technology solutions

Technology solutions can be software or hardware or even new ways of using old processes. They are tools that assist individuals and communities to engage with each other, share information, and take action.

Satellite Sentinel: Meteorologists of Human Rights Abuses

For a long time, genocide has been put in the box of great dark operatic human evils... We are the meteorologists of human rights abuses.

-- Nathaniel Raymond

This week's Thursday lunch was with the Satellite Sentinel Project. Based at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, they correlate data from satellites with other sources to track human rights violations, sometimes before they happen. Where possible, they threaten potential violators with exposure, release reports to the press, or pressure international organisations to take notice. By doing this, they hope to prevent genocides, stop large scale human rights violations once they begin, or at least to document atrocities after the fact.

Check out the new My Dot Tour video!!

The My Dot Tour video is now live on YouTube at or embedded at Have look:

Shot and edited by Igor Kharitonenkov in very short order, this 4-minute documentary gives an excellent summary of the My Dot Tour initiative. Props to Kate Balug (GSD alum, co-founder of the Dept. of Play, and a good friend of the Center) for all of her incredible work on this project!

The MIT Center for Civic Media contributed in the overall planning of the project and with the implementation of the technical infrastructure that supported the neighborhood tours. In particular, this project proved to be a good application of the Center's VoIP Drupal platform, an open source framework that makes it easier to build communication systems that integrate phone, SMS and web together (

This Week in Civic Media: "Representing Islam," Thursday 5pm

Park 51Representing Islam, a Civic Media Session this Thursday

  • "Representing Islam", our 9/15 event with Boston College/Berkman Center's Intisar Rabb, Sudanese blogger Amir Ahmad Nasr, and civil rights outreach director of the American Islamic Congress, Nasser Weddady

Thursday lunch series kicks off (RSVP req.)

  • Thursday 12:30pm: "Citizen and Professional Media in Italy" with Luca De Biase:

Introduction to Civic Media

Realtime Community Signage Source Code

One of the underlying themes of a few projects here at the Center for Civic Media is the idea that we can increase awareness and engagement in local communities by bringing already-centralized public information to people when and where they need it. As part of this goal we've created a relatively cheap digital electronic signage platform, primarily to showcase realtime transit and community calendar information. I want to share some of the technical details behind our current solution - scrolling LED signs controlled by a re-purposed router running simple software on top of TomatoUSB.

Our goal was to test our some ideas quickly, so the code is definitely under construction. If you’re interested, read and/or fork our code on GitHub:

Sasha Costanza-Chock on move to MIT: "It's the most exciting possible place"

Sasha Costanza-ChockSasha Costanza-Chock is joining the faculty of the Comparative Media Studies program at MIT as Assistant Professor of Civic Media, and is one of the three principal investigators (along with Ethan Zuckerman and Mitchel Resnick) of the Center for Civic Media. He caught up with his new colleague Ethan Zuckerman to talk about his background and his plans at MIT.

"I'm a scholar and activist as well as a media maker," explains Costanza-Chock. "My scholarship has been based on engagement with the world of media activism and civic media more broadly." In his work at MIT, Costanza-Chock plans to continue straddling the line between action and reflection, building tools and systems to help communities express themselves and reflecting on the role of media in social movements.

This Week in Civic Media: MyDotTour highlights youth leadership in Dorchester

From the Center

My Dot Tour

  • @ReganStP: My Dot Tour kicks off today in Fields Corner - add your voice! @deptofplay @civicMIT @DotNews @DorchesterNews
  • Dorchester walking tour strengthening youth leadership skills


Hero Reports

  • Cronicas de Heroes moving toward bi-national rollout, creating hero reports along the U.S.-Mexican border
  • "Heroes in Juarez: Citizens Challenge a City’s Reputation"
  • @ernestopriego: Sobre Juárez, Hero Reports y @civicMIT: #vocesmx #SinLugar

Digital Signage in Union Square, Somerville

Data Therapy Workshop Followup

As part of our Data Therapy project, we just ran two workshops to help build capacity within small community organizations to understand and creatively present their data. We were able to accommodate about 25 people in our training space, and hope to help more of those that were on the waitlist in the future. These workshops were run in collaboration with the Regional Center for Healthy Communities, whose training needs assessment has spurred these workshops and where I've run them for the last few years. This blog post includes some follow-up information for attendees to those workshops, but may be interesting for other people too!

For those of you that did attend, here are some references for the tools and ideas that we talked about.

Join us as a community partner

The MIT Center for Civic Media designs tailored civic media tools and jointly develops them with communities like yours. We want to showcase the possibilities for community-wide empowerment, so we are looking to partner with activists and non-profit organizations in the U.S. and around the world.

What you get
As a community partner, you will receive free open-source resources and technical support to address your most pressing civic media issues, whether it’s how to highlight local business, ways to engage kids in local issues, or even something seemingly too daunting for mere technology. You can be an early adopter of tools to support and foster local civic media and community action.

Voices from Hyperpublic: 12 short video interviews with participants of the symposium.

Some weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the Hyperpublic symposium hosted by the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, and assumed the challenge, together with other interns at the Youth and Media (YAM) Lab, of documenting the event with different media such as photographs, videos, mind maps, and tweets. The symposium helped us to understand in a more complex way, how privacy and public space are being re-designed in our digital networked society. The diversity of voices and points of view demonstrated that the rapid changes we are experimenting as society are better understood when we create a dialogue between different disciplines and bring together different perspectives. It is precisely that variety of points of view what we tried to capture when we were documenting the symposium.


This Week in Civic Media: New Name, Funds, Leader, and Site

New Name, New Funds, New Leader, New Site

  • A kick in the future. @c4fcm is now @civicMIT, reflecting our new moniker
  • @knightfdn announces new round of funding for us: $3.76m over three years
  • Ethan Zuckerman to lead MIT Center for Civic Media @ethanz #civicmedia
  • #Civicmedia rule number 1: It's all about the Zuckermans.
  • Quietly, sneaking into your life as you think about the #civicmedia conference and #NewsChallenge, is our new site

MIT-Knight Civic Media Conference