Recent news from the Center for Civic Media | MIT Center for Civic Media

Recent news from the Center for Civic Media

Let the Vojo workshops begin!

On Friday, Becky Hurwitz, Paolo Rogerio, and I had the opportunity to conduct mobile media-making workshops with two community based organizations (CBOs) that form part of Boston's large and vibrant Brazilian community. The first workshop was with staff from the Brazilian Immigrant Center (here's their new Vojo group), and the second was with about 20 members of the Vida Verde Co-Op (here's the Vida Verde Vojo group). It was an exciting moment, since these were the first real workshops to use the VoJo hosted mobile blogging platform in a community setting. This post provides a little bit of background about VoJo, then reflects on the two workshops and the lessons learned.

tl;dr: is live! F2F workshops rock. People <3 mobile blogging via voice calls and MMS. Group creation and customization works nicely; new users are easily able to post and create accounts directly from phones. But: we need printed how-to materials; in big f2f workshops, we need to demo each feature before switching to hands-on; changing your username is still fairly difficult; calling in stories needs simpler UX; we have to make SMS broadcast to groups work.

A Summer with Vozmob



This summer I have been working with IDEPSCA, The Institute of Popular Education of Southern California, through an internship provided by the Center for Civic Media. As stated in their name, IDEPSCA is an organization that works under the premise of popular education. Popular Education is a practice and approach perhaps most widely associated with pedagogue Paulo Freire and his influential work Pedagogy of the Oppressed. IDEPSCA works in three major domains: Human Rights and Immigrants’ Rights, Education and Youth, and Economic Development.

Responses to discriminatory immigration and biased policing

The recent Supreme Court ruling on SB1070 and ongoing campaigns to raise awareness around biased policing codified at national, state, and local levels have led to some similar communication tech projects. I’ve been talking to people involved in various campaigns about their work and the tech projects they’ve developed. In this post, I’m summarizing some of these conversations.

SCOTUS upholds SB1070’s “Papers please” provision
In late June, the Supreme Court announced its decision on 4 provisions of Arizona’s state bill 1070 establishing new state policies around immigration enforcement. SCOTUS was deciding on whether these provisions overstepped the rights of a state as the federal government is meant to be the institution with the right to create and enforce immigration laws nationwide.

Michigan Ballot Initiative Could Be Decided By...the Width of a Dime?

Type Gauge showing 14 point type

As a type geek, I find this Michigan court battle inspiring. As a citizen, it's uglier than Comic Sans:

At issue is whether a summary of the question, used on a petition to gather signatures to get the question on the ballot, was written in a type size specified by state law: 14-point boldface. The typeface used on the petition was 14-point Calibri produced by Microsoft Corp.'s Word software, but a dispute has arisen over whether the font renders the type at the full 14-point size.

The difference in size, as pointed out to the Michigan Supreme court, is the width of a dime.

You're More Powerful as a Customer than as a Citizen (and that's bad)

If you're an early adopter, you likely sign up for a wide range of new products and services. A number of these startups inevitably fold, and then you receive their closing-shop emails. The correspondence making up this genre tends to be fairly upbeat and concise, painting over what are surely far more lurid tales of unrealized dreams and blown investments. The email I received announcing the demise of Moxy Vote broke with this pattern and offered an unusually candid, clear explanation of how and why they failed. And their failure points to a strategic problem today's would-be social changemakers face.


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