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.

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:
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

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.

VoIP Drupal

VoIP Drupal is an innovative framework that brings the power of voice and Internet-telephony to Drupal sites. It can be used to build hybrid applications combining regular touchtone phones, web, SMS, Twitter, IM and other communication tools in a variety of ways, including:

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.

Hero Reports/Crónicas de Héroes

Project Status: 

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

First Impressions on Civic Media


My name is Luis Capelo ( and as a Master in Public Policy focusing on Science and Technology at the Harvard Kennedy School, Intro to Civic Media could not be more stimulating – and challenging. My framework of analysis has been crafted to think of innovation, technology and development from the perspective of the policy-maker; from the side of big institutions or governments. In that framework the understood as ‘the public’ – the “civic” in civic media – is the end objective of policies or, at its best, a mass to be surveyed, that provides some sort of validation mechanism for the policies being designed – after all, if people do not make use of the policies so carefully planned, time and resources were wasted. Civic Media is not quite about that for a number of reasons.

What's Up

Project Status: 

What's Up is a software platform designed to allow people in a small geographic community to share information, plan events and make decisions, using media that is as broadly inclusive as possible.

The web today does a tremendous job in terms of storing and aggregating information. However, people still need to have access to the Internet in order to benefit from what is available online. Instead, What’s Up provides alternative pathways to get information to people wherever they are, independently of the level of access that they might have to computers or the Internet.

The platform can aggregate data from online community calendars to make the information available via low cost LED signs that can be placed in public locations, or via things like customized paper flyers and posters to be posted and distributed in the area.

What’s Up also generates a simple, yet powerful community hotline that is usable with the lowest-end mobile and touchtone phones.

How to Liveblog Events with a Team

(or, The Six-handed Liveblog)

three people typing

When Nathan and Matt joined the Center for Civic Media in the fall of 2011, each had significant blogging experience. But we were to serve under Ethan Zuckerman and Sasha Costanza-Chock. Zuckerman is co-author of Tips for Livebloggers with Bruno Giussani, and he fervently believes in liveblogging all events. Sasha Costanza-Chock, a long time media activist, is also passionate about live, collaborative note-taking.

The Center hosts several public events each week, from guest lunches to evening forums to special events, and Ethan and Sasha quickly established a strong norm of liveblogging these events. Which is to say, they made it clear that we weren't just expected to attend these events, but to blog them. (They help. Sometimes.)