csik's blog

Center Produces a String of Civic Media Success Stories

Cross-posted at PBS Idea Lab.

As we wind the way toward the end of our four year grant, I thought it would be nice to describe some of what we've learned at MIT's Center for Future Civic Media (C4). In the coming weeks, I will call on a few of our researchers to offer similar blog reflections on our unique blend of communities, information, and action.

First, though, I want to describe some of the exciting project highlights from the last few weeks. Because C4 is a multi-disciplinary institution, different projects end up affecting different audiences, so I wanted to put them all in one post.

MIT Produces a String of Civic Media Success Stories

As we wind the way toward the end of our four year grant, I thought it would be nice to describe some of what we've learned at MIT's Center for Future Civic Media (C4). In the coming weeks, I will call on a few of our researchers to offer similar blog reflections on our unique blend of communities, information, and action.

First, though, I want to describe some of the exciting project highlights from the last few weeks. Because C4 is a multi-disciplinary institution, different projects end up affecting different audiences, so I wanted to put them all in one post.

GrassrootsMapping.org
Jeff Warren's project continues to spread, with new maps made in New York, China, and several other places by people with no MIT connection. We have so many continuing uploads from communities in the Gulf that we recently had to purchase new RAID storage. Good Magazine recently wrote about this growing project.

Lost in Boston: REALTIME

For the last several months, we have been testing a system called Lost in Boston: REALTIME with a variety of community partners. This video describes a bit about the project.

Rick Borovoy loves Boston, but he hates how hard it is to figure out where one is. Boston is tough to navigate, and while our various government entities do their best to keep up, governments are better at long-term infrastructure than quickly updating signage in a fast-moving, dynamic city. So Rick started looking at how businesses could help. He proposed hosting real-time transit signs in local businesses and non-profits. By hosting the signs on private space, the signs can cost 100 times less, and also help their host's mission. We have signs running in the famous J.P. Licks ice cream emporium, Anna's Taqueria, and Hope House, a local halfway house.

VoIP Drupal Kicks Off at Drupalcon

Last week I wrote about another project that's come to a boil at the Center for Future Civic Media: VoIP Drupal.

Here is a brief video of Leo Burd lecturing at DrupalCon 2011 on the release of Voip Drupal, a plugin that allow full interaction between Drupal CMS and phones.



VoIP Drupal is a project of the MIT Center for Future Civic Media, with key contributions from Civic Actions.

VoIP Drupal Kicks Off at Drupalcon

Last week I wrote about another project that's come to a boil at the Center for Future Civic Media: VoIP Drupal.

Here is a brief video of Leo Burd lecturing at DrupalCon 2011 on the release of Voip Drupal, a plugin that allow full interaction between Drupal CMS and phones.

VoIP Drupal is a project of the MIT Center for Future Civic Media, with key contributions from Civic Actions.

Junkyard Jumbotron

Rick Borovoy just released the Junkyard Jumbotron project, which allows laptops or phones in close proximity to be ganged together to form a large display.

The Junkyard Jumbotron requires no special software; it is simply a web page that receives real-time updates from our server, allowing scrolling, zooming, and soon video. Like all software at the Center, it is free and open.

Rick developed the project as part of a larger suite of tools that he calls the Brown Bag Toolkit, all oriented around making technology work better with face-to-face interactions, like meetings, canvasing, or chance encounters.

Junkyard Jumbotron from chris csik on Vimeo.

Huge thanks to Paula Aguilera for making the video.

Junkyard Jumbotron

Rick Borovoy just released the Junkyard Jumbotron project, which allows laptops or phones in close proximity to be ganged together to form a large display.

The Junkyard Jumbotron requires no special software; it is simply a web page that receives real-time updates from our server, allowing scrolling, zooming, and soon video. Like all software at the Center, it is free and open.

Rick developed the project as part of a larger suite of tools that he calls the Brown Bag Toolkit, all oriented around making technology work better with face-to-face interactions, like meetings, canvasing, or chance encounters.

Huge thanks to Paula Aguilera for making the video.

Drupal Now Accessible Via Any Phone

voip_drupal.png

MIT's Center for Future Civic Media has done a variety of breakthrough civic systems with phones. Examples range from Leo Burd's What's Up platform to the Call4Action class and its cool student projects.

VoIP Drupal

C4 has done a variety of breakthrough civic systems with phones, from Leo Burd's What's Up platform to the Call4Action class and its cool student projects.

We love these projects, but working with phones has always been a bear. A lot of custom programming is necessary, and in many cases people start with the phone and end up building custom systems that begin to represent a CMS. Projects like Ushahidi or our earlier txtMob are really just simple CMSs with a few custom features for texting inputs. So Leo Burd has been working on making Drupal more friendly for the billions of people around the world who only have access to basic telephony rather than smart phones and the web.

Leo is launching the first release of the VoIP Drupal platform at DrupalCon next week.

Centralizing a People Finder for Haiti, Plus an SMS 911

The information activist community has been rushing to respond to the Haitian earthquake. What I find remarkable is the capacity that has been built up in the last few years; from software standards, like the pfif standard generated after Katrina, to early systems like the Ushahidi engine designed during the Kenyan election violence, to larger organizations and resources like the Crisis Commons wiki and the Crisis Camps.

First on the scene were a variety of technologists who were addressing the problem of people finding -- how to bring separated people back together, both for peace of mind and for social capital. Several sites started offering this service, like the American Red Cross FamilyLinks and the custom-made Haitianquake.com.

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