Past Events | MIT Center for Civic Media

Craig Watkins: "The Digital Edge: Exploring the Digital Practices of Black and Latino Youth"

Thursday, April 12, 2012 -
5:00pm to 7:00pm

MIT Media Lab, E14, 6th floor "Silverman Skyline Room"

A Civic Media Session and Comparative Media Studies Colloquium

S. Craig Watkins studies young people's social and digital media behaviors. He teaches at the University of Texas, Austin, in the departments of Radio-Television-Film, Sociology, and the Center for African and African American Studies. Craig is also a Faculty Fellow for the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement. He received his PhD from the University of Michigan.

He is the author of three books, including The Young and the Digital: What the Migration to Social Network Sites, Games, and Anytime, Anywhere Media Means for Our Future. He is a member of the MacArthur Foundation's research network on Connected Learning.

Among other things his work in the network will include leading a team of researchers in an ethnographic study of teens and their participation in diverse digital media cultures and communities.

Working with an Austin-based game studio Craig is also developing a game design workshop for young teens. The workshop will explore the connections between digital media, game authorship, literacy, and civic engagement.

Craig blogs for dmlcentral, the online presence for the Digital Media and Learning Research Hub hosted at the UC Irvine campus, and the HuffingtonPost. For updates on Craig’s research visit his website,

Civic Media Lunch: Schuyler Towne, "Lost In Space"

Thursday, April 19, 2012 -
12:00pm to 1:30pm

MIT Media Lab, E15-344

RSVP required below to get food.

Everyone has a strong physical and emotional connection to the divisions of private and public space, though few ever have the chance to explore the consequences of crossing those lines. This talk will reveal the whispered conversation societies have been having for millennia, in which we discover what defines private space and what happens to us as individuals and communities when those lines become blurred. We'll talk about security in the ancient world, revolutions both French and industrial, and the role of governments as determined attackers.

Schuyler Towne is obsessed with locks. He got his start as a competitive picker, winning the American Open and competing internationally as well. At an early point in his lock collecting he came across an old "Yale & Towne" padlock. This potential familial connection drove his interest further and he spent the next several years of his life trying to understand everything he could about locks. From how they work and why they fail, to the stories of who invented them and when and where they came into existence.

Civic Media Lunch: Andrew Slack, "The Harry Potter Alliance"

Thursday, May 3, 2012 -
12:00pm to 1:30pm

MIT Media Lab, E15-344

RSVPs now closed.

The Harry Potter Alliance (HPA) is a nonprofit that uses parallels from Harry Potter to inspire hundreds of thousands of Harry Potter fans to act as heroes in our world. They've sent five cargo planes to Haiti, donated 90,000 books across the world, and have made huge strides for advocacy in human rights and equality. Their model of fan activism is currently one of the main case studies for Civic Paths led by Henry Jenkins.

Recently, the HPA created the Imagine Better Project that is expanding on their model of fan activism: working with fans of various blockbuster books, tv shows, and movies starting with the Hunger Games. Following a New York Times article about the campaign, Lionsgate tried to shut it down, claiming intellectual property infringement and the Internet exploded. Journalists who had never heard of fan activism were reporting (and defending) it's existence, Judd Apatow started tweeting his support, endorsed the campaign and within hours Lionsgate rescinded.

This talk will look at the conflict with Lionsgate in the context of a string of other recent social media victories as well as discussing in dialogue the future of fan activism.

Andrew Slack is a writer, producer, comedian, and creator/co-founder/executive director of the Harry Potter Alliance (HPA). Praised by JK Rowling in Time Magazine and on her web site, Andrew has been featured on NPR's Morning Edition, NYT, the Chicago Tribune, Australia's Today Show, and hundreds of other publications. He has written for the LA Times, a cover story for, and several times for the Huffington Post, which in January 2010 recognized him as the "Greatest Person of the Day."

