Civic media | MIT Center for Civic Media

Building the NGO Tech Network in China

On March 22 and 23, 2013, NGO2.0, Google Developers Community Guangzhou, the School of Software of Sun Yat-sen University, and TechSoup Global held the first Nonprofit Hackathon in Guangzhou. About 30 Chinese software developers and 10 NGOs participated in this two-day event. At the end, four teams came up with three web applications and one mobile app. A collection of pictures taken during the event can be found at our Netease album.

How to make phone services fast and easy to design

Screen Shot 2013-04-08 at 12.34.52 PM

We've reached the alpha stage of the design interface of Call to Action, a platform that will allow community groups to design and host phone-based services. I wrote last year about why enabling community groups and individuals to design these services is important, and about the New Day New Standard project that inspired us to build Call to Action.

Right now Call to Action is a front-end design tool that allows you to visualize a voice tree via a drag and drop interface. I'd love you all to play around with it and tell us how we can improve it.

81 Ways Humanitarian Aid has Become Participatory

Update: I've since posted my full thesis and a short summary of it.

My Media Lab Master's thesis argues that information and communication technologies, and particularly the web, have expanded the range of ways the public can help in times of crisis, even (or especially) if we're nowhere near said crisis. Or, to be more formal about it, participatory aid is mutual, peer-to-peer aid mediated or powered by information and communication technology. We're building a platform to help coordinate participatory aid projects, but first, I wanted to share some examples.

Blogging the Mormon Story, One Mormon at a Time

Mormon Church at 65 Binney St in Cambridge, Mass.

Boston-area Mormons have developed a local blogging scene that builds community between both parishioners and their non-Mormon friends. For a faith that’s accustomed to defending against stereotypes, a blog post is a chance to tell one’s own truth.

Amy Beth Harrison of Cambridge, Mass. published a post titled “Media Attention Misses the Heart of Mormonism” in February of 2012:

You don’t have to agree with us about what we believe. You don’t have to think we are Christian. You can find our practices odd or strange or have issues about our history. Please, though, understand how precious the LDS Church is to the heart of a believer.

5 Ways You Can Give Attention As Aid

When we really care about a community in crisis, there's a lot more we can do than give money to a formal aid organization. In fact, the range of activities we CAN do to help, even remotely, is much greater and richer than it has ever been before.

For my Media Lab Master's thesis, I'm looking at all of the new ways people can help each other in times of crisis (mutual aid), and how information & communication technology (the internet) has amplified this peer aid.

Ethan Zuckerman's DML Keynote: Beyond “The Crisis in Civics”

Liveblogging Ethan Zuckerman’s Keynote at the Digital Media Learning conference in Chicago

Ethan Zuckerman is Director of the Center for Civic Media at MIT Media Lab. He has been a member of MacArthur’s Youth and Participatory Politics network. Before that, he was a Fellow at the Berkman Center, and has a long history of thinking about technology’s role in civic and political engagement.

Food Rescue - how can tech help?

This is the first in a series of posts about how technology can help food rescue and food security.  I am collaborating with community groups in Somerville, MA; trying to extend and enhance existing food rescue programs.  Read the second post, about our design workshop, here.

Food waste is a huge problem in the US – with millions of tons wasted per year and scores left hungry around the nation. Members of the Somerville Coalition for Food Security approached me to help work on this problem here in my town; wondering how technology could help them expand their exiting food recovery programs. As a first step, I did a bunch of research into who is using technology to help with food rescue, and how. This post summarizes that research.

Bringing a Nation's Archives Online

(a Civic lunch liveblogged with Nathan Matias and Rahul Bhargava)

Today, we're hearing from the National Archives and Records Adminisration about the archives they maintain, how they're making those archives available online at, and approaches to sharing the archives to broader audiences.

Pamela Wright is the Chief Innovation Officer at the National Archives and Records Administration. Bill Mayer is the Executive for Research Services at NARA. Michael Moore is the Access Coordinator for Research Services East (right here in Waltham, MA).

Codesign, inclusion, and the hackathon: Codesign Studio 2013 is underway

Course poster, made by Denise.
[poster designed by Denise Cheng]

The Spring 2013 Codesign Studio is underway. Inspired by the profusion of hackathons, the frame of this semester’s course is to collaboratively design an inclusive pop-up event with our community partners. We meet weekly and both enrolled students and our partners participate in each class meeting. See our syllabus and growing resource list here:

Our goals are: