Recent news from the Center for Civic Media

Recent news from the Center for Civic Media

America's Interested Bystander: New Research from Google on Civic Duty

This is a liveblog of the talk "Understanding America's Interested Bystander: A Complicated Relationship with Civic Duty," by Kate Krontiris, John Webb, Charlotte Krontiris, and Chris Chapman. Blogged by @natematias and @erhardt, with illustrations by @willowbl00.

What motivates everyday people in America to do things that are civic, and how do we engage the unengaged? Kate Krontiris and John Webb shared the results of a major study carried out by Google's Civic Innovation team today at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

[note: we were asked not to include any photos of the event, which was not recorded, but we were allowed to publish these notes]

Kate Krontiris is a researcher, strategist, and facilitator working to transform civic life in America. In pursuit of a society where more people assert greater ownership over the decisions that govern their lives, she uses ethnographic tools to design products, policies, and services that enable a more equitable democratic future. Charlotte Krontiris is a principal at KN research, and who has conducted research at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, the Harvard Business School, and Google. John Webb is a senior user experience researcher at Google who conducts tactical and investigative research to inform design and product direction for Google's Social Impact team with a particular focus on developing Civic Engagement experiences.

Kate begins by outlining the social impact and civic innovation group at Google. They include the civic innovation team, which organizes election data and making it universally accessible and to broaden collective decision-making.

  • leverage Google's technology for the common good
  • Organize election data and make it universally accessible and useful
  • Broaden engagement in collective decision-making

What motivates ordinary Americans to do things that are civic? Kate and her colleagues concede they are not the only ones researching this subject. A lot of this falls under the question of "How do we engage the unengaged?" and then to support details of platform design at Google including their Google Now cards, as well as support a broader civic technology ecosystem. They hoped that by conducting and sharing this research they could contribute to informing the broader set of tools being developed. We conducted quantitative and qualitative research to try answer these questions. 

Jad Melki: Developing an Arab Digital and Media Literacy

This is a liveblog of the talk "Developing an Organic Arab Digital and Media Literacy, Pedagogy, and Theory" by Jad Melki on March 23, 2015 at Emerson College, sponsored by the Engagement Lab.


Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change faculty member Jad Melki speaks at the inaugural MDLAB in Lebanon (source)

Emerson professor Paul Mihailidis introduces Jad Melki as director of the media studies program at American University of Beirut and founder of the Media and Digital Literacy Academy of Beirut (MDLAB).

This talk serves two purposes according to Jad: an overview of how digital media is being used in the Arab region and the work that MDLAB is doing in response to that. He highlights one prominent example of the need for media literacy being ISIS's successful online media campaigns, recruiting supporters from around the world by selling a particular vision.

MDLAB was founded in 2006/2007 following the war between Israel and Lebanon. There were some interesting uses of media that coincided with this conflict, but little media literacy among the residents of the region. Media education programs were not teaching critical thinking skills or developing relevant digital media skills—no one was being prepared to be an activist or a professional. 

Promise Tracker launches civic monitoring campaigns across Brazil

After a year of collaborative development with partners in Brazil, our newest tool, Promise Tracker, will officially launch in São Paulo this week on March 24th. Over the past 6 days, we ran 5 workshops in 4 different cities throughout the country to introduce the tool to civil society organizations and get some initial feedback. These workshops were the first in a series over the next 2 months that will introduce Promise Tracker to groups across the country that make up the Brazilian Network for Just and Sustainable Cities.

We were overwhelmed by the excitement and energy with which the project was received and by the desire of partner groups to leverage Promise Tracker and civic monitoring initiatives to engage a wider network of actors within their respective cities.

Anti-Oppressive Design: From Theory to Praxis: Jill Dimond at CivicMIT

This post was liveblogged by J. Nathan Matias, Ethan Zuckerman, Erhardt Graeff, Lilia Kilburn, with illustrations by Willow Brugh

Jill Dimond lives in Ann Arbor Michigan, and hails from rural Western Michigan. The logo for her company, Sassafras, evokes the shape of the state of Michigan. After a degree at the university of Michigan, she moved into industry, working on the App Inventor project, and then completed her PhD at Georgia Tech in Human Centric Design in 2012. Most recently, Jill is a worker owner at Sassafras Tech Collective, a worker owned technology cooperative based in Ann Arbor, and they focus on research and technology for social justice.

What is Civic Innovation in India?

Three of us (Sands, Alexis & Rahul) were in India in mid January to lead a week long workshop for Indian undergraduates about Civic Innovation. Students and alumni from the MIT Media Lab have organized large Design Innovation workshops in India for the last few years, focused on a bottom-up approach to changing how engineering education happens in India. There are certainly exceptions, but Indian education is typically very traditional, and there aren't many opportunities for sharing ideas and approaches across disciplines.

Our goal was to work with the 30 participants in our track and explore a few questions:

  • What does "civic innovation" mean in India?
  • Can we help these students apply their skills to problems that matter?
  • Do our methods and approaches for doing civic work apply in India?

Field Trips

To explore what civic innovation means in India, and to provide some inputs into our design process, we took a few field trips around Ahmedabad.

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