ckaman | MIT Center for Civic Media

Recent blog posts by ckaman

Harnessing the Power of Mobile Tech 4 Social Change

I attended the Mobile Tech 4 Social Change barcamp in New York with MIT colleagues Audubon Dougherty, Nadav Aharony, and Danielle Martin last weekend.

Unfortunately, I missed Ethan Zuckerman’s keynote (hoping it will be posted online) but according to Patrick Meier’s informative post about the day, one of Ethan’s biggest takeaway points focused on the importance of using of multiple technologies together:

(The) convergence of ICTs is far more powerful than the increasingly ubiquitous mobile phone. When mobile phones and SMS are paired with radio talk show programs, the combination replicates much of the functionalities that characterize the Internet. Once information is broadcast over radio, it becomes public knowledge.

I find this to be a valuable take away not only because of my own interest in radio and mobile but also because it suggests the larger need to focus on strategies over technologies. Mobile phone by themselves probably won’t solve entrenched issues, particularly those that extend beyond geographic and disciplinary boundaries, but they can be a valuable part of larger tactics.

Visualizing the Inaugural Address

Many Eyes, a shared data and information visualization technology from the Visual Communications Lab at IBM Research, offers some fun ways to see the most commonly used words in President Obama's inaugural address.

You can look at the speech as a text cloud ...


.. or a word tree.

Perhaps because Obama has been compared to John F. Kennedy quite often, someone has recently posted Kennedy's 1961 inaugural address on the site.

Many Eyes allows users to publicly post data sets to visualize them in different ways. Incidentally, the technology is also powering the New York Times' Visualization Lab.

New Media and the Presidential Inauguration

Wondering what innovative media projects are following President-elect Obama’s inauguration? We have a few suggestions.

One of the most exciting is Inauguration Report, a collaboration between NPR, CBS News, American University, and volunteer programmers. Users can participate via Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, an iPhone app by including the phrase #inaug09 0r #dctrips09 (pound signs are not required for flicker and youtube content). The site is also mapping the location of reports nationwide. As of late Thursday, a couple of days before the start of the festivities, the feed was already jumping. Some posts offered congratulatory remarks to President-elect Obama and others looked for last-minute rides but the majority explained how to participate.

Other media outlets also gearing up for the events:

Using Tech to Improve Healthcare in Local Communities

In my work at the Center for Future Civic Media, I’ve been investigating ways that emerging technologies could be used to better the quality of healthcare in local communities. I’ve been particularly interested in exploring ways to improve the communication between doctors and their patients. I recently spoke with Jay Parkinson [no relation to the disease of the same name], a licensed medical doctor, who offers a creative approach to addressing some of these pressing issues.

In late September, Dr. Jay Parkinson opened an online medical practice in Brooklyn. Nearly every morning, Parkinson goes to what he calls “his office”–the neighborhood coffee shop. From there, he might communicate with his patients over cell phone, instant messenger, or email. He can rapidly access medical records using an online database. It’s idea that has gained considerable media attention since Parkinson offers personalized medical care to the young and uninsured through a mixture of electronic communication and old-fashioned house calls.

Civic Efforts for Global Environmental Change: Profiling Step It Up

Last weekend, thousands of people around the country took part in rallies aimed to convince Congress to cut carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050. Created with the guidance of a new online organization called Step It Up, these do-it-yourself campaigns reflect a trend in activism–one in which the rallies are distributed through communities and nationally coordinated only in the sense that they occur around an issue, or are timed to happen on a certain day.