natematias's blog | MIT Center for Civic Media

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.

How To Party Online

How do you party with a group of people across four continents? As a trustee of Awesome Knowledge, I'm looking for great ways to celebrate our community and congratulate our grantees. Every month or two, we give $1000 to an awesome project that spreads knowledge (learn more, and unlike most Awesome Foundations, we're a distributed group who have no shared geography. Most chapters conclude each grant cycle with a party, where a wide community is invited to celebrate as the grantee receives a big cheque or bag of money. After weeks of grant reviews and hard decisions, it's this party that often keeps the foundation Awesome.

Awesome Knowledge can't easily party in one place, so we're looking for ways to celebrate online.

Gratitude and its Dangers in Social Technologies

How do our designs change when we start emphasizing people and community and not just the things they do for us? Over the next year of my research, I'm exploring acknowledgment and gratitude, basic parts of online relationships that designers often set aside to focus on the tasks people do online.

In May of last year, Wikipedia added a "thanks" feature to its history page, enabling readers to thank contributors for helpful edits on a topic:

Thanks on Wikipedia July 28-30, 2014

Inequality Regimes and Student Experience in Online Learning: Tressie McMillan Cottom at Berkman

Today, I'm liveblogging a talk by Tressie McMillan Cottom (@tressiemcphd) at the Berkman Center for a talk about inequality in online learning, based on her qualitative research with students taking online for-profit learning.

Tressie, who's completing her PhD in the Sociology Department at Emory University, studies stratification, considering what inequality means both experientially and empirically when corporations are people, supranational corporations like Facebook and Twitter shape the public square, and education is increasingly privatized. She also has a developing research agenda that examines the political economy of emerging “new” media organizations.

As jobs with good wages decrease in availability, more people seek higher education to find jobs. Tressie does research on systemic biases in society and for-profit higher education. For-profit higher education companies know that inequality is a basic part of their business plan, and yet there's a tendency to avoid analyzing the connection between inequality and their businesses.

Emoji Karaoke at the Boston Internet Research Party

Two weeks ago, Kate Miltner, Amy Johnson and I organized the first Boston Internet Researchers Party, hosted by the Center for Civic Media, Microsoft Research, and the Berkman Center for Internet and Society.