technology solutions | MIT Center for Civic Media

Technology solutions can be software or hardware or even new ways of using old processes. They are tools that assist individuals and communities to engage with each other, share information, and take action.

Gratitude, Credit, and Exchange Online: Flickr Selling CC Images Is About More than The Money

Last week, Yahoo! announced that Flickr would start selling prints of Creative Commons licensed photos, and that they would only pay some of the photographers. Some commentators, like Jeffrey Zeldman, see it as a breach of good will. Mike Masnick at Techdirt argues that this is a victory for open licensing, which "is about giving up control so that other people can benefit." Ben Werdmuller, co-founder of Indieweb social platform Known, argues that users don't understand the license, and that we need to give creators more clear controls.

A workshop with Kenya Red Cross

Hi. It's been a bit, so just in case - I'm Willow Brugh, and one of the hats I wear is as a research affiliate at Center for Civic Media. I also wear "digital responder," "fellow at Berkman," "stick figure draw-er," and "faciliatator" hats. I care about how people help people, more directly, across cultures, as equals. This means I often work at the overlap of technology and disaster/humanitarian response through participatory events. I also advise organizations and distributed social groups in how to engage with each other. My month working with KRCS and Climate Centre culminated on Nov 11th in a codesign workshop to explore the work I had done, comment on the current understanding, ensure it was appropriate and accurate, to then decide on next steps together. This was an exercise in not waiting until the last minute to ask people to sign off - it was asking people what they thought during the process, asking for their participation. You can read more about (my personal take on) the set-up over here.

The Responsive City: Susan Crawford at the MIT Media Lab

Today at the Media Lab, we were joined by Susan Crawford, visiting professor at Harvard Law School and co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society. Susan's last book, Captive Audience, focused on net neutrality. Her most recent book, The Responsive City, focuses on ways that cities are using data to support governance.

(this blog post was written by Nathan Matias and Ed Platt

"The most human technology we have is the Internet," Susan tells us. It gives us the ability to talk to the people we need to, when we need to. "I'm very worried about democracy," she tells us. This past midterm election had the lowest voter turnout in 72 years. At the same time as we have all time lows in participation, citizens are worried about issues of surveillance.

How To Party Online

How do you party with a group of people across four continents? As a trustee of Awesome Knowledge, I'm looking for great ways to celebrate our community and congratulate our grantees. Every month or two, we give $1000 to an awesome project that spreads knowledge (learn more, and unlike most Awesome Foundations, we're a distributed group who have no shared geography. Most chapters conclude each grant cycle with a party, where a wide community is invited to celebrate as the grantee receives a big cheque or bag of money. After weeks of grant reviews and hard decisions, it's this party that often keeps the foundation Awesome.

Awesome Knowledge can't easily party in one place, so we're looking for ways to celebrate online.

HOPE X: Themes and Reflections


Image by Willow Brugh.

Over the weekend, I attended HOPE X, the 10th Hackers on Planet Earth conference, organized by 2600 Magazine. HOPE is my favorite hacker conference, and a strong contender for my favorite conference overall, because although content is tech-heavy, it's not really about technology. HOPE is a conference by and for those interested in the hacker ethos of free information, understanding the world, and empowerment to fix what is broken— including keynote speakers Edward Snowden and Daniel Ellsberg. So HOPE is a great place to think about the intersection of technology, journalism, and activism. Throughout the conference, I noticed several recurring themes.

Code Is Not Enough

HOPE X: When You Are the Adversary

Liveblogged at HOPE X.

Quinn Norton

In the past year, there has been a lot of attention towards major adversaries, like the NSA. Most of the time, we're actually up against small adversaries. Most adversaries are just jerks. Small adversaries target everyone, with whatever technology they have. It might be gossip around the water cooler. It might be local law enforcement, or your IT department, in schools, corporations, or NGOs. They're honor killings, partners committing domestic violence, friends who mean well, stalkers who don't mean well, or random interactions.

What are the tools of small adversaries? A common one is making someone give you their password to email, Facebook, etc. Hacker tools can be used in negative ways. The people Quinn works with as a journalist need security tools that work practically, not academically. How do adversaries get access? Usually through email. More and more tools are becoming available. The tools used by small adversaries, are modeled after those used by large ones.

HOPE X: Community Infrastructure for FOSS Projects

Liveblogged at HOPE X.

James Vasile, Open Internet Tools Project

Infrastructure is any mechanism that helps developers and users engage. OpenITP believes that community infrastructure should come from the community. We're used to infrastructure like roads: someone else builds and maintains it. A lot of FOSS projects build their own infrastructure and wind up repeating efforts and not doing a great job of it.

OpenITP tries to find a middle ground between building infrastructure and everyone fending for themselves. They do this by coordinating between projects with similar needs.

Projects need more than just code to succeed:

HOPE X: Ethical Questions and Best Practices for Service Providers in the Post-Snowden Era

Liveblogged at HOPE X.

Nicholas Merrill, Calyx Internet Access, @nickcalyx
Ladar Levison, Lavabit
Declan McCullagh, @declanm

FBI Agents asked Ladar to turn over his SSL key. This meant 1. that the SSL key belonged to the provider, not the user; 2. that they would need to decrypt everyone's communication to find what they wee looking for; 3. that was beyond what he felt he could morally do. It was even worse, that he was prevented from telling anyone about the request.

Question: Could you talk to an attorney?

Ladar: Because the request was tied to criminal investigation, I was able to consult an attorney. If it's a classified warrant you need permission from the FBI before contacting a lawyer. He wanted to talk to others to get more information about these types of requests, but he couldn't.

Question: If you start a big company. What do you do when a government agency asks to tap your metadata, you appeal and you lose?

HOPE X: SecureDrop: A WikiLeaks in Every Newsroom

Liveblogged at HOPE X.

Garrett Robinson, Security and Privacy Engineer, Mozilla
William Budington, Developer, EFF
Yan Zhu, Technologist, EFF

The Freedom of the Press Foundation processes payments for WikiLeaks and raises funds for encryption and free speech initiatives. Secure Drop is their open source whistleblower platform.

Thomas Drake leaked info on the NSA's Trailblazer program. He was indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage act in 2005. The act wasn't meant to be used on journalists, but that's what it's been used for. In recent years, Shamai Leibowitz, Stephen Kim, Chelsea Manning, Jeffrey Sterling, John Kiriakou, Edward Snowden have been prosecuted. There's an attack on whistleblowers, and there haven't been good tools to communicate with reporters.

HOPE X: Ask the EFF - This Year On the Internet

Liveblogged at HOPE X. The speakers have cautioned that this talk is not legal advice.


Nate Cardozo, Attorney
Kurt Opsahl, Attorney
Adi Kamdar, Activist
Peter Eckersley, Technology Projects Director
Eva Galperin, Global Policy Analyst

It's been a busy year at the EFF. They've been focusing a lot on the national security space over the last year.

Kurt Opsahl works on NSA cases. Jewel v. NSA has been going on since 2008, related to AT&T's involvement with NSA wiretapping. First Unitarian v. NSA is focused on the right of association, and your right to anonymity in who you associate with. Just earlier this week, the EFF and ACLU joined Smith v. Obama. Kurt also works on a case arguing that National Security Letters are unconstitutional and is defending the decision against appeal.

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