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

Recent news from the Center for Civic Media

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.

Lara Baladi: Vox Populi, Archiving a Revolution in the Digital Age

Lara Baladi introduces us to her project "Archiving a Revolution", which documents the story of the Tahrir Squre protests. Developing over several years, Baladi has transformed her visual archive into a several projects, including an art installation.

Baladi introduces her project, "Archiving a Revolution," as crossing disciplinary boundaries. It comes at a poignant time, as the Egyptian revolution begins to be erased. Baladi is a visual artist by trade, and she spends a lot of time curating visual archives as part of her projects though  working across disciplines and mediums in her projects. Tahrir square and the revolution is a project that is very close to Baladi's heart, having herself taken part in the protest and seen the power of the grassroots videos that were shared. 

When the church says recycle, you recycle

Lebanon has been suffering a garbage crisis for the past nine months, and people are living within piles of garbage - literally - and the ruling elite does not seem that enthusiastic to resolve the situation. The problem reflects the lack of infrastructure in the country and the crippling of local decision making where executive decisions need to pass by a parliament that is more interested in economic gain for its members than the public good. The bright side is that this crisis has created pockets of unprecedented civil society movements that are not dependent on hegemonic powers of political leaders. These initiatives have short life spans due to the lack of experience in undertaking such projects without an obvious leader, but they are interesting indications of a learning process that has to happen in order to reach a sovereign everyday life, a true meaning of citizenship. The following example stands out because it's an interesting utilization of existing ideologies, official municipal mediators, locality, a desire for change and a keen knowledge of the population.

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