In his prior career as a comedian, Andrew performed at hundreds of colleges, produced three videos that have been seen more than eleven million times, and wrote comedy for the owners of the Red Sox, the bassist for Aerosmith, and William Shatner. Trained at an acting conservatory in London, Andrew has taught theater/creative writing workshops in both the US and Northern Ireland. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Brandeis University, Andrew is dedicated to the building of a movement that harnesses the energy of popular culture, modern myth, and social media to transform our lives both personally and collectively.

Civic Media Session: "Effective Citizenship in a Connected Society"

Thursday, May 3, 2012 -
5:00pm to 7:00pm

MIT Media Lab, 3rd Floor Atrium

In this age of streaming data and 24/7 connectivity, the options for civic engagement are many. But what does it really mean to be an effective citizen? Is there an app?

To find out, join us as the Center for Civic Media hosts Tom Steinberg, founder of, a UK-based consultancy that's become one of the innovators in helping individuals participate in civic life and demand accountability from their government.

Tom joins Center director Ethan Zuckerman for a conversation about tools and techniques to encourage civic engagement in a connected society.

Civic Media Lunch: Frank Hebbert, "Everyone Has a Plan"

Thursday, May 10, 2012 -
12:00pm to 1:30pm

MIT Center for Civic Media

RSVP now closed.

How do we empower citizens as equal partners in urban planning with data and analytical tools? If new tech can enable planners, tool makers and community groups to create meaningful change, how do we get there? Some ideas and examples from OpenPlans' recent work, and beyond.

Frank Hebbert works at OpenPlans, building tools to help citizens and government come together for better city planning. He thinks we can make great places and beat climate change with the winning combo of planning, tech and public participation. Frank attended DUSP at MIT. Find him at @fkh.

Civic Media Lunch: Vinay Bhargava, "Citizens Fighting Corruption: Roles and Challenges for Civic Media"

Thursday, May 17, 2012 -
12:00pm to 1:30pm

MIT Media Lab, E15-344

RSVPs are now closed.

Corruption, a universal problem, victimizes the poor bottom billion of the global population. These poor are bypassed by trickle-down growth strategies. They suffer chronic poverty. Corruption robs them of services and social safety benefits intended to alleviate their plight. Decades of efforts to reform government’s own accountability systems to control corruption have shown limited results. The new frontier is to empower citizens and communities to hold the state accountable and make it responsive to their needs.

Drawing on his world-wide experiences, Dr. Vinay Bhargava will present examples of communities fighting corruption and share ideas on the huge unfulfilled roles and challenges for civic media to make a difference in this important movement.

Bhargava is currently Chief Technical Advisor and a Board Member at an international anti-corruption NGO – the Partnership for Transparency Fund – which supports CSOs to promote citizen engagement in fighting corruption. He is a former Country Director, at the World Bank. He is an international development expert, with 30 years of experience in South Asia, East Asia, Western Africa, Eastern Europe and Middle East.

He is also a visiting professor at the Hiroshima and Kobe Universities in Japan delivering courses and seminars in foreign aid effectiveness.

His published works include books and papers on: “Combating Corruption in the Philippines”; “Challenging Corruption in Asia”; “Stimulating Demand for Good Governance: An Agenda for Enhancing the Role of the World Bank”; “Global Issues for Global Citizens”; and “Making a Difference in Difficult Governance Environments”. He has contributed to the Many Faces of Corruption, a book published by the World Bank.

Hacks/Hackers Meetup: Data Therapy

Wednesday, May 30, 2012 - 6:00pm

Got data? Tired of using the same old bar charts to tell your story? You need some Data Therapy!

Join MIT Media Lab researcher Rahul Bhargava for a workshop on making creative and compelling presentations of data. We will cover: a process for picking appropriate data presentation techniques; real-world examples of various creative techniques; online tools to help you while designing your presentation; "group therapy" time to brainstorm about your specific needs.

Register Now

More about Hacks/Hackers:

The worlds of hackers and journalists are coming together as reporting goes digital and Internet companies become media empires.

