Government in the context of civic media work is any form of civil authority at any level from local to national and international. It can refer to entities that are elected or appointed. The term also includes the processes involved in government: deliberation, voting, election campaigns, and making policy.

Sorry, Nerds, But Obama Was Right About The Jedi Meld (And Metaphysics)

Today, during a heated discussion on the sequester, a frustrated President Barack Obama made the following statement to the press corps as they challenged him to show more leadership in negotiations:

"I'm presenting a fair deal, the fact that they don’t take it means that I should somehow, you know, do a Jedi mind meld with these folks and convince them to do what’s right."

Bringing a Nation's Archives Online

(a Civic lunch liveblogged with Nathan Matias and Rahul Bhargava)

Today, we're hearing from the National Archives and Records Adminisration about the archives they maintain, how they're making those archives available online at, and approaches to sharing the archives to broader audiences.

Pamela Wright is the Chief Innovation Officer at the National Archives and Records Administration. Bill Mayer is the Executive for Research Services at NARA. Michael Moore is the Access Coordinator for Research Services East (right here in Waltham, MA).

Civic crowdfunding from the Statue of Liberty to now

statue of liberty_crop

I've been asked recently to define what I mean by civic crowdfunding. For the purposes of my research, I'm characterizing it as crowdfunding campaigns that involve the development of public assets. It may or may not include the investment of public funds; it may take the form of towns and cities supporting civic projects being executed by other stakeholders (such as New York City's Kickstarter page or the town of Wycombe funding a space for local entrepreneurs). The key is that the outcome is a public asset that all members of a community can access.

Some Thoughts on Civic Indexes

Parks are awesome, but does your city have enough of them? The Trust for Public Land’s ParkScore(tm) tries to asses this with a simple score out of 100. I’m seeing this kind of “civic index” more and more often. The biggest example I see if WalkScore, which has become omnipresent on real estate websites (much to my pleasure). Both are civic indexes that serve as proxies for complicated algorithms, but while TPL is definitely talking to planners, WalkScore is talking directly to regular folks.


Following Aaron Swartz suicide, MIT President's statement

I posted the following to the Comparative Media Studies site; the reaction around the Center to Swartz's suicide is, we all would agree, still too raw for the Monday-after. A collection of articles, essays, testimonials, and other media is available too.

Aaron_Swartz.jpgThe CMS community -- in particular several of its colleagues at the Center for Civic Media who knew Aaron Swartz well -- is grappling with the reality that he is no longer with us.

Charts from the floor of the US Senate

The recent fun tumblr "Charts from the floor of the US Senate" (and Orrin Hatch's gem) brought this story to mind:

One of the formative moments of my youth came from a town hall meeting with Hatch's colleague, senator Bob Bennett, on the topic of wilderness protection of federal land in Utah. I had come to the meeting with a petition of around 1000 signatures that I had gathered at my high school supporting wilderness, which he derisively dismissed as a "push poll", and said things to the effect that "I'm elected to do what I want, not what the polls say."

He then brought out a floor chart, with two images of the Escalante River in Utah, one from the mid 70's and one from the mid 90's. The older picture was barren of vegetation, the recent picture was lush and green, and he asserted "This is what 20 years of non-wilderness management can do. We don't need wilderness."

Can peer progressives change institutions?

 Matt Stempeck

Last night the Center for Civic Media brought together Steven Johnson, Yochai Benkler, Susan Crawford and Lawrence Lessig to discuss Johnson’s new book Future Perfect: The Case for Progress in a Networked World. Substantively they centred on the issue of whether the success of peer-networked movements can be framed as a political ideology that can bring together the collective energies behind the likes of Wikipedia, Linux, Kiva and Kickstarter and build a movement for progressively minded change.

The Question Campaign: 21 Days of questions, 365 Days of action.

The Question Campaign,, launched in the City of Cambridge on Weds Oct 17 as part of the Cambridge Campaign Against Domestic Violence. For the next 21 Days, the Question Campaign will ask for people in Cambridge to donate their questions about Domestic Violence. Following that, through a series of public processes, the campaign partners and Cambridge residents will identify common questions and work towards local policy and service provision that responds to these questions.