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

Recent news from the Center for Civic Media

From User to Citizen - Erhardt Graeff at TICTec 2016

This is a live-blog of Erhardt Graeff's talk at the TICTeC 2016 conference. Any errors or omissions are the fault of the author, Rahul Bhargava, due to trying to type as quickly as Erhardt speaks!

Erhardt is evaluating online learning engagement as civic learning. He works a lot on case-studies for civic impact - to inform how we design these tools. Instead of focusing on specific problems, he is interested in growth of individuals to be able to effectively participate in democracy.

Educating for Democracy

Despite spending the last few years of my work in conversations around creative community engagement and participatory projects, the idea of “civic education” still conjured images of my high school government teacher, a white-haired man with a love of golf who teased me for being the lone liberal in a sea of farmers more than he taught me about government. It was a surprise then when my colleagues at the Harvard Ed. School (HGSE) pushed me toward civic education conversations like those convened by the Civic and Moral Education Initiative; it was an even bigger surprise when I began to find resonances in the new civics dialogue unfolding at HGSE and the conversations I’ve entered through the Introduction to Civic Media course.

Of Nodes and Knots

In our Introduction to Civic Media class this week we were fortunate to be joined by Eric Kluitenberg who, amongst much else, has recently authored an enlightening essay, “Affect Space: Witnessing the Movement(s) of the Square”. In our class discussion, Eric helped draw out several of the most prominent themes and emphases of his essay and one, in particular, struck a chord with me.

Surveillance in the Telegraph Era

This week in class we discussed how the telegraph started shaping communication after it was invented. My final project is about domestic surveillance, so I thought it would be interesting to look at what type of surveillance got dreamed up when we had just the telegraph.

Nowadays we are subject to PRISM, a surveillance program that allows agencies to query stored communication at various technology companies that match court-approved search terms. Back when we had the telegraph there was a similar program called Project SHAMROCK. The project involved accumulating all telegraphic signals that enter or exit the United States. This data got printed and passed down to law enforcement agencies, who sifted through it all to find evidence. It can be thought of as a physical manifestation of database querying we use nowadays to match search terms, except that comparison breaks down because the SHAMROCK investigators get to see a bunch of other communications in the search for information on an open investigation. By the 60's they did actually have an electronic system for searching for keywords.


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