Intro to Civic Media | MIT Center for Civic Media


This past March, 3,500 students walked out of Boston Public Schools (BPS) in a well organized action to protest a proposed $50 million budget cut to BPS which would result in the closure of schools, layoff of teachers, and diminished services in extracurricular spaces, AP classes and support for special-needs students. Young organizers began to mobilize weeks prior, beginning when a group of students reached out to the youth-led Boston Area Youth Organizing Project. In an interview published last week in The Nation, young organizers from the movement expressed pleasant surprise with the number of youth who participated, articulated the process of organizing the walkout as well as the disastrous effects such budget cuts would have on the lives of young people throughout Boston and made sophisticated links between budget policies and institutional racism.

Educating for Democracy

Despite spending the last few years of my work in conversations around creative community engagement and participatory projects, the idea of “civic education” still conjured images of my high school government teacher, a white-haired man with a love of golf who teased me for being the lone liberal in a sea of farmers more than he taught me about government. It was a surprise then when my colleagues at the Harvard Ed. School (HGSE) pushed me toward civic education conversations like those convened by the Civic and Moral Education Initiative; it was an even bigger surprise when I began to find resonances in the new civics dialogue unfolding at HGSE and the conversations I’ve entered through the Introduction to Civic Media course.

Of Nodes and Knots

In our Introduction to Civic Media class this week we were fortunate to be joined by Eric Kluitenberg who, amongst much else, has recently authored an enlightening essay, “Affect Space: Witnessing the Movement(s) of the Square”. In our class discussion, Eric helped draw out several of the most prominent themes and emphases of his essay and one, in particular, struck a chord with me.

Applying Decoding Models to Privacy Issues

How do we find the hegemonic viewpoint surrounding mass surveillance in America? President Obama introduces the issue in a speech: "At the dawn of our Republic, a small, secret surveillance committee borne out of the “The Sons of Liberty” was established in Boston. And the group’s members included Paul Revere." The mentioning of Paul Revere is important. He appeals to legitimacy by immediately framing the issue in a historic context, and associating with it a prominent heroic figure of American history. He continues tacitly justifying the current situation, and takes note of "potential for abuse," but then takes a particularly enlightening turn, relaying that "here is an inevitable bias not only within the intelligence community, but among all of us who are responsible for national security, to collect more information about the world, not less. So in the absence of institutional requirements for regular debate -- and oversight that is public, as well as private or classified -- the danger of government overreach becomes more acute.

2016: Year of the Tactical Takedown?

The present presidential election is a spectacle, in the truest sense of the word, like few before. Just as FDR's weekly radio addresses and JFK's success in the first televised presidential debate watermark the adoption and cooption of a particular communication medium for political ends, so the 2016 campaign may go down in history as marking a seismic shift in the landscape of political uses of media. The candidate leading the charge, this time round, is unquestionably Donald Trump, currently the frontrunner for the Republican nomination. Yet it's a little more difficult to identify precisely which medium or platform Trump has coopted. The most readily available answer seems to be 'all of the above' - although in different ways.

So, What is "Speculative Civic Media"?

This is my first post here, so hello. I’m Raafat, here at MIT for a couple of years of research at the Art, Culture and Technology program. I’m on this blog because I’m taking the "Intro to Civic Media" class this semester. Speaking from a Contemporary Art vantage point, it could be argued that defining an era by time/situation (Contemporary) rather than “formal” discourse (i.e. Modernism) is a label for a transition that has been kidnapped by an external, non-art-related factor. Art today, as a ubiquitous global product conforms more to a global market (kidnapper) than to art itself. This is not to say that art needs to be autonomous, but the expectations of it in “social impact” and “cultural influence” should be assessed based on the above-mentioned reality.

Comparisons could be drawn with contemporary revolutions that were kidnapped and/or derailed by forces that are more sustainable than “careful and slow" liberation. The Egyptian revolution was kidnapped first by the Muslim brotherhood and then by the military. The Syrian war is still oscillating between resisting a dictatorship and a fear of what might replace it given derailed temporary victories around it.

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.

Sight Unseen: Uncovering Carcinogens in Cosmetics

People go about their daily routine unaware of the risks they may encounter by using their personal "care" products, the very products meant to keep them looking and feeling healthy. This is an issue that only recently came to my attention, and through conversation I quickly realized that many others knew little to nothing about it as well. My inquiries led me to the topic for my Introduction to Civic Media final project "Sight Unseen: Uncovering Carcinogens in Cosmetics." After some initial research, I interviewed a few classmates about the topic to gauge their level of awareness. See if you can answer the questions I asked:

1. What personal care products do you use daily?
2. What ingredients are in the personal care products you use daily?
3. What do you want to know about the personal care products you use daily?

The newsworthiness of women and violence towards women

This is my modest contribution to the Introduction to Civic Media course. This is about the small scale analysis of the front page news on the women's day and violence towards women in the selected Turkish newspapers for one week. I attempt to show that the Turkish media in general does not cover the issues of women on the front page as these are not being considered having news value This situation changes mostly during the 8th of March International Women's Day. This is the only day you can see invited women at TV discussion programs. They talk about women though. They are not called to express their opinions on the other areas. The expertise is largely left to men.

This small study shows that how the issues of women are mentioned briefly and ignored in the following days after the Women’s Day immediately in the press. Even though at least one in five women is subjected to violence, this does not take sufficient attention on the front page.

Project on women's activism in Uzbekistan. Where to start?

As I was thinking about an introduction to my project on women’s activism in Uzbekistan, I figured that placing it in a historical perspective would be an appropriate first step. For this research I have used the materials from the following books: “The New Woman of Uzbekistan” Islam, Modernity, and Unveiling Communism by Marianne Kamp, “Post-Soviet Women Encountering Transition” Nation Building, Economic Survival, and Civic Activism” by Kathleen Kuehnast and Carol Nechemias, and “Gender and Identity Construction” Women in Central Asia, the Caucasus and Turkey edited by Feride Acar and Gunes-Ayata.

While doing this research I saw that Uzbek history describes numerous instances of women’s activism and efforts to promote it. I see the value of these examples in that they reveal the potential on the part of women to take on active citizen roles in the social sphere despite coming from the society with long-standing patriarchal values.