In order for communities to survive and thrive in a world full of technology, they need to build a new model of tech support. This model should focus on democratizing technology — on disseminating, copying and distributing tech knowledge among everyday computer users.

This model may start with a central location to help users with their computers, but cannot end with that single source of knowledge. Communities must develop a "critical mass" of tech knowledge among community members in order to control their own lives in a technology-dependent world.

(Ed. note: Full disclosure: Brian is an AmeriCorps at the IMC, and creating the Help Desk is part of his role there. We fully support collective efforts like this, and thought you should know about it. Hope that's ok.)

The IMC Computer Help Desk is up to this challenge. The Urbana-Champaign community has had a deficit of realistic personal computer support options since Prairienet faded away.

When a user calls, emails or walks in to the IMC Computer Help Desk they will not be talked down to or misled. Further, the IMC Computer Help Desk will not perform any repair or maintenance for anyone. Instead, the support technicians at the Help Desk will help users solve their own problems. The Help Desk can help fix almost any problem, hardware or software, regardless of platform — as long as the user of the system is willing to learn how to maintain their own computer.

Since the mission of the Help Desk is to distribute personal computer knowledge among the community, we don't just fix broken computers. Any user that has any question about how to complete a task with their computer can discuss their problem in the friendly, open environment
at the Help Desk. We encourage users of all skill levels to take advantage of the human knowledgebase in the staff of the Help Desk.

Expert users are invited to come to Help Desk support hours to help other users, or simply to discuss ideas and projects with people interested in learning about technology.

The ultimate goal of tech knowledge distribution is to resist the harmful culture of fear, uncertainty and doubt that certain technology companies promote among users. To do this, knowledge distribution organizations must replace it with a culture that promotes cooperation, collaboration and knowledge sharing among users. Only when tech knowledge distribution centers like the IMC Computer Help Desk begin driving this transition will people in the Urbana-Champaign community control their tech media.

The IMC Computer Help Desk holds open hours every Thursday from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center. Call us at (217) 689-1462. Email us at

Copyright Brian Duggan 2010