You are viewing a read-only archive of the Blogs.Harvard network. Learn more.

Archive for the 'Conferences and other gatherings of smart people' Category

My Netroots Nation Vacation


unionbeer2Winding down my vacation here in Netroots Nation with a delicious, union-made Leinenkugel’s Sunset Wheat beer, thoughtfully provided by Working America and the AFLCIO. Trying to process my thoughts and impressions from 3 full days in this really interesting group.

My  panel – as usual, I can’t remember a word I said, but I’m sure I was mostly incoherent and didn’t make even half the poipittsburghatnightnts I meant to. HOWEVER, I do remember that in a Q&A about business models, I got actual applause for saying we need more public* financing for journalism. So there, journalism purists! Ari Melber was articulate as always and so right to remind people that the decline  of legacy media and the rise of participatory media are coincidental, not cause and effect. Jay Rosen was great at giving a historical perspective, however, I worry the message people might have gotten is that everything will work itself out without our help, which I don’t agree with (and am not sure is what Jay meant). Karl Frisch was articulate, but perhaps unnecessarily focused on bashing corporate media which felt (to me) like not quite the point.  Yobachi Boswell was wonderfully candid about his reliance as a blogger on professional journalism. And our one courageous representative of newspaper journalism Michael Fuoco whether intentionally or not highlighted most of the reasons why I believe most existing US daily newspapers are structurally incapable of being the organizations to preserve the core functions of journalism in a democracy:

  • he only semi-jokingly admitted his primary concern was whether the paper would stay in business long enough for him to put his kids through college.
  • he’s head of the union (note: I love and believe fiercely in unions, but I fear that the commitments many newspaper companies have to keeping their existing too-large workforces employed, whether due to union contracts or just their corporate desire not to layoff massive numbers of hardworking people, are one of many factors (their massive debt is another) that make it difficult for them to reinvent themselves in a way that supports good journalism in the public interest)
  • he feels that there’s a huge focus at the paper on the website, even though they have no idea how to make money on it (and even though they lack any number of basic things – when I searched for a link for Michael, I couldn’t find a bio page or a way to search for all articles by him and the post-gazette doesn’t appear in the first page of Google results on his name.
  • they get lots of traffic from outside of Pittsburgh and even outside Pennsylvania, most of it related to the Steelers. In fact, the Steelers have a huge impact on their bottom line. Sorry, but sports reporting is not high on my personal list of things that newspapers do that we can’t afford to lose. But with the Steelers-income link clear to everyone at the paper, who will be surprised if they lay off reporters covering education instead of those covering sports?

The plaintive op-ed in the paper today that mentioned Michael’s participation at Netroots added the final nail – too many print people seem to believe that it’s the physical paper and the out-of-date business model that accompanies it that makes their work important:

Print may not be as “sexy” as blogs as far as Mr. Clinton is concerned, but it is still the enterprise that gathers the bulk of today’s news. Through one platform or another, the Post-Gazette and other deeply rooted news organizations plan to be around and serving democracy for a long time.

Guys, it’s not about that. No one on the panel disagreed with Michael that well-done, accurate fact-based reporting is valuable, important, wonderful and that newspaper reporters often (but far from always) do it. But that reporting is a tiny piece of what a newspaper is and saving newspapers or your specific jobs  is not the most likely way to ensure that we get the journalism we need.

The audience seemed very thoughtful and openminded, neither aggressive towards legacy media nor obsessed with technology, but genuinely interested in how things might evolve and whether it will be good for democracy. Refreshing.

Anyway, AFTER I was done with my panel, I got to spend 2 days being absolutely inspired by the spirit of the people here vacillating between excitement at all the groups I didn’t know about and guilt at how little I’ve done to help the causes I believe in. Also, how delightful downtown Pittsburgh is. (no, that is not a joke) However, details on all the wonderful stuff I heard on other panels will have to wait for another post, it’s time to head for the airport.

