Blogs | MIT Center for Civic Media

Black Lives Matter Activism through Blogging, Gaming, Hashtags, and Citizen Journalism

Black Lives Matter activism

This is a liveblog from the "#BlackLivesMatter: At the Intersection of Racial Politics and Digital Activism" panel at AoIR16 on October 22, 2015 in Phoenix, AZ. Any errors here are my own.

This panel features four anti-racist, feminist scholars, showcasing how we as researchers take on the role of documenting and amplifying the work that activists are doing already online. Catherine Knight Steele talks about the creation of digital black feminisim in blogging communities. Kishonna L. Gray talks about activist gaming in service to Blacks Lives Matter. Jenny Ungbha Korn talks about themes of racialized imagery in #iftheygunnedmedown on Tumblr. And Sarah Florini talks about This Week in Blackness's brand of citizen journalism around Ferguson.

When the Black Lives that Matter are Not Our Own: Social Justice and a Digital Black Feminism
Catherine Knight Steele

How are our women of color reimagining black feminism online? Black Lives Matter was started by three queer women of color. And its important to remember that even in studying marginalized communities, there are those that are even more marginalized.

Steele carefully frames this as “Digital Black Feminism,” building on literatures of black oral culture, alternative publics, black feminism in response to exclusion, and voice and democratic participation. Preserving black oral culture online is a key part of the cultural practice. Moreover, transferring offline black oral culture online represents efficiency of communication rather than perceived deficiencies.

Unfortunately, digital black feminism has also been excluded from traditional norms of black feminism. Steele studied the blogging community For Harriet, which functions as a kind of "digital barbershop," an enclave that represents a particular context of culture necessary to gain entry. 

Religious Hashtags, Memes, and Apps Online: AOIR 16 Liveblog

This weekend, I'm here at the 16th AOIR conference, blogging panels and talks, as well as talking about my research on ways that users put platforms under pressure.

As a Christian who occasionally writes about intersections between faith and technology, I was delighted to attend the AOIR session on religion and the Internet. Here are my notes.

How Can Online Platforms Prioritize Worker Interests? Steven Dawson on Worker-owned Co-ops

What does it take to create business models that put worker well-being at their center, and what can platform economies learn from that history? How can we turn a lousy job into a better one?

Every Tuesday, Brian Keegan and I are privileged to facilitate the Berkman Cooperation working group, which brings together a Boston-wide conversation among designers, advocates, social scientists, computer scientists, and economists on themes of online cooperation. This week, we welcomed Steven Dawson, a veteran leader in the U.S. co-op movement. Here are my live notes from the conversation.

Steven Dawson is the co-founder of Paraprofessional Healthcare, the largest employee-owned co-op in the U.S. Together with Steven, we had a discussion about peer production and cooperative sharing economies through the lens of the concrete histories and operations of cooperative businesses.

The Cornhole Experiment: A Workshop for Teaching Randomized Trials

In recent years, UK and US governments have increasingly turned to randomized trials to test new policies, most recently in the case of the White House executive order on behavioral science. In the meantime, economics has been undergoing what Angrist and Pischke have called a "credibility revolution," that focuses on offering causal explanations to questions. This has especially been the case in development economics, where "randomistas" have grown in prominence after an influential and controversial 2004 study on the effect of deworming on school attendance in Kenya.

Doctoral Feedback Session on Causal Inference at OSSM: Deadline Oct 19

Are you a PhD student who is doing research that uses methods of causal inference (randomized trials, natural experiments, etc) on social media and user generated data?

If so, I have good news, of a last minute addition to the AAAI Spring Symp. on Observational Studies through Social Media and Other Human-Generated Content. This workshop, which takes place at Stanford on March 21-23, is a 3-day gathering that brings together researchers across disciplines to discuss approaches and issues for causal inference research.

The organizers have kindly offered space for a doctoral feedback session for PhD students planning to do related work. This informal gathering will bring together PhD students to get feedback on their research designs and work together to improve the quality of our methods. Since so many of the speakers and attendees are experienced at using causal inference methods, it's the perfect context to share early stage work and get feedback on your research.

Building Civic Tech with Mexico City's Experts (Its Citizens)

written by Erhardt Graeff and Emilie Reiser


CC-BY-SA: Mexico City by Kasper Christensen


Mexico City is huge. Over 21 million people live in the metro area—the most populous in the Western hemisphere. Nearly 9 million people live in the federal district alone. There are pockets of immigrants from all over the world and of course the full spectrum of Mexican ethnicities. This means there are myriad interesting issues to tackle and a wide mix of voices with opinions on how best to go about it.


August 31–September 4, 2015, the MIT Center for Civic Media traveled to Mexico City for a workshop organized by the Laboratorio para la Ciudad and MIT Media Lab. Gabriella Gómez-Mont, the Laboratorio's founder and director, is a Director's Fellow at the Media Lab this year, which opened the door to collaboration.


In a few intense days, we worked with Laboratorio staff and local experts, as well as select students from nearby universities, to prototype projects worthy of Mexico City's scale and complexity. Our team focused on how to integrate new forms of citizen input into the planning and transformation of public spaces around the city using both digital and non-digital strategies. Our solution: EncuestaCDMX (

The Story Behind MIT and Boston University's New Legal Clinic for Student Innovation

Today, MIT President Rafael Reif announced an exciting collaboration between MIT and the Boston University School of Law "to assist students with a broad range of legal matters related to entrepreneurship and cyber law, from basic issues associated with the founding of startup companies to novel questions about the application of laws and regulations to students’ innovation-related activities" (here's the BU press release). The legal clinic is the culmination of years of discussions and work by student advocates, faculty, and administration to address a recurring need at MIT for robust and supportive legal help for students doing innovative work.

Land and Water : a long-term perspective

From the website:

We will explore themes of reduced access that have developed out of tensions in property-holding, leases, and contracts; forms of control exerted or facilitated by the state, by law, and by other institutions; and exclusions of class, race, and gender. We believe that history has lessons to offer about how change is introduced to society. In taking this long perspective, the conference invites proposals that look backwards in order to look forwards.
Academics will have an opportunity to be inspired by the practical questions of activists acting in the present, as activists talk about their work, their present projects, questions, and concerns. Activists, in turn, will have the opportunity to articulate large structural conceptions such as capitalism, empire, or debt in relation to access to land and water.

Citizens & City Hall Monitor Sanitation in Belem

This past week in the northern Brazilian city of Belém do Pará, we had the pleasure of commemorating the first official collaboration between a civil society group and local government to monitor city issues using Promise Tracker. During a 2-day sprint, we teamed up with the Social Observatory of Belém and City Hall's Department of Solid Waste to review some of the largest contracts for sanitation and waste removal in the city and launch a monitoring campaign to assess the performance of the company hired to provide these services.