technology solutions

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.

HOPE X: Wireless Meshnets: Building the Next Version of the Web

Liveblogged at HOPE X. Presentation available here.

Kevin Carter - Technologist, Writer
Peter Valdez - NYC Meshnet
Kurt Snieckus - NYC Meshnet

Kevin begins by asking "why build a new network?" The internet has grown far beyond any scale that was predicted. Things like security were added after the fact. Control of the network has shifted from academic, to corporate and political. The internet is becoming less democratized with threats to Net Neutrality and increased surveillance. Governments can and do intercept router hardware and install malware.

Mesh networks are decentralized. Peers relay information to each other and connect by peering with any other connected node. One example is Hyperboria which runs the cjdns protocol. Other protocols include BATMAN. Decentralized networks put power back in the hands of the users. Although NYC Meshnet uses cjdns, they focus on using whatever technology works, and evolving as necessary.

The Open Web and Participation

Live blogged by Rahul Bhargava and Matt Stempeck Monday, June 23, 2014 - 3:45pm

The Internet lowers coordination costs, making it easier for groups of people to cooperate and work together. Despite this, it's often been hard to apply the lessons of online cooperation to the world of civics. A set of exciting new projects and initiatives offers hope for what's possible and a clearer sense of the challenges of using the web to participate in offline social change.

[Peer economy] Recap: Transportation licensing hearing in Cambridge

This last Tuesday, the Cambridge Licensing Commission held a hearing to discuss regulations concerning unregistered cabs, including transportation network companies (think Uber, Lyft, SideCar—peer-to-peer platforms that offer private point-to-point car service) and rogue cabs (not registered with the city and not participants with a TNC). A proposal—Regulations for Smartphone Technology for Taxicabs and Limousines—served as grounding for the discussion around how to regulate private transportation and/or update the definition of private transportation. An alert went out over email to the Media Lab community, and I attended the hearing. As the only ML community member who attended the hearing in full, I sent back a report. I've been encouraged to share it here. It has been slightly altered to provide links and to make it coherent outside of the Media Lab community.

[Peer Economy] Keep it real to catalyze the sharing economy

Last week, I was in San Francisco as a panelist and plenary speaker at the inaugural SHARE conference. The event was organized by Peers (a research partner in January) and SOCAP, and I spoke about the future of work. I also gave a lightning talk at the closing plenary. All of the plenary speakers had to bookend their lightning talk with "--- catalyze the sharing economy." I took advantage of this five-minute window to urge thoughtful discussion. This is the script that I more or less adhered to: 

I’ve been at MIT for the last few years researching peer-to-peer marketplaces. When I got the prompt for this talk, “BLANK will catalyze the sharing economy,” I had lots of different reactions. But in the five minutes I have, I want to say that straight talk is what will catalyze the sharing economy.

The People's Bot

Yesterday, we launched The People's Bot, offering scholarships, media fellowships, and an auction for people to attend and report on events where they are not physically present, including CHI 2014 and a 13 year retrospective on wearable computing and Google Glass. Together with Nathan Matias, we're imagining uses of robotic telepresence for the public good.

A bot at the Tennis Court Oath

[Peer economy] Media's place as herald and tastemaker

People are often boggled when I follow up my research interest in the future of work with the name of my M.S. program: Comparative Media Studies at MIT. While I could go on about how economic security is the cornerstone for meaningful pursuits—including civic participation—here's a direct media tie in. The following is an excerpt from my thesis draft. 

The Fordist framework1 is fraying quickly. Economic decline, technological displacement and globalization have resulted in a shortage of jobs that will not rebound. A powerful social contract is broken, leading Americans to question if investing in human capital—apprenticeships, internships, education, experience and technical know-how—is a smart use of time and personal resources.

These conditions account only partially for why attention is shifting to other work models. Another powerful influence is former and current media portrayal.

[Peer economy] Why the peer economy comes off as "share-washing"

Pay attention to Tom Slee; he's snide, but he's spot-on. In a recent blog post, he neatly sums up how peer economy proponents appear to advocate selectively for its place in the formal economy.

[Peer economy] The home stretch!

The radio silence is over; the last time I posted specifically for the Civic blog was fall 2013. I'm not continuing onto a Ph.D. after June, so before I leave my post as an academic who researches the peer economy, I'm going to report what I'm seeing and sensing as I see and sense it.


20-20! Get it?! This will also be the last semester of bad puns.

To keep myself accountable, here's a smattering of what I'll dive into this semester:

Clay Shirky: Planning Shan't Trump Reality

Clay Shirky's on stage with Ginny Hunt at Harvard's Institute of Politics discussing the lessons we can take away from the Healthcare.gov boondoggle (#netrevolution).

Clay's first point is that of all the criticism of Healthcare.gov and the Affordable Care Act, no one has argued that it's a bad idea to rely on the web as the central component of citizen interaction with a government program. All of the other communications options, from phone to fax, have been considered second-rate fallback options.

This change has happened almost imperceptibly, but it is nevertheless a marker of where we are.


There's a lesson to be learned from the website's poor performance, especially given Obama for America's campaign success with technology.

Internet technology and politics have hooked up every 2-4 years since 1992, when Clinton hosted an internal campaign listserv on MIT servers. Now, the internet and politics have gotten married.

Four models for civic organizations to crowdfund

A few months ago I gave a talk at the Library of Congress's "Digital Preservation" conference in Washington, DC, in which I suggested four models that civic organizations could use to crowdfund projects: promoter, curator, facilitator and platform.

Thanks to the ending of the government shutdown, I now have the video of my presentation, which is below. You can read also a short writeup of the talk I posted earlier. My slides are here.

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