natematias's blog

Civic Values in Technology Design: Read Along With Me!

When people in society come together to collectively perform a task -- from cleaning up a park to organizing around a cause-- the benefits of their cooperation extend far beyond the specific task at hand. People get to know each other, build bonds of trust, argue their understanding of a situation, and often form long-lasting partnerships, organizations, and communities for learning and action. Within cooperative technologies, these civic and community values are not easily computable. As a result, it is easy to pass over these values in favor of improving the performance of a task, increasing the number of petition signatures, or measuring the immediate outcomes of a social action. A core theme of my work at MIT has been to imagine how new kinds of measures more aligned with civic values, community, and social justice might transform our technology designs and our social interactions online. 

Using Randomized Trials in Policy: Oliver Hauser on the UK Behavioural Insights Team

How can policymakers conduct randomized trials and incorporate them into their policymaking? Over the summer, Oliver Hauser, a PhD student at Harvard, worked at the Behavioural Insights Team in London (@B_I_Tweets), sometimes called the "nudge unit." Yesterday at the Cooperation Working Group that I co-facilitate with Brian Keegan, Oliver shared with us the work that the nudge unit has done before opening up the conversation for discussion.

At Harvard, Oliver works with the Harvard Business School and at the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics at Harvard. He is also author of a recent Nature article: "Cooperating With the Future." Oliver's research focuses on cooperation and pro-sociality, and he often works with organizations using randomized experiments and using the term "Behavioural insight," when he uses research from behavioral sciences applies it in the world.

Supporting Change from Outside Systems with Design and Data: Stuart Geiger on Successor Systems

Are social computing and data science just tools for the powerful, or can they be used to question power and reshape the structures that influence us? It's a question I've been wondering as I've watched civic tech & academic communities idolize the employees and "alums" of big corporations and governments-- partly because of the resources they have, and partly because it seems like these companies are the sole gatekeepers of social experiments and large-scale interventions to influence society.

Gratitude, Credit, and Exchange Online: Flickr Selling CC Images Is About More than The Money

Last week, Yahoo! announced that Flickr would start selling prints of Creative Commons licensed photos, and that they would only pay some of the photographers. Some commentators, like Jeffrey Zeldman, see it as a breach of good will. Mike Masnick at Techdirt argues that this is a victory for open licensing, which "is about giving up control so that other people can benefit." Ben Werdmuller, co-founder of Indieweb social platform Known, argues that users don't understand the license, and that we need to give creators more clear controls.

Researching Love and Thanks on Wikipedia: CrowdCamp Hackathon Report

"Change favors the prepared," Louis Pasteur once famously noted in a lecture on the nature of scientific observation. The best academic events create moments of highly likely inspiration, and the luckiest ones bring that inspiration into action. That happened for Emily Harburg and me this weekend at CrowdCamp, a two day intensive hackathon on crowdsourcing and social computing research.

Sewage systems, Cities, and the Cultivation of Cereals: William Gibson in Conversation with Jonathan ZIttrain

Today at the First Parish Church in Cambridge, William Gibson gave a reading, in conversation with Jonathan Zittrain, director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society (where I am a fellow). The event was hosted and organized by Porter Square Books.

The Responsive City: Susan Crawford at the MIT Media Lab

Today at the Media Lab, we were joined by Susan Crawford, visiting professor at Harvard Law School and co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society. Susan's last book, Captive Audience, focused on net neutrality. Her most recent book, The Responsive City, focuses on ways that cities are using data to support governance.

(this blog post was written by Nathan Matias and Ed Platt

"The most human technology we have is the Internet," Susan tells us. It gives us the ability to talk to the people we need to, when we need to. "I'm very worried about democracy," she tells us. This past midterm election had the lowest voter turnout in 72 years. At the same time as we have all time lows in participation, citizens are worried about issues of surveillance.

9 Best Practices for Diverse Inclusion and Cooperation in Open Communities

How can open source and participatory communities like Mozilla support diverse inclusion? Here at the Community Building Track at the Mozilla Festival, an international group of organizers convened to discuss ways to cooperate effectively across gender, age, accessibility, and cultural differences. It's part of a larger initiative here at the MozillaFestival to create a community building handbook for open communities.

The session was facilitated by Beatrice Martini, Katelyn Rogers, Flore Allemandou, J. Nathan Matias, Deb Soumya, Alifiyah Ganijee, Leo McArdle, Ibrahima Sarr, and Cynthia Ng. These notes were created by me and Katelyn Rogers.

How to Identify Gender in Datasets at Large Scales, Ethically and Responsibly

A practical guide to methods and ethics of gender identification

For the past three years, I've been using methods to identify gender in large datasets to support research, design, and data journalism, supported by the Knight Foundation, with an amazing group of collaborators. In my Master's thesis, used these techniques to support inclusion of women in citizen journalism, the news, and collective aciton online. Last February, I was invited to give a talk about my work at the MIT Symposium on Gender and Technology, hosted by the MIT Program in Women's and Gender Studies. I have finally written the first part of the talk, a practical guide to methods and ethics of gender identification approaches.

Nym Rights: Protecting Identity in the Digital Age

Do you have a name? More than one? Does it matter to you who knows it? Today at the Berkman Center, we hosted a talk by aestetix, an expert on pseudonomy online. This post is a liveblog of Aestetix's talk.

After being suspended twice by Google Plus during the nymrights fiasco of 2011, Aestetix helped created NymRights, focused on empowerment and education of digital identity. He's also been involved in the US national strategy for trusted identities in cyberspace.

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