Recent news from the Center for Civic Media

Recent news from the 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.

“Out of the Shadows, Into the Streets: Transmedia Organizing and the Immigrant Rights Movement” - Sasha Costanza-Chock's Latest Book Release

This is a live blog from a talk given last Thursday by Sasha Costanza-Chock, Assistant Professor of Civic Media in the Comparative Media Studies/Writing Department at MIT. It was collaboratively written by Gordon Mangum, Yu Wang, Lilia Kilburn, and Chelsea Barabas. For another great record of this talk check out EthanZ's blog post.

To open his talk, Sasha shares some of his prior experiences working as both an activist and a researcher of social movements. Previously he worked extensively with an organization called VozMob, which enables people to use cheap phones to enable people to post media. When he arrived at MIT, he took the base software developed with the VozMob project and created Vojo, a platform for sharing stories via phone or SMS.

Keeping Up and Keeping it Real: An Analysis of the Social Life of Civic Media

Talk by Eric Gordon (@ericbot) of Emerson's Engagement Lab and Rogelio Lopez (@Tochtli_exe) of USC Annenberg at the MIT Center for Civic Media.

This is a liveblog of a talk on November 6, 2014, recorded by Alexis, Ali, Adrienne, Catherine, Nathan, and Erhardt.

Keep Up and Keeping it Real: An Analysis of the Social Life of Civic Media

The context of the talk is the space of "civic tech." It's a field that has been defined by corporations and foundations. They have been seeking to put a lot of things into recognizable envelopes.

Mostly, civic tech is associated with government and government innovation. Increasingly, there’s an effort made by other organizations to use that term. Some of the narratives that pop up in civic tech are that of the smart city, entrepreneurship, and efficiency.

They were curious about how would you characterize civic tech through a metaphor in terms of the operations of your organization? "We're the NASA of non-profits." This is to say it is a scientific enterprise and also that there is a frontier out ahead. This was a very positive spin on the use of technology in nonprofit work.

When we talk about civic tech to NGOs the rhetoric isn’t as positive. “It’s a sourdough starter, you have to keep feeding it unless it dies,” or “deer in the headlights.”

Most of the time, the metaphors being used to describe the technologies of integration are filled with fear and anxiety.

“Everything keeps changing all the time,” Gordon says to express his frustration with the technology landscape. "Keeping it to the traditional, like, grassroots organizing tools of going out and having one-on-one conversations."

Themes of "Keeping up" and "keeping it real" kept coming up in their interviews. Rogelio explains that keeping up means staying current with technologies, but they wanted to focus on “keeping it real,” because many of these communities were focused on communities who worked in the grassroots activism space.

For many organizations, legitimation is based in the grassroots. The efficacy is judged based on how it affects residents. The reality is organizations are struggling with the normative maxim “keeping it real.” Eric notes that they are particularly interested in community organization and grassroot techniques.

There is a need to complicate discourse. “There is so much stuff going on in the course of using technology." 

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