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

Recent news from the Center for Civic Media

We're totally PDF'd: Open state-level datasets still fail to inspire

(Edited to add Max Ogden's recommendation of ScraperWiki to help deal with PDF datasets.)


Courtesy of a recommendation by John Wonderlich at the Sunlight Foundation, here's a faceted browser/catalog of state- and other-level datasets to explore:

And while the tool itself is indespensible, it highlights the bane of our data-loving existence: tons of state-level data have been posted to sites only as PDFs.

Want to know how the Alabama liquor control board has been spending its money? You'll have to read through forty-five 20+ page PDF'd spreadsheets:

Change Happens Everywhere; Activists Need to Think it Through

Cross-posted with PBS IdeaLab.

I attended last Thursday's afternoon plenary "Civic Media Mobilization," at the 2011 Knight Civic Media conference, expecting to hear discussion about specific activist technologies and techniques. I was also anticipating some juicy political friction between the Tea Party consultant and the immigrant law community organizer who were speaking at the event. Neither prediction came to pass.

Instead I witnessed a far more situation-based analysis of what incentivizes action that concluded with a simple, summarizing message: The only thing technology can do is amplify a movement; to instigate actual change you need people on the ground.


This Week in Civic Media: New Name, Funds, Leader, and Site

New Name, New Funds, New Leader, New Site

  • A kick in the future. @c4fcm is now @civicMIT, reflecting our new moniker
  • @knightfdn announces new round of funding for us: $3.76m over three years
  • Ethan Zuckerman to lead MIT Center for Civic Media @ethanz #civicmedia
  • #Civicmedia rule number 1: It's all about the Zuckermans.
  • Quietly, sneaking into your life as you think about the #civicmedia conference and #NewsChallenge, is our new site

MIT-Knight Civic Media Conference

Knight Foundation's assessment of the Center for [Future] Civic Media

Coinciding with the announcement of its new $3.76 million investment in the MIT Center for Civic Media, Knight Foundation has published its assessment -- carried out by the Berkman Center's John Palfrey -- of the Center's first four years:

Sameboat Rollout

Rick Borovoy, Susan (our new UROP), and I had a productive two days in Wisconsin Rapids last week rolling out the first phase of Sameboat. In partnership with the Community Foundation of Greater South Wood County (CFGSWC), a Knight Foundation two time Community Information Challenge grantee, we’re piloting solutions to correct the difficulty clients have in accessing timely and accurate information about relevant social services available in their communities.

The Phase 1 deployment grew out of feedback Rick and I received during our visit to the area earlier in the year when we met with service recipients at several area non-profits:

  • North Central Community Action Program - Family Resource Center
  • Mid-State Technical College
  • St. John’s Episcopal Church - Neighborhood Table
  • St. John’s Episcopal Church - Personal Essentials Pantry
  • Wood County Health Department’s Women Infant and Children’s Program
  • Wood County Human Services
  • Wisconsin Rapids Job Center

The take-aways from the focus group visits were clear. Information needed to:


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