A Person-Centered Guide to Demystifying Technology, 2nd Edition: Working together to observe, question, design, prototype, and implement/reject technology in support of people's valued beings and doings


Martin Wolske
School of Information Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign


software, hardware, community informatics, Internet, computer networks, digital equity, social justice, design justice, social shaping of technology


Digital technologies old and new are not objects that can be packed inside a box. They are a seamless, indivisible combination of people, organizations, policies, economies, histories, cultures, knowledge, and material things that are continuously shaped and reshaped. Every one of us innovates-in-use our everyday technologies; we just do not always know it. We are shaped by the networked information tools in our midst, and we shape them and thereby shape others. While many of the chapters in this book can be approached as standalone explorations, as many around the world have done, its full potential comes when collaboratively taken as a journey through twelve sessions. Each session in this second, revised edition includes two thematically linked chapters, one more socially oriented and one more technically oriented. Sessions are brought together into three larger generative themes that are built from three decades of participatory design in and with community, and from the teaching of these concepts and practices in courses and workshops. Approached within a community of practice, learning outcomes include discovering ways to advance power, both power within and power with others; advancing our technical skills, but also and even more, our progressive community engagement skills, our critical sociotechnical skills, and our cognitive, information, and social-emotional skills; and progressing our culturally competent collective leadership through social justice storytelling within a framing of reciprocity. In so doing, this textbook seeks to address the call placed by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – to rapidly shift from a ‘thing-oriented’ society to a ‘person-oriented’ society.


  • Introduction to the Book
  • Orange Unit: A Person-Centered Launch
  • 1A: Information Systems
  • 1B: Introduction to Electronic Circuits
  • 2A: Critical Social + Technical Perspective
  • 2B: Electronic Components in Series
  • 3A: The Unknown Tech Innovators
  • 3B: Computer Building Blocks
  • 4A: Storytelling in the Information Sciences
  • 4B: Meet the Microcomputer
  • 4C: Getting Started with the Raspberry Pi
  • 4D: Coding Electronics
  • Orange Unit Review
  • Blue Unit: Computational Tinkering
  • 1A: The Logic of Hardware and Programming
  • 1B: Essential Coding Concepts
  • 2A: The Methodological Landscape
  • 2B: Make Music with Code
  • 3A: Valued, Inclusive Information and Computing Technology Experiences
  • 3B: Build Functions for Remixable Code
  • 4A: Sharing Our Counterstories
  • 4B: Raspberry Pi Counterstory Little Free Library
  • Blue Unit Review
  • REMIX: Ideating and Iterating Code: Scratch Example
  • Rainbow Unit: Networks Big and Small
  • 1A: Programmable Electronics, Smart Technology, and the Internet of Things
  • 1B: Connecting Our Electronic ‘Thing’ to a Wider World
  • 2A: Digital Internets, Past and Present
  • 2B: The Infrastructure of the Internet
  • 3A: The Digitization of Divides
  • 3B: A Person-Centered Network Information System Adventure
  • 4A: Recovering Community: Designing for Social Justice
  • 4B: Community-Centered Design: An Emergent Strategy for Community Organizing and Action
  • Rainbow Unit Review
  • Introducing the Unix Command Line
  • Raspberry Pi Networking 1010
  • Network Troubleshooting
  • Security and Privacy
  • Glossary
  • Bibliography

Author Biography

Martin Wolske, School of Information Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign

Martin Wolske is a teaching assistant professor in the School of Information Sciences. His teaching and research seek to foster a rapid shift from a ‘thing-orientation’ to a ‘person-orientation’ using problem-posing education, participatory research and community-led design justice approaches. All aspects of his work have sought to integrate critically-engaged forms of community-engaged activities and scholarship to foster co-creation of knowledge that is reciprocal and of mutual benefit. Since coming to the iSchool @ Illinois in 1995 to work on issues of digital access and equity, he has served a range of boundary spanning roles facilitating community inquiry through collective leadership, shepherding community informatics projects to advance individual agency in overcoming limit-situations, developing innovative technical resources, and advocating system change. Key roles have included serving as interim director of the Center for Digital Inclusion and director of Prairienet Community Network, and as principal investigator or co-principal on a number of grants related to digital inclusion and digital literacy that have received funding through the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, the American Library Association, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. He is a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Community Informatics, a member of the Community Informatics Research Network conference committee, and is the recipient of numerous community awards for service; the Library Journal ’s 2011 Teacher of the Year award; the 2013 University of Illinois Campus Award for Excellence in Public Engagement; and the 2017 iSchool Alumni Association Distinguished Service Award.

An instructor and students talking and working with computing equipment, and a large cluster of network cables in an image below.



August 9, 2023

Details about the available publication format: Online


ISBN-13 (15)


Date of first publication (11)


Details about the available publication format: PDF


ISBN-13 (15)


Date of first publication (11)