MattCarroll | MIT Center for Civic Media

Recent blog posts by MattCarroll

Hacking Journalism: Rethink how we create, disseminate, and consume media

Hackers at the MIT Media Lab.

By Matt Carroll and Jennifer Lu

It was an audacious hackathon challenge — reinvent mobile news. More than 100 developers, designers, and journalists from Boston, New York, Washington, and London accepted the test, eager to transform the world of journalism. In a weekend.

Fast, wild, and a little loose, people pitched ideas for projects, hoping to attract help in putting a bold idea into reality. Teams formed around ideas, fell apart, came together in different configurations, disintegrated, and finally solidified, some only hours before the presentations.

Breaking down the language barrier between developers and journalists

By Caty Arevalo, Aleszu Bajak, and Matt Carroll

It ended with dramatic, insightful presentations on video gaming and addiction, possible gender disparities in Medicare payments, and how drug cartels might hinder shale oil exploration in Mexico.

The middle was a rush of frantic coding, reporting, and research, fueled with a stream of coffee, soda, pizza and donuts.

And at the beginning were more than 20 journalists, developers, and others interested in breaking down the cultural barriers that can cause communication problems between reporters and coders.

It was a one-day hackathon at the Media Lab on Sunday, May 18, with the long but descriptive title of, “Breaking down the language barrier between developers and journalists.” (Hashtag: #Digitalfluency.)

Let's help students create cool tools for newsrooms

That basically sums up my new job at the MIT Media Lab's Center for Civic Media, working for Ethan Zuckerman.

I'll be working with students inside the lab. The idea is to find projects students are working on, or pieces of projects, that can help newsrooms communicate better with readers, or that help reporters and editors do their jobs better, or that bring in revenue for news organizations. Any other possibilities or ideas? Love to hear them.

I'd be lying if I said I saw a clear path forward; any plans I'm developing could be thrown out in an instant. But my goal now is to connect with students who are interested in creating these kinds of tools with media outlets that are interested in beta testing the apps and maybe mentoring students. Hopefully, we can work together to create tools that have an impact, in a field that has a deep thirst for innovation. I'm looking forward to working with students and media partners.

A good example of bad design

Here’s a good example of bad design

The city of Boston is developing “parklets” -- mini-parks in tiny spaces, roughly the size of two parking spaces. They are supposed to be lilliputian urban oases. So far they’ve completed two, in Jamaica Plain and Mission Hill, with a third due for Allston.

But the results have been less than stellar, as this story by Boston Globe staffer Martine Powers makes clear. Rather than collaborate with the local neighborhood residents or business owners, as some other cities have done, Boston just plopped the parklets down with little or no direction from locals.

The end result is something of a waste. The parklets don’t get used. People aren’t even sure what the heck the parklets are all about.