, HIV/AIDS and working with non-governmental organizations," Sterling said. "These programs operated as a 'myth-buster,' and the plurality of voices and opinions gave voice to each woman's unique experience."
Sterling created a portable, inexpensive communication device that is able to record, store and replay feedback from women listeners who have no other way to communicate with their community radio station.
"While my favorite part of the research was following up with women to understand what reactions they faced after being heard on the air, it was the interviews with men that were most salient to this work," Sterling said. "Men who had formerly considered their wives as property were astounded by the knowledge and poise their wives, daughters and mothers shared on the radio, and many men stated that if the radio station thought that these women were important enough to broadcast, that they themselves would benefit to listen to the women in their families as well."
Sterling will continue to track the AIR program for several years to see if power shifts between men and women actually occur as a result of the technology. She said the problem with most research in this area is that no one is doing the necessary long-term studies to determine if the technology is a novelty item or if it can support long-term development strategies.
Prior to joining the ATLAS doctorate program, Sterling was employed by Microsoft for 10 years. Five of those years were spent in the external research program group where she began outreach efforts to increase the number of female computer scientists and technologists, and also developed and supported programs for high school and college women, including working with CU.
ATLAS was established in 1997 to integrate information and communication technology in disciplines across the Boulder campus and beyond. The institute advocates for technology education for people and programs that traditionally do not have access to equipment and resources. There are currently 10 doctorate students in the ATLAS program.
ATLAS also offers an undergraduate certificate program in technology, arts and media aimed at giving any student in any major an opportunity to explore information technologies and relate them to their own disciplines.
For more information about the doctorate program at ATLAS visit www.colorado.edu/atlas/education/phd/overview.html.