local communities

People in local geographic areas may need help communicating with each other in order to collaborate in building and sustaining healthy communities. Grassroots action at any level - neighborhoods, towns, or cities - can help improve local services, welcome newcomers, and develop cultural, economic and political capital.

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.

Four roles civic organizations can play in crowdfunding

four_roles_crowdfunding Today I'm giving a talk at the Library of Congress's "Digital Preservation" conference on civic crowdfunding and community assets. I'll be giving a brief overview of crowdfunding, its historical precedents and how it is being used in civic contexts today.

One of the main goals of the presentation is to suggest four roles that civic organizations, including municipal governments, can play in the crowdfunding process.

Going to Data Camp!

I recently attended the 2013 Info-Activism Camp as a facilitator on the "Curation" track.  The Tactical Technology Collaborative organized the event for over 100 information activists from around the world.  Everyone was there to learn about Evidence & Influence.  Yes, it was awesome.

I've mostly been working on Data Therapy in isolation, because I haven't been able to find others working on capacity building for creative data presentation with community organizations. That all changed at an isolated camp in Northern Italy a few weeks ago!  I connected with a network of technologists, activists, and rabble-rousers that were thinking deeply about this topic.

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Postmarked Ignite talk - Dystopian spaces + visualizing disempowerment

I gave an Ignite talk today at the MIT-Knight Civic Media conference (#civicmedia). Wow, that went so fast! I didn't quite share all I wanted, but if I could sit down with you over a cup of coffee, this is what I would have said. If I may be cheesy for a moment, these were really my most heartfelt points. So, my lucky ducks—read on for the full spiel!

I’m going to tell you about an exploration that really began with an interest in public space and a pet question of mine: Where does a postcard sit between a letter and an online petition?

What's Curious about Curious City?

Hmmm. What's going on in Chicago? Jennifer Brandel's new concept for topsy-turvying standard news agenda setting in a major public media newsroom is about to spread.

Read Knight's announcement http://kng.ht/14620ac *snip* the project offers an experimental Internet-based model for community-powered content creation online and on-air and empowers the public to suggest, vote on and participate in stories as they are reported *snip*

Where does civic crowdfunding fit on a city's roadmap?

Bogardus Triangle Plaza map - from http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/plaza-bogardus-map.jpg

Several city officials I've spoken to about civic crowdfunding in the past few months raised the following problem: "Isn't resource allocation the primary function of government? You can't remove that and replace it with the will of the crowd. How could we possibly design a policy framework to accommodate this?"

Robin Chase and Nick Grossman’s hopes for the sharing economy

Photo by @brianquinn

Robin Chase (@rmchase), founder of ZipCar and BuzzCar, started the first company WAY back in 2000. It made renting a car as convenient as owning car, and "right-sized the asset", meaning you only pay for what you use. In addition to huge savings and new freedoms for consumers, this meant fewer cars sitting around unused in cities.

But less obviously, Zipcar stretched the definitions of "consumers" and "producers" in an economy. Robin prefers 'collaborators' as a more modern term. The company's success hinged on the assumption that most people are good. That trust, and bond with their customers, was key to creating the company.

Skype, Facebook, eBay, YouTube, Wikipedia, et al do the same thing: take excess capacity (sharing) and combine it with a platform for participation. Robin's slept in all kinds of beds, from hotels to a teenager's bedroom.

Postmarked - Negotiating [dis]empowerment in civic art

This is part 2 in a series on a public art project to create a space for dialogue between a concerned community and the owners of a dilapidated Cambridge property. Bigger picture in part 1.

I was enamored with the weight of postcards:  How does the sender's selection of a design suggest something personal? A postcard has more weight than a petition signature and gives flexibility to write a lot or a little, to illustrate concepts and/or capture them in words. It is a dynamic physical artifact.

I had read Karen Klinger's Cambridge Eyesore series, and it was clear that Cantabrigians noticed these rundown lots. Conversation continues to swirl within the community, but how does the conversation flow back out—beyond the city councilors to the decision-making owners?

Postmarked - A public art approach to neighborhood civics (pt 1)

The first day of Antoni Muntadas' class, I couldn't resist sharing my notes in tweets.

"Dialogues in Public Space" was an intriguing title for an art course. There was a similar project called Civic Studio when I lived in Grand Rapids, where university students spent a semester doing what I thought of social process art—the output isn't visual but a public service, inquiry or resource (i.e.: Viget, On the River temporary studio, etc.). It was the first time I had ever come across art as something that could live outside of a sculpture or canvas.

My Friend Martin

Please donate to the Richard Family Fund.

Martin Richard died Monday, killed by bombs hidden at the Boston Marathon. He was 8. He was my friend.

 

 

Many people have come to know Martin through this picture, shared by a teacher of his at Neighborhood House Charter School in Dorchester where he was a student. They’ve come to know his poignant poster which pleads for peace. They’ve come to know his toothy, goofy grin. He was too young for braces. He was too young to die.

I first met Martin when he was a toddler. We'd not been there five minutes before his older brother bonked him on the head with a basketball. Not maliciously, but curiously, as if to see what would happen. As the eldest of three brothers, I understood, since I also saw younger siblings as interesting experiments. Behold, science in action! Martin blinked, screwed up his face as if to cry, hesitated, and laughed instead. Hypothesis validated: Martin was awesome.

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