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

Recent news from the Center for Civic Media

Promise Tracker launches civic monitoring campaigns across Brazil

After a year of collaborative development with partners in Brazil, our newest tool, Promise Tracker, will officially launch in São Paulo this week on March 24th. Over the past 6 days, we ran 5 workshops in 4 different cities throughout the country to introduce the tool to civil society organizations and get some initial feedback. These workshops were the first in a series over the next 2 months that will introduce Promise Tracker to groups across the country that make up the Brazilian Network for Just and Sustainable Cities.

We were overwhelmed by the excitement and energy with which the project was received and by the desire of partner groups to leverage Promise Tracker and civic monitoring initiatives to engage a wider network of actors within their respective cities.

Anti-Oppressive Design: From Theory to Praxis: Jill Dimond at CivicMIT

This post was liveblogged by J. Nathan Matias, Ethan Zuckerman, Erhardt Graeff, Lilia Kilburn, with illustrations by Willow Brugh

Jill Dimond lives in Ann Arbor Michigan, and hails from rural Western Michigan. The logo for her company, Sassafras, evokes the shape of the state of Michigan. After a degree at the university of Michigan, she moved into industry, working on the App Inventor project, and then completed her PhD at Georgia Tech in Human Centric Design in 2012. Most recently, Jill is a worker owner at Sassafras Tech Collective, a worker owned technology cooperative based in Ann Arbor, and they focus on research and technology for social justice.

What is Civic Innovation in India?

Three of us (Sands, Alexis & Rahul) were in India in mid January to lead a week long workshop for Indian undergraduates about Civic Innovation. Students and alumni from the MIT Media Lab have organized large Design Innovation workshops in India for the last few years, focused on a bottom-up approach to changing how engineering education happens in India. There are certainly exceptions, but Indian education is typically very traditional, and there aren't many opportunities for sharing ideas and approaches across disciplines.

Our goal was to work with the 30 participants in our track and explore a few questions:

  • What does "civic innovation" mean in India?
  • Can we help these students apply their skills to problems that matter?
  • Do our methods and approaches for doing civic work apply in India?

Field Trips

To explore what civic innovation means in India, and to provide some inputs into our design process, we took a few field trips around Ahmedabad.

"It's scary when we can do this out of love and there's nothing you can threaten us with"

Cross-posted from

What’s a “holy shit visualization”?

It’s a way of looking at data that makes turns a statistic you might have flipped past in a book or skimmed by on a web page into something that you can’t forget. It’s a visceral reminder of the power of images and the power of looking at dry numbers in human terms.

For Mike Evans, the map below was a holy shit visualization. Properties in yellow are in tax distress. Those in orange are under tax foreclosure. Those in red have been foreclosed.

In 2014, 50% of properties in the city of Detroit were in danger of foreclosure, being foreclosed, or owned by the city. That’s a frightening statistic. But seeing what it looks like on the map makes the scale of the problem more visceral.

Visualizing Impact: Data Driven Journalism in Palestine

This is a liveblog of a talk by Ramzi Jaber entitled Visualizing Impact: Data Driven Journalism in Palestine at MIT on February 27, 2015. It was blogged by Erhardt Graeff and Dalia Othman.



Ramzi Jaber is the co-founder and co-director of Visualizing Palestine, an initiative to amplify civil society actors working in Palestine through powerful and shareable design work. It is the first project of a larger effort called Visualizing Impact, an interdisciplinary nonprofit.

Ramzi begins by showing a data visualization of politician’s salaries across the Arab world and Africa. It was inspired by Lebanese politicians salary, where politicians still earn their salary after their deaths. In the case of Norway and Hungary the politician earns more than the citizen, but still stares the citizen in the face. Lebanon and Jordan at about 15 times and Palestine at 24 times and Kenya at 97 times are far from the average citizen. 

Visualizing Impact is about "visual stories for social justice." Ramzi mentions the issue of administrative detention—an archaic law, a vestige of British colonialism—that is still being used and exploited to put thousands in jail. It has been used by Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan. One detainee, Khader Adnan, had enough and started a hunger strike. A campaign started on Twitter to support Adnan with the hashtag #dying2live. It wasn’t until day 50 that the first media outlet (Al Jazeera) reported on Khader Adnan's hunger strike, then other outlets followed around the world. Eventually at day 66 Khader Adnan ended his hunger strike and was soon released. 


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