Intro to Civic Media | MIT Center for Civic Media

Five Resources for Civic Mapping

Title: KoBoMap
Featured Image:
Description: KoBoMap is part of the KoBo Toolbox, a set of open-source tools for data collection and analysis currently under development at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative. Probably the greatest thing about KoBo is that it has the limited internet connectivity in mind in all its products, adding offline syncing capabilities to all of them. In essence, you can collect, analyze, sync and map your data without having access to the internet.
External Link:
Location: Cambridge, MA (42.373939,-71.122624)
Name of Organization: KoBo Toolbox currently developed at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative
Category: Toolkit (containing mobile apps, software and online platforms)
Tags: research, data collection, survey, offline capabilities

"The Tanning of America": Entrepreneurship and Hip-Hop

My researching and brainstorming of my final project has taken me into an informal investigation of the nature of commerce and of racial inclusiveness in hip-hop culture. I have recently been looking at two books, “Beyond Resistance”!, ( an anthology of different urban youth development and civic engagement projects, edited by Shawn Ginwright, Pedro Noguera, and Julio Cammarota, and “The Tanning of America” (, which is a consumer brand marketer’s account of how hip hop has reached such a broad mainstream audience and is a powerful commercial and branding tool.

Link spamming during the 2008 South Korean beef protests

I’ve narrowed down the focus of my semester-long project. In my first post, I talked about looking at different commenting systems and the role they play in spreading information. I’ve decided to narrow down my focus to link spamming — links to sites that incite civic action placed in comments of content that isn’t intended to incite civic action.

One of the most substantial examples of this was the 2008 U.S. beef protests in South Korea. when South Koreans stopped banning the import of beef from the United States. Many South Koreans opposed the lifting of the ban, saying that U.S. beef wasn’t safe from the bacteria that causes Mad Cow disease. It even escalated to the point where the President’s entire cabinet submitted resignation letters.

How much are you worth to Google?

Last Intro to Civic Media class, we discussed the value of our cultural labor that we do for free and we created models to calculate that value. After all, there is a whole industry and field of research centered on how to make the most money possible by selling everything about a website's users, even those who are only consuming content. I soon realized that it would be impossible to calculate the value of all my cultural labor because there are far too many considerations to include across too many companies. Thus, my group decided to focus on our value to one company, Google.

Model of Facebook Net Worth

Last week, our group attempted to create an equation detailing the net worth of a single Facebook account. We imagined a situation in which Mark Zuckerberg decided to dis-invest all of Facebook's net worth to each user, based on the net worth of their respective profiles. The question and scenario are both fairly straightforward, but the solution is not so much. There are many factors and variables to take into account, especially a social networking site as complex as Facebook. I wanted to create an index that would assign various "points" to a profile for having certain features. These features included having a large list of Friends, the fraction of the day spent on Facebook, number of comments, likes, and posts on the user's profile, among others. I had originally wanted for each profile to have a certain numerical index (which theoretically should have no limit). To determine the "slice" of the Facebook pie earned, one would simply divide a profile's index by the combined index values of all other profiles existing.

Final Project Revisited: 21 Days Cambridge

I have decided to change my final project topic once more. While I am excited by both the history of civic media in Boston's Chinatown and James Rojas' participatory planning workshops, I am now going to focus my final project around the 21 Days Question Campaign Against Domestic Violence in Cambridge.  The City of Cambridge approached the organization Engage the Power (EtP) to help design a campaign against domestic violence.  EtP helps communities set political agendas by designing "question campaigns."  Engage the Power believes in the power of the question to hold decision-makers accountable, as well as to help facilitate knowledge exchange and collective action.  The organization was founded by MIT DUSP Professor Ceasar McDowell.  

Four Tools for Civic Mapping

Last weekend (Oct. 11 through 14) was filled with enormous amounts of maps and data at the International Conference of Crisis Mappers (ICCM). Every year the conference gathers enthusiasts, professionals, geeks and wonks from everywhere to discuss humanitarian (information) technology to its best. New ideas were proposed, demos shown, a simulation took place, and a hackaton coded its way away. In a beautiful way, ICCM this year was an spectacular meeting overflowing with passion, creativity and hard work. 

Recap of Intro to Civic Media, Week 6: Free Cultural Labor

This post was co-written with the help of Loki. Thanks to the rest of the class for helping us keep good notes!

We start off this week's class with a quick recap of our blog posts from the previous class, discussing our various models of social change. Joanna describes her Magic School Bus-inspired story, tying it back into her project proposal of analyzing different commenting systems. She and Sasha discussed different domain areas of online commenting as civic media, such as systematic commenting and linkspamming. The model of change described in the story involves a chain of linked tweets and a YouTube comment cascading into a greater petition. The wider debate underlying the story, of course, involves clicktivism—do things like mass emails and online petitions really make a difference? Sasha says that there are hierarchies of value and weighting systems that determine when an elected official will actually pay attention to a particular issue.

When the Levee Breaks: Developing a Model of Social Change

From political economy to Marxist theory, theories of globalization to the propaganda model, our readings from last week were rather dense, to say the least. While delving into the literature is certainly important (it was one of my original goals for the class), it's also important to keep in mind what is sometimes referred to as the "translational" work of research and academia. Here in CMS.360, we are fans of using highly elaborate visual metaphors to do this. In last week's task, we were tasked with developing a model of social change. In top form, Loki, Aviva, and I came up with the following diagram to illustrate how ideas proliferate through society, gain traction, and ultimately instigate social change:

Building Change, One Map at a Time*


As I mentioned in an earlier post, we not only have immeasurable amounts of information available about the human experience in the planet, but are generating much more than we can possibly digest. The suggestive term “digital exhaust” is a common description of that phenomenon in today’s academic literature.