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

Recent news from the Center for Civic Media

Alfredo Corchado in conversation with Ethan Zuckerman Live Blog

This is a liveblog of the talk between Alfredo Corchado and Ethan Zuckerman. Blogged by Luis Natera, with illustrations by @willowbl00.

Alfredo Corchado is a Mexican-American Journalist. He is the Mexico Bureau Chief of the Dallas Morning News and author of the book, “Midnight in Mexico.” Ethan Zuckerman introduces Alfredo as one of the leading journalists today trying to explain what’s going on in Mexico.

Alfredo, borned in Mexico and raised in the US, went back to Mexico in 2003 as part of the Dallas Morning News with the idea of continuing to cover the relations between Mexico and the US, but he quickly ran into the violence and was forced to deal with and report the issue.

Civic media functions inside the public sphere model

Civic media functions inside the public sphere model

How does each kind of civic media project work in relation with the public sphere? How can we understand the relationship between civic media projects and the public sphere? I would like to address these questions by classifying the civic media functions inside the public sphere model. It’s true that there are some different understandings about this concept and its operationalization, but for this post I am just going to use a basic model inspired by the Habermas’ concept.

Yo! Your Honor! Carl Malamud's Fight to make Public Law Public

Live notes from a lunch talk by Carl Malamud, co-hosted by the MIT Center for Civic Media and the Laboratory for Social Machines. Notes by Rahul Bhargava, Erhardt Graeff, Yu Wang, Chelsea Barabas, and Ed Platt

Ethan introduces Carl as a ferocious public domain advocate with a long history with the internet. He led an election campaign for non-elected office (public printer of the United States). He is working on making existing government docs online and machine readable form. Today he will speak about Yo, Your Honor, which focuses on PACER—a system that provides access to critical government documents for a price.

He started by doing a lot of workshops around the idea of, coming up with a set of principles about how the laws should be available in the United States. But nothing concrete really came from this effort.Carl mentions his history with the Media Lab; he was here years ago writing a book. His non-profit's goal is to make all public governmental documents, aka the “raw materials of democracy,” free to access. Carl wants to make the laws available to the people, because in the US the people own the law (unlike other countries). The law has no copyright here.

In 2007–2008, Carl started publishing all the building codes in the country, because these are law in all the states. No one sent him takedown notices, even though they are copyrighted documents published by standards organizations (501c3s). They keep copyright for these documents even though they want to make them into the law. When Carl started posting the safety regulations, and he got sued.

The National Fire Protection Association argues they should be the only ones allowed to publish the code because it is their only revenue stream and if they can't sustain then… babies will die. But he argues that they are the law, thus they should be public. This case is currently in litigation (he is being defended by the EFF).

At this same time, he started looking at the PACER system. This includes all arguments the lawyers make and all relevant briefs and other documents involved in public cases. If you want access to these documents, you pay 10 cents a page for every single page. That makes research expensive. There are close to 1 billion documents in the system.

He had the idea to have lots of people download documents from PACER and share them for free, which he thought of as “recycling the public domain.”


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