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.
Submitted by Andrew on September 12, 2011 - 8:17pm
Representing 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 http://cot.ag/nc5hYn
Thursday lunch series kicks off (RSVP req.)
Thursday 12:30pm: "Citizen and Professional Media in Italy" with Luca De Biase: http://cot.ag/oNzqAi
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 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.
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?