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.

HurricaneHackers in Boston - Sandy hackathon projects, lessons learned

Written with Pablo Rey Mazón

A day before Hurricane Sandy touched down, netizens began to congregate via etherpads, Google Docs and IRC, assuming the name “HurricaneHackers.”

HurricaneHackers teamed up with Sandy CrisisCamps—a series of hackathons organized by CrisisCommons around the world—to host a hackathon at MIT Media Lab. About 30 participants worked together throughout the day to figure out how a remote set of volunteers could support Sandy relief with communication technologies.

Pablo and Denise were the main facilitators for the hackathon. With Pablo’s experience organizing OccupyData hackathons and Denise’s participation in hackathons, we knew that a common gathering place is powerful for imaginative and holistic thinking, and to matchmake that thinking with real world needs.

Mapping the Globe

Mapping the Globe is an interactive tool and map that helps us understand where the Boston Globe directs its attention. Media attention matters–in quantity and quality. It helps determine what we talk about as a public and how we talk about it.

Codesign Studio

Involving communities in the design process results in products more responsive to a community's needs, more suited to accessibility and usability concerns, and easier to adopt.

Data Therapy

Status: 
Active

As part of our larger effort to build out a suite of tools for community organizers, we are helping to build their capacity to do their own creative data visualization and presentation.

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

The Question Campaign, http://21dayscambridge.org/, 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.

Vojo Community Call - Placing Vojo content on your sites using RSS feeds

We had our second Vojo Community Call on Tues Oct 16. The agenda included introductions from 3 of our community groups and a hands-on demonstration of how to locate feed addresses for Vojo groups and Vojo tags. We followed that with a screenshared demo of how these feeds can be integrated into Drupal’s native RSS feed aggregator and a Wordpress plugin that we have found works well with Vojo feeds. The following is a recap of the introductions and some of the call activities.

For more info about this call:

Resources for Civic Mapping: Toolkits and How-Tos

Some toolkits and how-tos for the CivicMaps Toolkit research file.

Title: Envisioning Development toolkits
Description: A set of 3 toolkits developed by the Center for Urban Pedagogy in NYC: Affordable Housing, Zoning, and Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (last two are in progress). All 3 relate to specific NYC policies. Affordable Housing toolkit includes a guidebook ("first-ever illustrated compendium of NYC affordable housing programs", freely downloadable or puchaseable in book form), a felt chart for comparing and explaining affordable housing policies (purchaseable?), and an online map showing income demographics and rents in NYC.
External link: http://envisioningdevelopment.net/
Location: New York, NY 40.7142° N, 74.0064° W
Name of organization: Center for Urban Pedagogy
Category: toolkit and downloadable pdf guidebook
Tags: community organizing, policy, advocacy, analog

Designing Urban Food Systems in Shanghai

I've joined the Media Lab's Changing Places group for a week in China to design the future of sustainable cities in Shanghai.

China presents enormous challenges and huge opportunities, all at a dizzying scale. 300 million Chinese, the population of the entire United States, will move to urban areas over the next 20 years. 20 of the world's 30 most polluted cities are in China. Only 1% of China's 600 million urban residents have access to clean air, as measured by EU standards. Anyone serious about climate change, human welfare, and other challenges of the 21st century must consider China's role.

How to Grocery Shop in Shanghai

Another update from China. Thanks to the Great Firewall, I'm stuck in a Web 1.0 world of email and blogging.


Our group spent the day conducting ethnographic interviews of food sellers and consumers in a wide variety of contexts. We met with restaurant managers, supermarket shoppers, rice shop owners, and sidewalk crab hawkers. We interviewed people from several age brackets, to learn about the unique but also shared habits and concerns regarding food in China.

It's hard to understate the level of concern around food safety. The elderly we spoke to actively avoid eating outside of the house, at any time, because of safety concerns. People who raise their own chickens and eggs take comfort in knowing that the food is not only fresh, but also safe.

Dancing in the Public Square: Street Music as Activism (Civic Media Lunch Livenotes)

We were lucky to host two organizers of the HONK! Festival ofActivist Street Bands - John Bell and Reebee Garofolo. These collaborative livenotes were authored by myself, Denise Cheng, Nathan Matias, Matt Stempeck, and a few others I think.

Rahul introduced HONK! fest, which is an annual gathering of activist street bands that descends on Somerville, MA. It began seven years ago. Today’s speakers will explore what it means to take back the public space. One of the things about parading is that it’s breaking a lot of rules—you’re not allowed to walk down the streets, make so much noise in normal circumstances—and it’s fun!

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