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

Recent news from the Center for Civic Media

The Handbook for Citizen Journalists: Catching the Journalistic Attitude

You don't have to hang around MIT long to find out that the concept of learn-by-doing is alive and well.

One tangible example is the UROP program (Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program), started in 1969 by the late Prof. Margaret MacVicar, MIT's first dean of undergraduate education, who acted on a suggestion by Dr. Edwin H. Land, inventor of instant photography (Polaroid), who believed every student should have a faculty mentor, doing research projects at the knee of the master, as he once described it.

Dr. Seymour Papert of the Media Lab furthered the philosophy, taking the theory of constructivism he learned when he studied under Jean Piaget and extending it to the theory of constructionism, by which the learner creates tangible forms (language, tools, toys) to explore and better understand ideas, then shares what is learned with others.

Civic or community journalism is a manifestation of constructionism where practitioners learn by doing and share their explorations.

The Future of Civic Engagement in a Broadband-Enabled World

From The Future of Civic Engagement in a Broadband-Enabled World, a symposium hosted by the MIT Center for Future Civic Media in cooperation with the Federal Communications Commission's Broadband Initiative (


Keynote address by Eugene Huang, Director of Government Performance and Civic Engagement for the FCC's National Broadband Plan.

Bike maps: Triumph of corporate solutions over grassroots?

Today, Google Maps is rolling out bicycle directions:

There are a number of existing bike map providers, many of which have grown through community-provided, crowd-sourced data. One could argue that these projects have struggled to garner sufficient participation to really take off:

Now, all at once, Google is offering bike maps in 150 cities with relatively comprehensive routes. As the Wired article states, "No longer do [bikers] have to rely upon paper maps or open-source DIY map hacking...."

Cliff Stoll guesses wrong, and Pew study on online news shows how

Okay, enough people have (re)berated poor Clifford Stoll, whose 1995 essay The Internet? Bah! Hype alert: Why cyberspace isn't, and will never be, nirvana resurfaced and, yes, is still so curmudgeony that it makes Dennis the Menace's Mr. Wilson sound like Pangloss. To wit:

What the Internet hucksters won't tell you is that the Internet is one big ocean of unedited data, without any pretense of completeness. Lacking editors, reviewers or critics, the Internet has become a wasteland of unfiltered data. You don't know what to ignore and what's worth reading. Logged onto the World Wide Web, I hunt for the date of the Battle of Trafalgar. Hundreds of files show up, and it takes 15 minutes to unravel them--one's a biography written by an eighth grader, the second is a computer game that doesn't work and the third is an image of a London monument. None answers my question, and my search is periodically interrupted by messages like, "Too many connections, try again later."

"Zonie Report" calling it quits, for now

(Update: Adam Klawonn responds below. Post has been updated with his noted correction.)

The Zonie Report, a project by Adam Klawonn, has decided to shut its virtual doors, for now. Klawonn writes:

I learned some hard lessons in my idealistic crusade to bring better, more innovative journalism to the expectant masses. I’m leaving a lot out, but I’d like to share of them with you now and hear more about your own observations. Feel free to share.

First, the Internet audience is incredibly fickle, so the expectant Zonie Report masses weren’t there. (It turns out there were only about 8,000 of them in a state of 6 million-plus residents.)

Second, the way we consume media online does not lend itself to a deep-reading format, so short stories and truncated video (from car accidents to Britney Spears sightings to bar fights in Scottsdale) proliferate. This says something about the format, about us and about news outlets in general.


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