Category Archives: liveblog

Unpacking open data: power, politics and the influence of infrastructures

Liveblog of a #Berkman lunch written with Erhardt Graeff.

Tim Davies (@timdavies) is a social researcher with interests in civic participation and civic technologies. He has spent the last five years focussing on the development of the open government data landscape around the world, from his MSc work at the Oxford Internet Institute on Data and Democracy, the first major study of data.gov.uk, through to leading a 12-country study on the Emerging Impacts of Open Data in Developing Countries for the World Wide Web Foundation.

A broad coalition of companies, governments, and other entities have come together to open data. This work is based on the belief that opening data creates myriad benefits to society, for transparency, for economic value, and other benefits.

Does open data reconfigure power relationships in the political space? The past, promise, and reality of open data reminds wide. Continue reading Unpacking open data: power, politics and the influence of infrastructures

Entrepreneurship in Civic Tech

Liveblog of a Code for America event in San Francisco.

The phrase “civic technology” has been claimed by those using technology to advance government, activism, political campaigns, neighborhood involvement, journalism, humanitarian relief, urban planning, and ever more realms. These fields overlap, in many cases. Broadly, we might define ‘civic tech’ as technology deployed on behalf of the common good.

Code for America’s definition is “technology that’s spurring civic engagement, enhancing citizen communications, improving government infrastructure, or generally making government more effective.”


Civic Entrepreneurship

Dharmishta Rood introduces the Code for America Accelerator program, which is open for another week. She points to the success of two Texan police officers who founded Street Cred in the previous cohort. She’s joined by a roster of panelists to discuss the tactical strategies and steps of civic entrepreneurship: Continue reading Entrepreneurship in Civic Tech

Fair Use & Creative Remixing on YouTube

A liveblog of a Berkman Center lunch.

Elisa Kreisinger (@popcultpirate) is a content creator and remixer who has used YouTube to host her artistic work. She uses pop culture to sugarcoat social political critiques. She finds that her work helps her navigate the tension between being a fan of pop culture and a critic of it. She phrases this creative work as a way to “work off her consumption” of pop culture. Continue reading Fair Use & Creative Remixing on YouTube

Questioning the Quantified Self as it Marches Towards Mainstream

I’m back at the Media Lab today and got to attend a talk by cultural anthropologist Natasha Dow Schüll, of MIT’s Science, Technology, and Society program, who’s speaking at Pattie Maes’s Tools for Well-Being series.

addictionbydesign

Digital technologies can have negative impacts on our well-being. Natasha grew interested in the topic over the course of writing Addiction by Design, on the game elements throughout machine gambling in Las Vegas. Speed, repetition, continuity, and designer chairs lure players into a zen flow and open wallet. The casino industry seeks to produce this bubble state, and closely tracks players’ behavior to further refine its profit engines. Loyalty cards are a key mechanism for these studies, recording the games we prefer, the denominations we default to. As “Dividuals“, we are treated as a collection of habits and preferences that can be marketed upon, often in real-time. Continue reading Questioning the Quantified Self as it Marches Towards Mainstream

Clay Shirky: Planning Shan’t Trump Reality

Clay Shirky‘s on stage with Ginny Hunt at Harvard’s Institute of Politics discussing the lessons we can take away from the Healthcare.gov boondoggle (#netrevolution).

Clay’s first point is that of all the criticism of Healthcare.gov and the Affordable Care Act, no one has argued that it’s a bad idea to rely on the web as the central component of citizen interaction with a government program. All of the other communications options, from phone to fax, have been considered second-rate fallback options. Continue reading Clay Shirky: Planning Shan’t Trump Reality

Holmes Wilson, internet activism, and why we need you

(originally posted on Civic MIT)

Fight For the Future is known for its massive viral organizing campaigns that changed Internet history both nationally and globally. Faced with the passage of Stop Online Piracy Act/SOPA and the Protect-IP Act/PIPA — legislation that would have jeopardized the open Internet as we know it — Fight for the Future organized the largest and most visible online protest in history. Holmes Wilson has also co-founded Miro, OpenCongress, and Amara. He’s been at the forefront of a range of open internet and participatory culture projects and campaigns.

Holmes Wilson (foreground) and Dalek (background)

The internet delivers newfound powers of expression
The key thing about the internet that drives Holmes’s passion for it is that it gives us a new power, which ultimately translates to freedom of expression. But not in the conventional sense. The freedom of expression the internet enables isn’t just about speaking. It’s about making art, starting a business, overthrowing a government, building a new government, realizing dreams, and the ability to give your greatest gift to the world. When we think about expression this way, it’d be unthinkable to fail in preserving this medium. It would stifle human potential.

But that power is inherently fragile
The internet is fragile. The power that is being given to people is not necessarily stable and there are significant threats to it. The most present threat of the recent year is SOPA/PIPA. In some ways, these seemed like very small reasonable changes to the law. There’s a law that says sites aren’t responsible for content that users generate and this would make site owners responsible for users’ content. The consequence would have been that any copyright holder could have taken down any site where their content appeared and any site that is built with user generated content would have to aggressively police user behavior and contribution. Most of the harm would have been invisible. If SOPA was in effect when YouTube was first invented, we wouldn’t have YouTube.

Continue reading Holmes Wilson, internet activism, and why we need you