natematias | MIT Center for Civic Media

Recent blog posts by natematias

Satellite Sentinel: Meteorologists of Human Rights Abuses

For a long time, genocide has been put in the box of great dark operatic human evils... We are the meteorologists of human rights abuses.

-- Nathaniel Raymond

This week's Thursday lunch was with the Satellite Sentinel Project. Based at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, they correlate data from satellites with other sources to track human rights violations, sometimes before they happen. Where possible, they threaten potential violators with exposure, release reports to the press, or pressure international organisations to take notice. By doing this, they hope to prevent genocides, stop large scale human rights violations once they begin, or at least to document atrocities after the fact.

Can the Public Sphere exist in the Internet Era?

So far in our class on Civic Media, we have tried to define Civic Media and to consider the role of digital inequality in shaping participation in society. Our discussions have mostly featured ideas from researchers, foundations, and American government agencies. This week, we're going to re-examine civic media in terms of critical theory and philosophy.

Here's the executive summary: Democratic governments are expected to incorporate the people's will into their decisions. Can this really happen? The public interest is hard to find among broad disagreements between groups, the emergence of global politics, the growth of multinational organisations, and the birth of Internet-based political movements. Just what kind of democracy might the Internet make possible? Should we discard the public sphere altogether for a more realistic, confrontational approach to democracy?

Public Reason and the Public Sphere

Civic Media: Growing Awareness and Participation in an environment of Change

As part of his Intro to Civic Media course , Sasha has asked us to answer the question, "What is civic media?" The characteristics of this area are messy, changing, and incredibly important. Changes in media tech and business have put important issues at stake: our awareness and participation in society and the world.

As a new research assistant in the MIT Media Lab Center for Civic Media, I will be working to improve our understanding of civic media and to develop new technologies to make it possible. Up to now, my own interests have been more cosmopolitan, literary, and religious than civic. I came to MIT brimming with the enthusiasm of several years developing new tech startups and education initiatives. In this course, I hope to gain an informed perspective on the ideas and trends behind civic media. As an aware but uninvolved observer, I am eager to write about it for the first time.

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