elplatt's blog

Shaka Senghor and Martha Minow discuss mass incarceration and restorative justice

Notes from the Media Lab Conversations Series with Shaka Senghor and Martha Minow, 2/7. This is a collaborative liveblog and may contain errors. Contributors: Edward L. Platt and Erhardt Graeff.

Shaka Senghor - Author, mentor, activist, ML Director's Fellow. Author of Writing My Wrongs

Martha Minow - Dean and Prof at Harvard Law School. Author of Between Vengeance and Forgiveness


Shaka's journey started as many others in his community in Detroit during the crack era. He ran away at age 13, got involved with selling drugs and became addicted. He was robbed at gunpoint, beaten, and left for dead in the back of a crack house.

The Ukraine-Latin America Connection: Clustering Countries by Video Trends

Why would some online videos trend in both Ukraine and Latin America? I don't know, but it looks like they do. Continuing our work on the What We Watch project, which Ethan previously blogged about, I noticed that Ukraine has a surprising (to me) number of trending videos in common with countries like Mexico and Argentina. Here's one example:

Hackerspaces and Makerspaces in Detroit and Beyond

I spent this past weekend in Michigan for Maker Faire Detroit at The Henry Ford. There was a lot to see, but I was particularly interested in the hacker/makerspaces. When you hear news about Detroit, it's usually in reference to the many troubles facing the region, like the city's recent bankruptcy filing. But hackerspaces in the region aren't just thriving, they're growing and evolving. They're a great example of how people can collaborate to create their own opportunities for education and entrepreneurship, all while having fun.

Geodesic dome and misting umbrella by GR Makers.

Automated SMS Testing for Co-Design

Screenshot of Vojo test group

When we build tools at the Center for Civic Media, we often take a co-design approach by including users in the design process. While we’re developing Vojo (a hosted version of the Vozmob mobile blogging platform) we’ve put up an open beta, and support organizations like Sandy Storyline, CCTV, and Engage the Power, who in turn support us with real-world feedback and user stories. But co-design brings new challenges as well, like keeping our open beta working for community partners while we develop and test new features. To help achieve this balance for Vojo, we’ve added SMS capability to existing tools for testing web applications.

Training and Mobilizing Digital Storytellers with Vojo

In the Vojo community call on Tuesday, December 18, we invited organizations using Vojo to to share their experiences and materials for training and mobilizing new users. A few themes emerged from the discussion.

  • Actively collecting stories in workshops and in the community is more effective than a simple call for submissions.
  • Face-to-face instruction is helpful for new users.
  • Printed, take-home guides are a good supplement to face-to-face instruction.
  • Good user experience is key for retaining users.

The full video and notes from the call are available online.