Technical support and development can be challenging for any organization, regardless of the level of resources available. When you factor in the complexity and low-budget circumstances of the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center, the job has been overwhelming in the past for the UC-IMC's Tech Group. "The Tech group has always been a small group which is overloaded with work," according to Josh King, who's been involved with Tech for the last several years.
Fortunately, things are taking a turn for the better since Brian Duggan came on board as the AmeriCorps Tech Projects Developer last month. "Having a full time Americorps volunteer allows us to work more actively on projects that just simply take longer for volunteer members," said Chris Ritzo, Tech Group volunteer.
Duggan is off to a fast start. "One of Brian's first projects has been to write an audio archiving program for WRFU," Ritzo said.
"WRFU was not recording any of their shows at all, they were just being lost to time," Duggan noted. "They just needed somebody who had the know-how to sit down and put something together. So, I put together a recording system that will record everything 24 hours a day, so somebody who did a show in the last 25 to 40 hours can come in and find the hour that their show occurred in and get the .mp3 or the .wav file and burn a CD of it."
His blend of technical proficiency and interest in the IMC's mission will help make him a strong contributor to the group. King explained, "Brian brings not only extensive experience as a software developer but also a strong social justice ethic which is in line with much of what the IMC stands for."
"The energy and expertise that Brian brings to the Tech group will help us move forward some IMC tech projects at a more accelerated pace," Ritzo said.
And there's plenty to do. Duggan has big plans for the coming year, from a re-design of the IMC website to developing more community-friendly tech programs. "I've started a whiteboard to get some public input on what the website should look like, because there are a lot of different ideas and a lot of different desires," Duggan noted.
He's also working on an open source public access computer lab that would have "10-15 computers that anyone can come in and use," for anything from job-hunting to homework, in addition to developing skillshares for community members to help them diagnose their own computer problems, as well as learning how to simplify thing like home finances by utilizing free software.
Duggan is also continuing his involvement in the Digital Justice Coalition and the Broadband Access Coalition. The BAC focuses on working to provide access to high-speed internet in the north parts of Champaign and Urbana, as well as the surrounding rural areas.
He explained, "[There are t]hings that I feel that were really, really important with the BAC that didn't make it into the final version but that I feel are critical to underprivileged areas of the community, like in-home tech support, like getting an actual computer in the home. It's necessary for that kind of resource to be available to them."
"Connecting with community partners in the CU Digital Justice Coalition, Brian is planning a program that will provide anyone with tech-knowledge or skills with the opportunity to teach, share and learn," Ritzo said. "It's in the early stages, but Brian has some great ideas." Duggan added, "Hopefully it will turn into real computer support."
Duggan also expressed a strong interest in getting more community members involved with the Tech group, and finding roles for people who aren't computer experts in the group. King explained, "It tends to take a high level of starting expertise for little reward," but Duggan is actively working to make it easier to bring new volunteers on board.
Progress is being made, and there's hope that not only will Duggan's efforts benefit the UC-IMC, but the greater community, as well, which is central to what AmeriCorps is all about. Here's wishing him success in the coming year.
This article is part of a series profiling the UC-IMC’s AmeriCorps volunteers. Previous entries include: