Recent news from the Center for Civic Media

Recent news from the Center for Civic Media

The Community Whiteboard Test: Does your new community project prioritize participation, or passivity?

Anyone who's worked in the software industry is familiar with "the legacy problem" -- the fact that it's often easier to build something new from scratch than it is to overhaul and extend an existing system.

I certainly believed that the Legacy Conundrum applied to news sites -- that it would be easier, in many ways, to create a community site from scratch than it would be to effectively integrate community features into the website of your average metro daily newspaper in North America.

As the broad shakeout in news industry continues, I see more and more "from scratch" projects. What have I found?

It's not necessarily easier to build a community site from scratch -- at least not with a major mental overhaul first.

This year I've read dozens of project descriptions from news organizations or individuals with experience in those organizations for new community sites -- but fewer than a handful have more than the bare minimum of participatory features; most are simply another website that gives a visitor a message that their job here is to passively consume information.

Matthew Zachary discusses how to combat click-through activism

Our director Chris Csikszentmihályi recently described for the Washington Post what he calls "click-through activism", the propensity of people online, especially youth, to feel they are contributing to a cause simply by writing a tweet or adding their name to a Facebook cause page.

In some ways, [Csikszentmihályi] says, the ease of the medium "reminds me of dispensations the Catholic Church used to give." Worst-case scenario: If people feel they are doing good just by joining something -- or clicking on one of those become a fan of Audi and the company will offset your carbon emissions campaigns, "to what extent are you removing just enough pressure that they're not going to carry on the spark" in real life?

I was curious how click-through activism affects a national group whose organizing is done almost entirely online. So I approached Matthew Zachary---founder and CEO of I'm Too Young for This!, an online community and non-profit for young adult cancer survivors---for his thoughts.

Ni’lin Protest

The aforementioned adventure with Jared was going to the weekly protest in the village of Ni’lin. The wall passes through their olive groves, and nearby settlements cut them off from 40% of their land. The protest followed Friday prayers in the mosque, and then several hundred people walked to the wall. Or, as close as [...]


Went on a tour with the observers from the Temporary International Presence in Hebron. Rosa managed to get us in, as she used to work for the Danish Representative Office in Ramallah, and the observers are mostly Scandinavian. How very diplomatic of them… "Greater Israel" The TIPH was created in 1997 as an addendum to [...]

A Day of Cultural Discontinuities

I met a friend of a friend from the internet today to do some cross-border mapping. We started in the Old City, where she hadn’t seen, getting suitably caffeinated for the walk to come. I took her to Shufat camp, as it’s not currently well mapped in the OSM dataset, and it’s a profoundly different [...]


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