activism | MIT Center for Civic Media

Activism in the context of civic media work refers to engagement of community members, either individually or collectively, in the improvement of their local community. It can refer to political or social or environmental engagement. It can mean engagement online or actively in the actual community.<br>
The topic also includes concepts of <em>civic action, civic engagement, participation, collaboration, collective action.</em>

CRONICAS DE HEROES 1st Anniversary

CRÓNICAS DE HÉROES -an implementation in México of Hero Reports- celebrates today, DEC. 20 2011, its first anniversary.
Yesica Guera, the Director of the initiative as well as the team behind of CRÓNICAS DE HÉROES in Mexico would like to thank all of those who have supported us during the past year and would like to give a general overview of what has been accomplished and where we stand.

The team of CRÓNICAS DE HÉROES has been quite busy for the past twelve months:

Decentralized Networks for Social Movements: AMC 2015 Liveblog

This was liveblogged at the 2015 Allied Media Conference.

Allen Kwabena Frimpong, Black Lives Matter
Tammy Shapiro, Movement Netlab
Arielle Newton, Black Lives Matter

In 2011, Occupy Wall Street held huge demonstrations in New York’s Zuccotti Park and around the world. But within months, many media outlets had proclaimed that the movement had entirely disappeared. But when Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012, many of the same participants in OWS organized Occupy Sandy to pick up the slack where FEMA fell short. The connections formed by OWS and later tapped to create Occupy Sandy show how decentralized networks can used to quickly organize effective responses.

Legal Risks to Creative Innovation and Research at College: NJ Drops Its Investigation of MIT Students

Eighteen months after winning a hackathon innovation prize for a clever idea of a new online content business model, the MIT undergraduates who created Tidbit are finally free from the legal nightmare attracted by their proof of concept. Earlier this week, the New Jersey Attorney General dropped their investigation of the students, ending a case that hung over these students for a third of their undergraduate education. I'm incredbily relieved for the Tidbit undergrads, though I'm disappointed and upset that they had to face this legal challenge for so long.

In this post, I want to share what we're doing to figure out how to prevent similar problems in the future, or at least to better support other innovative student projects with legal problems. For more about the Tidbit case, you can read Jeremy Rubin's post, an update by the EFF, and a blog post by Ethan Zuckerman. I strongly suggest you read them.

Anti-Oppressive Design: From Theory to Praxis: Jill Dimond at CivicMIT

This post was liveblogged by J. Nathan Matias, Ethan Zuckerman, Erhardt Graeff, Lilia Kilburn, with illustrations by Willow Brugh

Jill Dimond lives in Ann Arbor Michigan, and hails from rural Western Michigan. The logo for her company, Sassafras, evokes the shape of the state of Michigan. After a degree at the university of Michigan, she moved into industry, working on the App Inventor project, and then completed her PhD at Georgia Tech in Human Centric Design in 2012. Most recently, Jill is a worker owner at Sassafras Tech Collective, a worker owned technology cooperative based in Ann Arbor, and they focus on research and technology for social justice.

What is Civic Innovation in India?

Three of us (Sands, Alexis & Rahul) were in India in mid January to lead a week long workshop for Indian undergraduates about Civic Innovation. Students and alumni from the MIT Media Lab have organized large Design Innovation workshops in India for the last few years, focused on a bottom-up approach to changing how engineering education happens in India. There are certainly exceptions, but Indian education is typically very traditional, and there aren't many opportunities for sharing ideas and approaches across disciplines.

Our goal was to work with the 30 participants in our track and explore a few questions:

  • What does "civic innovation" mean in India?
  • Can we help these students apply their skills to problems that matter?
  • Do our methods and approaches for doing civic work apply in India?

Field Trips

To explore what civic innovation means in India, and to provide some inputs into our design process, we took a few field trips around Ahmedabad.

Supporting Change from Outside Systems with Design and Data: Stuart Geiger on Successor Systems

Are social computing and data science just tools for the powerful, or can they be used to question power and reshape the structures that influence us? It's a question I've been wondering as I've watched civic tech & academic communities idolize the employees and "alums" of big corporations and governments-- partly because of the resources they have, and partly because it seems like these companies are the sole gatekeepers of social experiments and large-scale interventions to influence society.

