Education in the context of civic media work refers to the process and product of learning skills, acquiring information, and understanding ourselves and our communities. Healthy communities need informed members and they need skills and understanding of complex issues to continue to solve their local issues.

Making Events Better

Most meetings and events suck.  I'm lucky enough to know lots of folks trying to make this better.  Recently Civic Media hosted Gunner from Aspiration Tech for a training on how to create and facilitate  participatory events. Afterwards I was inspired to reflect more on my own approach to facilitating the workshops and events I run. A key reflection for me was that I put a strong emphasis on the process of collaboratively making of things. Our Data Therapy workshops and events are "think with your hands" events.  Almost every topic is tied to a hands-on activity where you make something with your peers.  This is how we invite participants to engage in the material - through the process of making things.

Trip Report: Connecting with Belo Horizonte, Brazil

I just returned from a fascinating week in Belo Horizonte (Brazil)!  The trip was organized by the Office of Strategic Priorities (@escritorio_gov) of the State of Minas Gerais (they are members of the MIT Media Lab).  The Escritorio joined the Media Lab to think harder about fostering innovation and empowering their citizens.  Following those themes, we worked together and planned an agenda that focused on four main activities:

Liveblog from RightsCon : Stories from the Field

Liveblog from the workshop session of RightsCon. Please forgive aggregious spelling errors.
  • Tell us about a time when you learned something unexpected about working with frontline human rights defenders.
  • What top 3 tips would you give someone preparing for a capacity-building mission with human rights defenders?
  • What are the 3 most common misundersrtandings or mistakes to avoid make when doing capacity building work with human rights defenders?


Dan from Tactical Tech

Will it happen? A makerspace for the homeless

During my last trip to San Francisco, I heard about Marc Roth’s unconventional but sensible use of assistance money when he was homeless: He bought a membership to an SF makerspace. Marc learned the ins and outs of digital fabrication, started a successful laser cutting business, and now he’s ready to pilot The Learning Shelter, a 90-day residency program for SF homeless to build marketable making skills.

I’m enthralled. I’ve been exploring the future of work at MIT. This has looked mostly like peer economy research, but I have also been thinking about how other workforce development models may not fit today’s circumstances. Cities have traditionally approached workforce development from one of two perspectives:

Civic Lunch: Jon Rubin on Conflict Kitchen

Today's guest is Jon Rubin, who teaches contextual practice for socially and contextually engaged art at Carnegie Mellon. This is a live blog by Rahul Bhargava, Catherine D'Ignazio, and others - don't be surprised by typos or inconsistent tone!

Conflict Kitchen came out of what they don't have in Pittsburgh. They've never sent out a press release, but coverage has never stopped (AP, A Jazeera). Jon shows us an al Jazeera clip about Conflict Kitchen to introduce the project:

Database Skillshare

Databases! Apparently they are useful. In a quest to better understand this gap in my knowledge, Rahul, Yu, Joshua, and I sat down.

There are so many tools out there. What you invest in learning is important because you don't know what will still be around, especially the web-based ones.

Relational Databases

True Grit: Promoting perseverance in online learning communities

Give It 100 founders Karen Cheng and Finbarr Taylor

A couple of weeks ago, I came across giveit100, a simple website that allows you to upload a 10-second video of yourself working towards a goal that you have committed to doing every day for 100 days. The idea for the site came about after Karen Cheng, one of the site’s founders, received an outpouring of support and interest from strangers who were inspired by a youtube video that chronicled her attempts to learn how to dance over the course of one year. As the video shows, Cheng had no exceptional talent for dancing when she first began. However, her recordings provided an insightful look into how persistent practice and perseverance pay off over time.

[Peer economy] The home stretch!

The radio silence is over; the last time I posted specifically for the Civic blog was fall 2013. I'm not continuing onto a Ph.D. after June, so before I leave my post as an academic who researches the peer economy, I'm going to report what I'm seeing and sensing as I see and sense it.

20-20! Get it?! This will also be the last semester of bad puns.

To keep myself accountable, here's a smattering of what I'll dive into this semester:

How to Apply to Be a Grad Student with the Center for Civic Media

It's early September and a new crew of master's students are starting work at Center for Civic Media. If you're interested in becoming part of next year's team, this is a great time to start working on your application, and you likely have some questions about how one gets accepted to work at Center for Civic Media. This post tries to offer some answers.

Who gets accepted to work at Center for Civic Media?

We accept a small number of masters candidates for study every year, usually two to four people in total. Some apply through the MIT Media Lab, where they will be earning an S.M. degree in Media Arts and Sciences. Others apply through Comparative Media Studies/Writing, where they will earn an S.M. in Comparative Media Studies. We are not currently admitting doctoral candidates.