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Making Choices: An Appropriate Technology Approach to New Media (Part II)


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National Native American AIDS Prevention Center (NNAAPC)

Our “Making Choices” strategy blog series explores ways to develop an effective new media plan that considers available resources, integrates with existing services, and uses the right tools for the job. Part I of this series discussed the first step of designing a new media strategy: identifying audiences and needs.

Part II: How To Choose?
Decision-making processes such as POST can help us to identify audiences, needs, and available resources. However, deciding on what tools to use is still challenging. New technology emerges every day, and the pressure to jump on the latest bandwagon can be strong.

The concept of “Appropriate Technology” has spread around the world, and refers broadly to an approach that takes into account the environment, culture, and resources of the intended community, to provide useful, practical solutions in a sustainable way. We can apply this principle to help us choose the right new media in response to HIV and AIDS.

We’ve discussed new media approaches to reaching American Indian, Alaskan Native, and Native Hawaiian audiences that take into account the needs of the community and the tools they are already using. While Internet use is growing rapidly in Native communities, it lags behind the national average and includes many with slow dial-up or wireless service. Therefore, the National Native American AIDS Prevention Center (NNAAPC) Exit Disclaimer uses new media in several of the following ways to reinforce traditional media and make tangible materials more readily available:

  • The Nationwide Community Events Map Exit Disclaimer offers a low-bandwidth yet interactive way to find out about National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day events in each state.
  • The Social Marketing page Exit Disclaimer, in addition to featuring a PSA video hosted on Google Video, also offers downloadable posters (such as the one to the right), customized for various Native audiences, that can be printed out for posting in high traffic areas.
  • The Native Youth Exit Disclaimer section includes links to various multimedia materials, including DVDs, PowerPoint presentations, and online curricula such as “No Place Like Home…for Sex Education – Native American Edition” Exit Disclaimer, which provides age-appropriate, family-based sexuality education for home instruction, adapted for Native community needs.
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The Old Is New Again
We know that cell phone usage is wide-spread, the technical barriers to using texting are very low, and participants can exchange text messages relatively privately — even in a public place. Therefore, when considering how to provide HIV testing information quickly and easily, text messaging stood out as appropriate technology. For World AIDS Day 2007, the Kaiser Family Foundation Exit Disclaimer, CDC, and collaborated to launch the KNOWIT text messaging campaign to help people identify their local HIV testing sites. It may be surprising to hear traditional text messaging characterized as “new media” — the technology has been in use over a decade and doesn’t include “social networking” or “Web 2.0” features. In fact, it doesn’t even require a computer. However, text messaging proves to be the appropriate technology to meet a vital community need.

Let audiences and needs guide your choice of tools — avoid the trap of letting alluring new technologies push project development. In fact, an essential part of a new media strategy is deciding what tools not to use. And take into account the unique culture, environment and resources of the community you serve in selecting the right tool for the job.