mstem | MIT Center for Civic Media

Recent blog posts by mstem

You're More Powerful as a Customer than as a Citizen (and that's bad)

If you're an early adopter, you likely sign up for a wide range of new products and services. A number of these startups inevitably fold, and then you receive their closing-shop emails. The correspondence making up this genre tends to be fairly upbeat and concise, painting over what are surely far more lurid tales of unrealized dreams and blown investments. The email I received announcing the demise of Moxy Vote broke with this pattern and offered an unusually candid, clear explanation of how and why they failed. And their failure points to a strategic problem today's would-be social changemakers face.

The Internet Exposes Tensions and Opportunity Between Nations and their Diasporas

Liveblog from the Global Voices Summit (#gv2012) here in Nairobi.

Diasporic communities can now take virtually full part in national political and civic life in their countries of origin, thanks to new media. From the academic and activist perspectives, what are the consequences?

Inside/Outside: Diaspora Influence  #GV2012

Left to right: Gershom Ndhlovu (Zambia), Elaine Diaz (Cuba), Susan Benesch (American University, School of International Service), Nanjira Sambuli (Kenya), Fred Petrossian (Iran)

Let Us See Under the Hood

Our machines can do amazing things. Our mapping and travel tools can span numerous transit agencies and modes of transport to conveniently navigate us across the land. They still mess up, which is acceptable. But when they fail, we don't even know that they have errored, or how, and this is less OK.

On an intermediary leg of a marathon journey from Washington, DC to Nairobi that included a DC Metrobus, a ZipCar, a BoltBus, a commuter train, an airtram, two 6+ hour flights, I needed to simply get from Penn Station to JFK Airport. I already knew that the Long Island Railroad was the best combination of price and speed for my needs, and HopStop's website confirmed it. Unfortunately my BoltBus ran an hour late, and I found myself recalculating the trip from my phone using HopStop's mobile app. For whatever reason, whether an errant filter or another limitation of the mobile app, HopStop no longer showed me any LIRR options. In this case, I knew I wasn't seeing the results I needed. I just couldn't do anything about it.

Upworthy's Content Goes Further Than Yours, and Not Because It's Better Content

Sara Critchfield and Adam Mordecai's talk at Netroots Nation (#nnupFTW) was less-than-standing-room only, so I've combined the parts of his talk we were able to catch with a similar talk by their colleague Peter Koechley at the Conversational Marketing Summit. Thanks to Deepa Kunapuli for her notes.

Technology and Human Rights

Liveblog of the Netroots Nation panel, Safeguarding Democracy: Innovations in Technology and Human Rights

Caitlin Howarth, of the Satellite Sentinel Project, has assembled an impressive panel of women working at the intersection of tech and human rights. First up is Emily Jacobi, cofounder of Digital Democracy (@digidem).

Emily has seen some amazing changes in the world in the past few years, and she attributes these changes to technology and how people are using it. People who were completely marginalized from conversations are picking up the tools of mass communication. Digital Democracy focuses on small 'd' democracy and the grassroots engagement rather than large institutions.