Intro to Civic Media | MIT Center for Civic Media

Intro to Civic Media: Understanding Daily Media Practice in Immigrant Communities

October just started, and it is that time of the semester when final project proposals are due. This is the case for my Introduction to Civic Media course, taught by CMS professor Sasha Costanza-Chock, where I am interested in understanding the daily media practice of immigrant communities in Boston.

For the past few years, my research has focused on media use among immigrant communities in the United States. Specifically, I have been looking at media activism and media practice in social movements for immigrants’ rights. Inspired by one of the earliest exercises in our Intro to Civic Media course about creating a model of digital inclusion, I am interested in understanding how immigrant communities, are already using media on a day-to-day basis. My previous research in this area has confirmed that there is no single “magic tool” that immigrant youth are using when communicating and networking with others. Instead, many media practitioners in the immigrants’ rights movement use a wide variety of media at their disposal, often entire media ecologies, in order to accomplish their goals. What’s more, for older generations, traditional media is still very central.

The Role of Technology and the Media in Whistleblowing

Whistleblowing has been the subject of recent controversies due to the rise of WikiLeaks and other whistleblowing websites. These websites mark a new form of whistleblowing only possible because of the Internet and computers as well as connected media partners worldwide. However, whistleblowing has relied on technology and media for a long time. Cryptome has accepted documents online for sixteen years. Daniel Ellsberg used a copier to copy the Pentagon Papers so he could give them to the New York Times. Muckrakers relied on the printing press to spread their findings.

Updated Project Proposal

Last week, we discussed our final project proposals and received feedback from one another. Although I feel that my project proposals are much more elementary than the others, I still have some positive feedback from a few of my ideas. I've essentially narrowed it down to two ideas: the humorous educational sketches and analyzing data visualization of various networks. I really like the first idea of creating humorous, yet informative shows on Youtube, mostly because it would take form of a pilot script rather than a paper. I realize that I would also have to write about my project no matter what, but executing the former idea seems a lot more enjoyable than the latter. Thus, I have decided to choose my final project to be about creating humorous educational sketches on Youtube.

Project proposal: an analysis of current commenting systems

With the growth of social media and various forms of participatory media, the line between the traditional content generators and the content consumers is fading. As a result, conversations and comments from consumers as well as their posts on social media are starting to become considered content itself.

As media moves towards utilizing conversations and comments to provide more content and context, it’s important to think about the definition of having a “good” conversation, the motives and incentives to get people to contribute to a good conversation, and also how to get a diverse set of commenters to avoid bias.

Hero Reports/Crónicas de Héroes

Project Status: 

Hero Reports is a web based campaign of positive thinking established in New York during 2001.

Successfully wading through the social media onslaught

I am a science writer.

As such, I am one of many who claim membership in the scicomm* community, which has a vibrant internet presence. When I first decided to pursue a career in science writing, I spent a lot of time seeking out scicomm blogs, videos, Twitter feeds, etc. etc. etc. Suddenly, my daily media diet was far too rich. It's extremely difficult to keep tabs on what people are talking about, especially now that I am a full-time graduate student.

I suspect that I am not the only person who feels this way. That's why I would like to develop a discussion strainer (tentatively nicknamed 'Colander').

The application would work like this:
* You point Colander to a list on Twitter and define time parameters, e.g. the past day or week
* Colandar develops an internal word frequency list
* Colander presents (1) a list of the top 10-20 terms, (2) a graph showing the changing popularity of those terms over the given time period, and (3) any particularly popular comments on the topic

Easy as Pie: Building a Model of Digital Equality

Last week, the Intro to Civic Media class tackled the issue of digital inequality, first by looking at how the discourse around universal access has evolved over time. In the 90s, the dominant narrative was that of "the digital divide"—a binary classification that separates the haves from the have-nots. Since then, new research on the topic has helped broaden this framing into one of digital inequality, a more nuanced metric based on a number of important factors such as age, race, and socioeconomic status. As illustrated by the graphs shown in Eszter Hargittai's paper "The Digital Reproduction of Inequality" (shown below), information technologies have not successfully democratized American society; rather, they have exacerbated existing inequalities by "increasing the opportunities available to the already privileged while leading to the growing marginalization of the disadvantaged."

Digital Equality in York, Maine

Last class we discussed the crisis in journalism and digital inequality. Digital inequality is extremely important to discuss in the context of civic media because without wide access (in the broadest sense) to technology and the internet, civic media will at best provide a skewed perspective.

What does access mean? And what level of access is good enough? In class, we developed a few models of digital inclusion. In these, the most important considerations seemed to be infrastructure, technology literacy, and general climate towards digital engagement. These factors are broad and include many other concerns, each with its own degrees of inclusion. Still, they capture the general picture.

Digital (In)equality in the 52246

For Intro to Civic Media this week, we talked about and created a model for digital inequality. My group came up with a cute representation of digital inequality using a tree, where its roots represent components that add to digital equality, the leaves represent the fruit of digital equality, and falling fruit represents the idea that digital equality can fuel itself, just like a real ecosystem.

Before heading east to Cambridge, Massachusetts to come to MIT, I had never moved before — I hadn’t even moved out of the house I grew up in. I grew up in the fifth largest city in Iowa — Iowa City, a “metropolitan” college town with a population of just under 69,000.

Reflection: A Model of Digital Inclusion

Last class, we formed small groups to create a model of digital inclusion. My group tried to create a tool that would help us assess if and to what extent a community was digitally inclusive. The hope was that by creating such a tool, the components of a model to digital inclusion would naturally emerge. Ultimately, the tool would help us evaluate if residents of that place had access to Internet, hardware and software, educational resources, as well as digital ways to engage with the local government and learn about civic happenings (i.e. iphone apps, Internet sites, etc). We did not complete the tool, but tried to create an index or ranking system that would measure indicators or levels of digital inclusion. For example, the tool should measure the following: