google | MIT Center for Civic Media

America's Interested Bystander: New Research from Google on Civic Duty

This is a liveblog of the talk "Understanding America's Interested Bystander: A Complicated Relationship with Civic Duty," by Kate Krontiris, John Webb, Charlotte Krontiris, and Chris Chapman. Blogged by @natematias and @erhardt, with illustrations by @willowbl00.

What motivates everyday people in America to do things that are civic, and how do we engage the unengaged? Kate Krontiris and John Webb shared the results of a major study carried out by Google's Civic Innovation team today at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

[note: we were asked not to include any photos of the event, which was not recorded, but we were allowed to publish these notes]

Kate Krontiris is a researcher, strategist, and facilitator working to transform civic life in America. In pursuit of a society where more people assert greater ownership over the decisions that govern their lives, she uses ethnographic tools to design products, policies, and services that enable a more equitable democratic future. Charlotte Krontiris is a principal at KN research, and who has conducted research at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, the Harvard Business School, and Google. John Webb is a senior user experience researcher at Google who conducts tactical and investigative research to inform design and product direction for Google's Social Impact team with a particular focus on developing Civic Engagement experiences.

Kate begins by outlining the social impact and civic innovation group at Google. They include the civic innovation team, which organizes election data and making it universally accessible and to broaden collective decision-making.

  • leverage Google's technology for the common good
  • Organize election data and make it universally accessible and useful
  • Broaden engagement in collective decision-making

What motivates ordinary Americans to do things that are civic? Kate and her colleagues concede they are not the only ones researching this subject. A lot of this falls under the question of "How do we engage the unengaged?" and then to support details of platform design at Google including their Google Now cards, as well as support a broader civic technology ecosystem. They hoped that by conducting and sharing this research they could contribute to informing the broader set of tools being developed. We conducted quantitative and qualitative research to try answer these questions. 

How to Identify Gender in Datasets at Large Scales, Ethically and Responsibly

A practical guide to methods and ethics of gender identification

For the past three years, I've been using methods to identify gender in large datasets to support research, design, and data journalism, supported by the Knight Foundation, with an amazing group of collaborators. In my Master's thesis, used these techniques to support inclusion of women in citizen journalism, the news, and collective aciton online. Last February, I was invited to give a talk about my work at the MIT Symposium on Gender and Technology, hosted by the MIT Program in Women's and Gender Studies. I have finally written the first part of the talk, a practical guide to methods and ethics of gender identification approaches.

How much are you worth to Google?

Last Intro to Civic Media class, we discussed the value of our cultural labor that we do for free and we created models to calculate that value. After all, there is a whole industry and field of research centered on how to make the most money possible by selling everything about a website's users, even those who are only consuming content. I soon realized that it would be impossible to calculate the value of all my cultural labor because there are far too many considerations to include across too many companies. Thus, my group decided to focus on our value to one company, Google.

Citizen Media: Early Intelligence

When Ashoka’s Changemakers launched Citizen Media: A Global Innovation Competition with Google a few weeks back, we were intentionally broad in our instructions – and were correspondingly unsure about how entrant would respond. “What do we mean by [citizen media]?” we wrote. “Well, we’re waiting for you to tell us.”

Now, they’ve begun to tell us. As of today, we’ve received 116 entries from 38 countries. And we’ve just announced the two winners of our early entry prize -- $500 apiece, plus mentoring from Google staffers. Those early winners may be a barometer for what we’ll end up with when the competition closes Sept. 14 – and indeed, they may signal something about the future of citizen media.

The Changemakers/Google competition is a quest for new solutions that dramatically improve media access and participative citizenship around the world. We’re hoping to identify many, many new innovators whose work will advance the way people get, share, and use information. Among other things, we’re looking for innovations that:

#GoogleCN News Roundup

Editor’s note: I’ve cross posted this entry on the Difficult Problems in Cyberlaw blog.

Today Google announced that they will slowly withdraw their search functionality from a censored China, or in their words:

We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down, and potentially our offices in China.

I’ve decided to amass together a collection of the most relevant and interesting points of view and facts coming out of today’s news.