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.
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.
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.
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.
We are excited to be pilot testing a neighborhood installation of our Lost In Boston Realtime digital signage system with partners locally in Union Square, Somerville! Our main goal with these signs is to increase awareness of and engagement in community services by showcasing transit data and a community calendar on scrolling led signs located in local businesses. We've worked with our wonderful community partners to install three signs in local Union Square businesses, and have designed an assessment plan for the summer to measure their impact.
Something that has been echoed by many of the speakers at today's Knight Civic Media Conference is the importance of considering who participates in the design of a technology. Sasha Constanza-Chock spoke about the importance of using open technologies and open data when developing tools for communities. Chris Csikszentmihalyi spoke about how those with power producing technology tend to make technologies that reinforce their power. The Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science, one of this year's grant winners, emphasized the importance of community participation and ownership in the collection of scientific data. But why is this important? Don't closed systems like Twitter or Facebook have the potential for great social good?
Designers often want to help people that they perceive as being in need -- whether those affected by natural or human-caused disasters, the economically or physically disadvantaged, or those who are on the losing end of a cultural power dynamic. However, naive attempts to "help" through simplistic techno-centric design can be at best ineffective, and at worst counter-productive.
What can designers do to better connect with the communities and individuals they wish to serve? How can design projects avoid patronizing attitudes and economic colonialization? How can a designer be effective in promoting social change while following their conscience?
This panel brings together designers who have worked in the mental health industry, international development, the prison system, and community environmental action to discuss what has worked and what hasn't, and what approaches designers can take to increase their chances of success.
Charlie DeTar (Moderator) Co-founder of Between the Bars, a blogging platform for prisoners. Fellow at the Center for Future Civic Media, and PhD student at the MIT Media Lab.
Patricia Deegan Creator of the CommonGround web application which supports shared decision making in psychopharmacology consultation. Adjunct Professor at the Dartmouth College School of Medicine and at Boston University, Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences.
Liz Barry Director of Urban Environment at Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science, a collaborative developing inexpensive and community-led means to explore environmental and social issues; Co-founder of TreeKIT, an initiative to collaboratively measure, map, and manage urban forests.
Nathan Cooke Born and raised in California, USA, Cooke works at MIT’s D-Lab documenting technologies and working with students on design projects. He has previous experience working for Frog Design in San Francisco and at Autodesk as part of their Sustainability division.
The moment we've been working towards for over 3 months has arrived: Between the Bars is back online! We have a selection of new posts from new authors, as well as old posts from long time authors. As we continue to receive permission from the writers to republish their posts, we'll bring more of the classics online.
We've been thrilled with the response we've gotten since announcing the restart of service - we'll have our work cut out for us keeping up with the influx of mail. Monday we will be sending our first printouts back to the authors in prison, so now is a great time to leave some comments. Since we have made some changes to the site, there's a chance that there'll be new bugs - don't hesitate to bug us if you encounter any unexpected behavior.
We'd like to send a very big thank you to all the supporters who have kept us going over the past few months, and look forward to setting ourselves up for the long haul as we continue to grow and evolve.