Intro to Civic Media | MIT Center for Civic Media

Improving Document Processing in Leaking Websites

I am examining document processing in leaking websites for my Intro to Civic Media project. Document processing is a particularly important step because it helps determine both the safety and the effectiveness of a leak. Unfortunately, it is also the most difficult step as it requires going through thousands or millions of documents to read, redact, validate, and/or analyze them. It also has the most variation as different organizations might follow different sub-steps or have different goals. Some release the documents without any processing while others might redact and validate the documents and then write articles to frame them.

Second Video- All About Election Maps!

The second video of Maps for Mankind. This time, it's about the election. Enjoy!

Intro to Civic Media Week 7: Civic Mapping Recap

This blog post was written with Luis Capelo.

Our Introduction to Civic Media class this week focused on civic maps and heard 4 civic mappers speak about their projects.


The class first began with Luis Capelo talking about ICCM and Becky talking about the Center for Civic Media and Data Center’s Civic Maps Toolkit.

Luis told us about the International Crisis Mappers Conference in Washington DC, which probably one of the most popular conferences about crisis mapping that government workers, practitioners and researchers attend. One of the most useful things Luis got out of the conference was the question of how useful maps are w/r/t crisis and humanitarian response. He found that it was interesting that the community had reached the level of maturity to be asking these questions, because these questions weren't being asked a few years ago. Additional information can be found at Crisis Mappers.

Police State Sandy

One of the few times soldiers can march in the streets in the US without causing panic is during a natural disaster. After Sandy, the military was providing aid (which is a good thing) but I was still slightly chilled by the images of soldiers marching in the streets of New York and the news that the Navy deployed three warships to help with aid. And wouldn't providing aid be a great pretense to deploy troops to major cities before launching a coup and/or devolving into a police state? I made a NewsJack of CNN's home page from Wednesday to reflect on this situation. All photos are taken from real Sandy coverage.

Marketplace storytelling

My final project for Intro to Civic Media is about storytelling in the capitalist marketplace. I am focusing on the production and reception of stories of origin printed on commercial product packages: brief narratives produced by copy writers and packaging designers working toward an institutional goal to sell products. These texts interest me both as information sources that can be fact-checked and as literary productions that reflect in their language and form the structures and values of the marketplace. For Intro to Civic Media, I'm working on two elements of the project: a website for collecting and publishing marketplace stories of origin and a written study of two examples.

Marketplace stories of origin website screenshot

I started work on the website earlier this month and am testing it now. Goals for the website are:

The Rise of Leaking Websites

We often use the terms 'leaking' and 'whistleblowing' synonymously but their functions are quite different in practice. Whistleblowing is reporting a wrongdoing of some sort with the hope that it will be rectified. Leaking refers to the release of documents, nowadays often in large quantities, in the name of transparency (with whistleblowing potentiallly in mind for the future).

Question Campaign: A Case Study

In my last post, I decided that for my final Civic Media project, I would write a case study about the 21 Days Question Campaign on Domestic Violence recently launched by the City of Cambridge. The purpose of this case-study is two-fold: 1) to demonstrate how a question campaign can effectively engage diverse community members around a single cause and 2) to understand why this sort of campaign is especially useful in creating public awareness around and fighting domestic violence.

Below is an outline the case study will follow:

Civindex: the Italian connection

Great news for the Civindex project. Right after I wrote here about the idea of creating an index to measure personal activist participation on the internet, I received an interesting message on the comments section: “Hi Andre, I came across this interesting post. I found this idea intriguing. I am also conducting some research on similar topics. Why don't we have a chat on this?”

It turned out to be a message from Stefano de Paoli, an Italian researcher from the <ahref Foundation and University of Trento, who studies the interactions between technology and society. One of Stefano’s colleagues Luca de Biase (chairman of Fondazione ahref) visited the MIT last year, and they are implementing the Civic Media concepts in Italy.

After some difficulty in finding a common time for this chat, we ended up talking, earlier this week, and decided to work together on the project.

Resources for Civic Mapping: Toolkits and How-Tos

Some toolkits and how-tos for the CivicMaps Toolkit research file.

Title: Envisioning Development toolkits
Description: A set of 3 toolkits developed by the Center for Urban Pedagogy in NYC: Affordable Housing, Zoning, and Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (last two are in progress). All 3 relate to specific NYC policies. Affordable Housing toolkit includes a guidebook ("first-ever illustrated compendium of NYC affordable housing programs", freely downloadable or puchaseable in book form), a felt chart for comparing and explaining affordable housing policies (purchaseable?), and an online map showing income demographics and rents in NYC.
External link:
Location: New York, NY 40.7142° N, 74.0064° W
Name of organization: Center for Urban Pedagogy
Category: toolkit and downloadable pdf guidebook
Tags: community organizing, policy, advocacy, analog