“Out of the Shadows, Into the Streets: Transmedia Organizing and the Immigrant Rights Movement” - Sasha Costanza-Chock's Latest Book Release

This is a live blog from a talk given last Thursday by Sasha Costanza-Chock, Assistant Professor of Civic Media in the Comparative Media Studies/Writing Department at MIT. It was collaboratively written by Gordon Mangum, Yu Wang, Lilia Kilburn, and Chelsea Barabas. For another great record of this talk check out EthanZ's blog post.

To open his talk, Sasha shares some of his prior experiences working as both an activist and a researcher of social movements. Previously he worked extensively with an organization called VozMob, which enables people to use cheap phones to enable people to post media. When he arrived at MIT, he took the base software developed with the VozMob project and created Vojo, a platform for sharing stories via phone or SMS.

Molly Sauter and The Coming Swarm: A Fireside Chat

On October 29, 2014, The Berkman Center hosted Civic Media alum Molly Sauter in a "fireside chat" with Nieman Fellow Laurie Penny about Molly's new book The Coming Swarm: DDOS, Hactivism, and Civil Disobedience on the Internet. This is a liveblog of that conversation (not a transcript), co-written with Dalia Othman and Kendra Albert.

The Coming Swarm book cover

Laurie: Can you tell us please what is a DDOS?

Molly: How many people have younger siblings, and you may have gone to Disneyland? I have a little brother, and when we were going to Disney wherever, he would be like "Hey Molly! Hey Molly! Hey Molly!” repeatedly. Now, imagine your younger sibling is a server saying that to you over and over and over again. That’s a DDOS. Pinging a targeted server a bunch of times until it falls done. An activist DDOS is doing this with whitehouse.gov as the target. And there was a time when that was a reasonable action: on 4pm on a Wednesday, you would coordinate and start refreshing the page on whitehouse.gov and crashing it with your friends.

Laurie: I didn’t realize that this is something that has a long history, it spans long before wikileaks and Anonymous’s DDOS attacks then, it goes back to the WTO Battle for Seattle.

Molly: DDOS has been around at least since the early 1990s. For example, Quebec redphoning: calling the same political switchboard. Flood your congressman with more mail than they can read. Those are types of DDOS.

The Strano Network Net Strike was the first example back in 1995(?) that Molly found. Italian group attacking a French nuclear company. Electronic Disturbance Theater (that were involved with the zapatistas) and Electrohippies were both American groups who did activist DDOS in the 1990s

Laurie: Can you break that down a little bit, can you talk more about attention getting versus direct action?

Molly: Attention getting activism is a good way of describing the paradigm of activist intervention that we see contemporarily. Through press coverage of the intervention, you gain the attention you need to put it on the political agenda. Direct action is instead about working on the issue you want to make change on. Spiking trees to stop logging, or sending out your own ships to drive off whales from whaling ships in environmental activism and Electrohippies stopping the WTO from emailing itself.

Laurie: Protest is when I say I don’t like a thing, resistance is when I stop that thing from happening. So where does DDOS fall?

Molly: It really can be on either side of the spectrum. It depends on what your goals are. It's so easy with DDOS, where activists will direct the press toward an issue or target by DDOSing them. It's easier to do an attention-getting DDOS now than ever before - but much more difficult for you and your friends to take down servers on your own, because of advances in web infrastructure.

Laurie: Can we talk about Operation Payback linked to Anonymous? Especially for journalists in the room, that was a big deal, I remember that I did trying to learn the background.

Molly: Operation Payback was in the late fall / early winter of 2010. Everyone remembers Cablegate and Wikileaks in this room, right? The US government got upset over the cables publication and asked financial institutions to stop enabling funding of Wikileaks.

Anonymous was already, confusingly enough, involved in an action called "Operation Payback" targeting the MPAA and RIAA. They expanded their target pool to VISA, MasterCard, a Swedish banking site, and several congress member's sites. This lasted for a about a week, also under the name "Operation Avenge Assange." 

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