local communities | MIT Center for Civic Media

People in local geographic areas may need help communicating with each other in order to collaborate in building and sustaining healthy communities. Grassroots action at any level - neighborhoods, towns, or cities - can help improve local services, welcome newcomers, and develop cultural, economic and political capital.

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: http://envisioningdevelopment.net/
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

Designing Urban Food Systems in Shanghai

I've joined the Media Lab's Changing Places group for a week in China to design the future of sustainable cities in Shanghai.

China presents enormous challenges and huge opportunities, all at a dizzying scale. 300 million Chinese, the population of the entire United States, will move to urban areas over the next 20 years. 20 of the world's 30 most polluted cities are in China. Only 1% of China's 600 million urban residents have access to clean air, as measured by EU standards. Anyone serious about climate change, human welfare, and other challenges of the 21st century must consider China's role.

How to Grocery Shop in Shanghai

Another update from China. Thanks to the Great Firewall, I'm stuck in a Web 1.0 world of email and blogging.

Our group spent the day conducting ethnographic interviews of food sellers and consumers in a wide variety of contexts. We met with restaurant managers, supermarket shoppers, rice shop owners, and sidewalk crab hawkers. We interviewed people from several age brackets, to learn about the unique but also shared habits and concerns regarding food in China.

It's hard to understate the level of concern around food safety. The elderly we spoke to actively avoid eating outside of the house, at any time, because of safety concerns. People who raise their own chickens and eggs take comfort in knowing that the food is not only fresh, but also safe.

Dancing in the Public Square: Street Music as Activism (Civic Media Lunch Livenotes)

We were lucky to host two organizers of the HONK! Festival ofActivist Street Bands - John Bell and Reebee Garofolo. These collaborative livenotes were authored by myself, Denise Cheng, Nathan Matias, Matt Stempeck, and a few others I think.

Rahul introduced HONK! fest, which is an annual gathering of activist street bands that descends on Somerville, MA. It began seven years ago. Today’s speakers will explore what it means to take back the public space. One of the things about parading is that it’s breaking a lot of rules—you’re not allowed to walk down the streets, make so much noise in normal circumstances—and it’s fun!

Talking Fast II: More CrisisMapper Ignite Sessions

Luis Capelo (@luiscape) of Digital Humanitarian Network loves volunteers. DH exists to stimulate more interaction between humanitarian volunteers and large humanitarian institutions.

There's information overload in humanitarian responses. How do we collect and make sense of all this information? Luis credits humanitarian orgs with doing the hard work of adapting, but it's a rough sea to navigate. Volunteer & Technical Communities thrive in this environment. They're nimble, lightweight, and advanced, technically. Luis thinks its time to stop questioning whether VT&Cs can help, and begin to dive into how these groups can collaborate.

DH aims to create a consortium of groups that faciliates between the two worlds, and reduces the cost of collaboration
They have a simplified activation process: activate volunteers, triage the volume, and forward them to VT&Cs. They've produced a guide to manage the activation of VT&Cs.

Smarter Cities, Better Use of Resources?

Dr. Lisa AminiIf you've read a magazine or traveled through an airport in the last couple of years, you've probably seen ads for IBM's Smarter Cities initiative. Today in our Post-Oil Shanghai course, we got to learn about some of the projects behind the very public campaign. Dr. Lisa Amini is the first director of IBM Research Ireland, based in Dublin. They focus on creating urban-scale analytics, optimizations, and systems for sustainable energy and transportation.

Lisa's group focuses on transforming cities with:

Civindex: trying to measure individual civic activity

Earlier this year I came across a news piece on Wired, about Klout, What Your Klout Score Really Means. The company created a score that ranks people on the internet according to their activity in Social Media, mainly Twitter and Facebook. The piece describes how people gain “points” on their Klout score, according to number of tweets, products promotion, etc. Basically, Klout is a market oriented tool, that will use and stimulate people's activity on social media to promote products. A person with a high Klout score will be offered shopping coupons, promotions, access to concerts etc. What intrigued me was that Klout is extremely market oriented and doesn’t really analyse the quality of the person’s activity on the web. It also ranks Justin Bieber with a perfect Klout score.

As it turns out, I opted out of Klout.

Vojo at Parking Day with Cambridge Community Television

On Friday morning, Becky, Rodrigo and I set out for Central Square, where we had a date with Cambridge Community Television for Parking Day. Parking Day is an international celebration, with do-ocrats, organizations and cities eager to reclaim parking spaces as public spaces. Your typical street-side spot becomes a mini-park, an outdoor lounge, an open-air library—I've seen them all. And on Friday, the lot in front of CCTV became a pop-up broadcast station. On one side was a television studio, and on the other, Vojo.

"Enhanced Delegation" Model for Participation in Local Governance

What if residents could allocate their town's spending like some people do their 401(k)'s?

I've been a homeowner for a little over a year, so for the first time I'm tracking town expenditures and, as important, listening to other residents' town-solvable needs and frustrations.

Arlington's issues can feel piddly. (The divisive issue this year was a leaf blower ban.) But dissatisfaction can grow faster than my crabgrass, and my own dissatisfaction doesn't have to do with present issues as much as the process we'll have to use when things really do get serious.

The power of the crowdsourced documentary

Jigar Mehta is a documentary filmmaker and a journalist who came to address the MIT Open Doc Lab and the Center for Civic Media about the collaborative documentary project, #18 Days in Egypt. The project, which tells the story of the ongoing Egyptian revolution, is a collaborative web-native documentary project about the ongoing Egyptian revolution. For more information, see @18daysinegypt and @jigarmehta.

This is a liveblog of the event by rodrigodavies and schock - please let us know if you have corrections or additions.