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.

Training and Mobilizing Digital Storytellers with Vojo

In the Vojo community call on Tuesday, December 18, we invited organizations using Vojo to to share their experiences and materials for training and mobilizing new users. A few themes emerged from the discussion.

  • Actively collecting stories in workshops and in the community is more effective than a simple call for submissions.
  • Face-to-face instruction is helpful for new users.
  • Printed, take-home guides are a good supplement to face-to-face instruction.
  • Good user experience is key for retaining users.

The full video and notes from the call are available online.

Two Media Tech Ideas for Distributed Solidarity

In this parallel post alongside one by Denise Cheng, I review the media-making practices of, who coordinate thousands of events into global days of climate action. I also propose two technology designs for collaboratively tagging and remixing media from an event.

Read Denise's post on the story and mission of, annotate this post using ReadrBoard, or suggest your own ideas

Here at the Center for Civic Media, we have spent the last year discussing the idea of peer-based politics. In a Media Lab talk at the beginning of the year, Rebecca McKinnon argued that international politics sometimes needs the consent of the networked.

Call to Action - creating a platform for voice services

An exciting project for the team this year has been the development of New Day New Standard, a hotline that informs nannies, housekeepers, elder caregivers, and their employers about the landmark Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights, passed in New York State in November 2010.

In the seven months since it launched, the average call on NDNS lasted 3 minutes and 17 seconds. That's an exciting figure, given that it's much longer than you'd expect the average user to spend looking at a web page. May, launch month, was the peak month for usage, although NDNS has continued to attract callers: usage rose again in October, when callers spent a total of 490 minutes on the line. We're now in a position to do more research with our users to find out which functions and stories they engaged with the most.

Closing the first-mover advantage in digital societies

A few weeks ago, Rogelio and I attended an intriguingly titled talk, "What would W.E.B. Du Bois say about inequality in digital societies?" It was part of a lecture series probing inequality and exclusion in a digital economy. Rogelio has a full write-up of the event here.

The lecturer, Dr. Ernest J. Wilson III, noted that the digital divide is still very real, but its meaning has shifted. The argument for closing the digital divide always had an economic component: Computer access and basic literacy skills would enable people to build resumes and navigate professional networking sites. Now, Wilson argued, it means that those without digital skills will be left behind as the Western world moves toward a digital service economy.


Project Status: 

Have you ever been forwarded an email that you just can’t believe? Our inboxes are rife with misinformation. The truth is out there, just not when we actually need it. Lazy Truth is an experiment to make fact-checking viral chain emails as easy as forwarding them.

Obama’s grassroots calling campaign

How many emails, texts, or phone calls from an organization can you stand until you start automatically labeling the entire operation as spam? For my final project, I will focus on mass communication from organizations with the intention of driving civic action, particularly methods and frequency of communication.

With the 2012 elections, many found themselves the target of mass communication. This blog post will focus on one example of mass communication from a political campaign — Barack Obama’s calling campaign, a grassroots campaign to reach voters through their neighbors.

A blog post from April 18 by the campaign described the tool well — “The call tool is already changing what it means to volunteer—allowing anyone, anywhere, to pitch in.”

The power of a spicy chicken sandwich, or, beyond good and evil there's a bug


If you've spent any time in the American south -- or at the food court in Burlington Mall, ten miles outside Boston -- you've likely gone weak at the knees at the mention of Chick-fil-A. The waffle fries. The sweet tea. And tops, the spicy chicken sandwich.

And you too may be conflicted about 1) Chick-fil-A's homophobia vs. 2) how good that spicy chicken sandwich is. (If this sounds like the Kenny Rogers Roaster episode of Seinfeld, it's not far off.)

So it came as a perversely pleasant surprise that the language associated with one of history's great homophobes, well, this happens:

HurricaneHackers in Boston - Sandy hackathon projects, lessons learned

Written with Pablo Rey Mazón

A day before Hurricane Sandy touched down, netizens began to congregate via etherpads, Google Docs and IRC, assuming the name “HurricaneHackers.”

HurricaneHackers teamed up with Sandy CrisisCamps—a series of hackathons organized by CrisisCommons around the world—to host a hackathon at MIT Media Lab. About 30 participants worked together throughout the day to figure out how a remote set of volunteers could support Sandy relief with communication technologies.

Pablo and Denise were the main facilitators for the hackathon. With Pablo’s experience organizing OccupyData hackathons and Denise’s participation in hackathons, we knew that a common gathering place is powerful for imaginative and holistic thinking, and to matchmake that thinking with real world needs.

Can peer progressives change institutions?

 Matt Stempeck

Last night the Center for Civic Media brought together Steven Johnson, Yochai Benkler, Susan Crawford and Lawrence Lessig to discuss Johnson’s new book Future Perfect: The Case for Progress in a Networked World. Substantively they centred on the issue of whether the success of peer-networked movements can be framed as a political ideology that can bring together the collective energies behind the likes of Wikipedia, Linux, Kiva and Kickstarter and build a movement for progressively minded change.

Designing Acknowledgment on the Web

Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"

I have a confession to make: my persona