Journalists call themselves "hacks," someone who can churn out words in any situation. Hackers use the digital equivalent of duct tape to whip out code. Hacker-journalists try and bridge the two worlds.

This group is to bring all these people together -- those who are working to help people make sense of their world. It's for hackers exploring technologies to filter and visualize information, and for journalists who use technology to find and tell stories. In the age of information overload, all their work has become even more crucial.

This group aims to help members find inspiration and think in new directions, bringing together potential collaborators for projects and new ventures.

2012 MIT-Knight Civic Media Conference

Sunday, June 17, 2012 - 4:00pm to Tuesday, June 19, 2012 - 4:00pm

The Center is once again hosting the the MIT-Knight Civic Media Conference, with this year's theme being "The Story and the Algorithm".

While space limits attendance to invitation-only*, we're providing a live stream of each session, liveblogging, and immediate archiving/availability of both the video and blogged record. So even if you can't be here in person, you can participate.

Here's the full info...

On June 17-19, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and MIT's Center for Civic Media will host the 2012 MIT-Knight Civic Media Conference: "The Story and the Algorithm". The conference is the leading gathering of media innovators shaping the future of news and information, and winners of the first Knight News Challenge of 2012, on networks, will be announced during the conference.

The MIT Center for Civic Media was the Knight News Challenge's first large grant recipient, allowing the Center to partner with Knight Foundation in its core mission to foster informed and engaged communities.

Data, shared by governments, corporations, researchers, and increasingly by the public, is changing the ways we report and share news. We are developing new techniques to navigate this data and transform it into visualizations and insights that reveal unexpected truths about our society. But data alone isn't always enough to make complex issues understandable. As data proliferates, the ability to present a clear story becomes even more crucial. The future of news lies at the intersection of the story and the algorithm—the place where new data meets compelling narratives.

This year's MIT-Knight Civic Media Conference will explore the intersection between data and narrative, algorithms and stories. Speakers and panelists will discuss new ways to tell stories based on data, examine new platforms for reporting and sharing news; and discuss the limits of exclusive focus on either narrative or data alone in complex situations. Attendees will have many opportunities to participate, including a storytelling event where you will be invited to share your own unexpected discovery.

* We're dead-serious about the invitation-only restriction. MIT has very, very strict rules about room capacity, so if you weren't invited and/or didn't register, you'll be turned away.

Carroll Bogert, "Look Who's Talking: Non-Profit Newsmakers in the New Media Age"

Monday, September 10, 2012 -
5:00pm to 7:00pm

MIT Media Lab, Building E14, Third-Floor Atrium

Twitter: #MLTalks

Changes in the media world have been hard on journalists and unsettling for news consumers, but they have also had significant implications for international non-governmental organizations. At Human Rights Watch, the research and advocacy organization based in New York, foreign correspondents have always been an important partner in exposing human rights abuses, and the decline in international news in the mainstream media threatens the basic human rights methodology of "naming and shaming." But the changing media landscape also constitutes an important opportunity to reach new audiences, interact with the public more directly, and disseminate information quickly and effectively. Carroll Bogert, the Deputy Executive Director for External Relations at Human Rights Watch and a former foreign correspondent for Newsweek magazine, will discuss how Human Rights Watch is filling the gaps in foreign news reporting and becoming a media producer in its own right.

Carroll Bogert is deputy executive director for external relations at Human Rights Watch. She oversees the organization's external relations and works with the executive director on advocacy and fundraising. Bogert previously served as Human Rights Watch's communications director, publicizing the organization's work and drawing attention to human rights issues in more than 90 countries worldwide. Before joining Human Rights Watch, she spent more than a decade in international news reporting for Newsweek, beginning as a stringer in China, then moving to the Southeast Asia bureau as correspondent, becoming bureau chief in Moscow, and finally working as an editor and international correspondent in the magazine's New York office. Bogert holds an MA in East Asian studies and a BA magna cum laude from Harvard University. She speaks Russian, French, and Mandarin.