government | MIT Center for Civic Media

Government in the context of civic media work is any form of civil authority at any level from local to national and international. It can refer to entities that are elected or appointed. The term also includes the processes involved in government: deliberation, voting, election campaigns, and making policy.

Boston Civic Media Conference: Institutions Panel

This is a liveblog account created by Christina Wilson, Becky Michelson, Alex Eby and Jedd Cohen at the Boston Civic Media Metrics & Methods Conference.

(Crossposted to the Engagement Lab blog)

A New Crowd for Old Problems: How You Can Start Impact Investing Locally

Earlier this week I gave a talk at Stanford's Center for Philanthropy and Civil Society, publishers of the Stanford Social Innovation Review, on civic crowdfunding. I was excited to share how my research into crowd-based community finance has evolved, and how Neighborly's launch this summer will make impact investing a local reality for the first time in the US. Here's the talk.

Andrew Keen: The Internet is Not the Answer

Live notes from a lunch talk by Andrew Keen. Notes by Ed Platt and Ali Hashmi.

Ethan introduces Andrew as a former silicon valley entrepreneur, then historian. He’s since focused on understanding the culture of silicon valley.

Andrew set out to write about the history of the Internet. Although the book is called “The Internet is Not the Answer,” he thinks it needs to be the answer. In the book, he concludes that so far the Internet is not the ‘answer’ and that the digital revolution is not doing what it expected it to do. He suggests that “The Internet” can’t be described as a single entity. Rather he sees the beginning of a “Networked Age.” Since at least 1995, it’s been common to hear that “it’s too early” to make conclusions about the Internet. He argues that we can.

A new way to invest in communities

For the past couple of years I've been thinking about how to bring the energy, potential and ambition of donation/reward crowdfunding to community development and civic engagement. I was lucky to be an early employee of Spacehive, one of the first movers in the space, I put together the first study of the field (with the help of Ethan and others at MIT), and I got to watch as the idea of civic crowdfunding caught the attention of the media, researchers, and finally, heads of state. I got to watch some incredible people make change for their neighborhoods and their communities.

Unpacking open data: power, politics and the influence of infrastructures

Liveblog of a #Berkman lunch written with Erhardt Graeff.

Tim Davies (@timdavies) is a social researcher with interests in civic participation and civic technologies. He has spent the last five years focussing on the development of the open government data landscape around the world, from his MSc work at the Oxford Internet Institute on Data and Democracy, the first major study of, through to leading a 12-country study on the Emerging Impacts of Open Data in Developing Countries for the World Wide Web Foundation.

A broad coalition of companies, governments, and other entities have come together to open data. This work is based on the belief that opening data creates myriad benefits to society, for transparency, for economic value, and other benefits.

Does open data reconfigure power relationships in the political space? The past, promise, and reality of open data reminds wide.

Citizens Rising - Liveblog

Live notes from the Citizens Rising event at MIT on Friday, Sept 19, 2014.


Daniel Miller opens. Next, Daniel Wong speaks. He worked as a designer in 2009. Bad news about the economy and the government weighed on him. His sister introduced him to Lessig's work and he got involved with Rootstrikers, attended meetings, led meetings. But then he got a new job, and activism fell by the wayside, until he came across an article on Gilens's work suggesting that the US government operates as an oligarchy. He introduces Martin Gilens.

Martin Gilens

Gilens opens by showing us "the most unsettling line in American politics." He continues to explain that the near-horizontal slope of the line is the significant part. It represents the probability of a policy to be adopted as a function of how popular it is with the American people. The most popular policies are virtually no more likely than the least popular. His results suggest that the views of Americans have very little influence on US policy.

HOPE X: Themes and Reflections

Image by Willow Brugh.

Over the weekend, I attended HOPE X, the 10th Hackers on Planet Earth conference, organized by 2600 Magazine. HOPE is my favorite hacker conference, and a strong contender for my favorite conference overall, because although content is tech-heavy, it's not really about technology. HOPE is a conference by and for those interested in the hacker ethos of free information, understanding the world, and empowerment to fix what is broken— including keynote speakers Edward Snowden and Daniel Ellsberg. So HOPE is a great place to think about the intersection of technology, journalism, and activism. Throughout the conference, I noticed several recurring themes.

Code Is Not Enough

HOPE X: Hacking Money

Liveblogged at HOPE X.

Finn Brunton

Begins by saying money is something that you can, and should, hack on. He speculates that the theme of the next century will be "infrastructural struggles for autonomy." Infrastructural: low level standards, licenses, etc. rather than wars. Autonomy: self-government, decentralization, etc. He sees money as one of the primary theaters where this will happen.

What is money? A puzzle. Cowry shell fossils from the Indian Ocean were found in West Africa. How did they get there? They were traded as money. They were an integral part of the West African slave trade. You can't use them for anything with them once you have them, except for use them as jewelry. But jewelry is a high bandwidth signal of social status, used to cement social bonds. We can think of it like a page rank. They represent power, power that can be traded.

The Knights Hospitaller in Malta were granted the right to mint money. They funded military operations by minting coins that could later be redeemed for silver when the fighting was done.

HOPE X: Ask the EFF - This Year On the Internet

Liveblogged at HOPE X. The speakers have cautioned that this talk is not legal advice.

Nate Cardozo, Attorney
Kurt Opsahl, Attorney
Adi Kamdar, Activist
Peter Eckersley, Technology Projects Director
Eva Galperin, Global Policy Analyst

It's been a busy year at the EFF. They've been focusing a lot on the national security space over the last year.

Kurt Opsahl works on NSA cases. Jewel v. NSA has been going on since 2008, related to AT&T's involvement with NSA wiretapping. First Unitarian v. NSA is focused on the right of association, and your right to anonymity in who you associate with. Just earlier this week, the EFF and ACLU joined Smith v. Obama. Kurt also works on a case arguing that National Security Letters are unconstitutional and is defending the decision against appeal.

HOPE X: Bless the Cops, and Keep Them Far Away From Us

Livebglogged at HOPE X.

Alex Muentz

Hackers are in the media, but not well understood. Why do hackers expose problems and break things? Hackers are consumer protectors, like Ralph Nader, or Upton Sinclair. Hackers are presented as folk heroes, folk devils, plain criminals, and/or national security threats. The State is using the moral panic over hacking to show force and require new powers.

Most criminals don't get caught. The hackers who are doing public-facing consumer protection are easy targets for prosecution, and receive more.

18 USC 1030/CFAA Bans unauthorized or 'excess of authorized' access to a 'protected computer.' Obtaining information, causing damage, furthering fraud, or procuring others to do so. Results in criminal and civil penalties. The law has no First Amendment or self defense exceptions.