*”public” in my definitely doesn’t necessarily imply government funding, although it certainly includes funds gathered by the gummint. $1/month tax on every subscriber‘s broadband bill could fund a Corporation for Public Journalism with a budget almost twice the size of Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Pittsburgh at Night by brunkfordbraun via Flickr

What Twitter is good for


Today’s local gov’t digital responsivess score: Boston Police 1, MBTA 0

Riding the #1 bus across the Charles to Cambridge for the last half-day of Media in Transition this morning, was mildly horrified to notice our driver holding the wheel with his forearms. Both hands were engaged with the keyboard of his cell phone and his gaze shifted between the road and his tiny screen. Didn’t think quickly enough to pull out the iPhone and snap a picture, but when I had settled into my conference session to listen to Ben Peters explain the failure of the Soviet Union to develop the Internet, I searched on Twitter in vain for an official MBTA (Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority) Twitter address (a few informal ones and one set up to insult the “T” as we call the Metro here in Boston). But the Boston Police are there! So I tweeted as follows:

8:50AM headed to #MIT6 just missed getting photo of driver on #1 texting while bus moving. MBTA not on Twitter!! Maybe @Boston_Police care?

And some while later, the Boston Police answered:

thanks – will forward to T.

Now that is the just the kind of civic participation instant gratification elation the Twit-o-sphere is made for.

They also thoughtfully advised me on the proper use of their Twitter:

Thank you for following the Boston Police(beta). We monitor @ replies, but in case of emergency, always phone 911.

Kudos to the Tweeting Boston Police, and Mass voters, please support increasing the gas tax to fund more better and more responsive mass transit.

Media in Transition (MiT6 at MIT)


HJI’m honored (not to mention intimidated) to be joining a panel with some of my favorite super-smart people (Ellen Hume, Pat Aufderheide, Jessica Clark, rock star* Jake Shapiro plus Dean Jansen whom I don’t know yet but am sure is also very cool) at the Media in Transition conference on Friday evening in Cambridge. The conference runs at MIT this Thursday – Sunday and it is so jammed with interesting presentation that my brain is spinning just reading the abstracts. I hope I can find a few things from my oddball pragmatist int’l development perspective that will be interesting to these folks. Looking forward to learning a lot.

* no, I mean literally a rock star.

Image: Henry Jenkins, because (according to the conference site): “The first Media in Transition conference was held in 1999 and marked the launch of the MIT graduate program in Comparative Media Studies. Since then, four bi-annual conferences have been held, co-sponsored by CMS and the MIT Communications Forum, with each new conference generating a more internationally diverse audience than its predecessor. “

Whole world(wideweb) in my hand(held device)


It’s one thing to say, as I frequently have, (though to my embarrassment not nearly enough in my Media Re:public papers), that handheld devices will be the computers and the internet platforms of most of the world and that everyone doing something with media (or, in fact, anything at all that involves information) in any country in the world, developed or otherwise, should be figuring out where mobile comes in.It’s another thing to see with your own eyes that this is not a future we can pretend we are planning for, it’s right now. Mobile is it. Mobile mobile mobile mobile. Repeat it, believe it. om mobile padme hum.sms
Saturday’s marvelous Mobile Tech for Social Activism BarCamp made it all real for me. Kudos to Hunter College’s Integrated Media Arts program for getting it – they co-hosted the event.

It was an unconference with about a half dozen sessions going simultaneously all the time. A lot of good Twittering captured some of the stuff, and organizer Mobile Active has a great directory of projects and demos. Patrick Meier did a very detailed summary of his day at iRevolution.

So, very briefly, a few things I came away with:
* I want an Android phone, but even more I want to become an Android developer so I can play with things like RapidSMS.
* I love the fact that so much of the interesting work with mobile is in the developing world. America is behind the curve.
* I am finally reading The Promise of Ubiquity: Mobile as Media Platform in the Global South, which John West and my colleagues at Internews Europe had the prescience to put out in December and which I hope will get the media development community thinking and talking more about this.
* As Ethan Zuckerman, always wise, reminded us via Skype, mobile doesn’t do everything – sometimes it needs to be complemented and multiplied by, for example, radio. Also, projects using voice are really interesting.
* Security and privacy are just as important for mobiles as they are on the Internet.
* Wish I were doing this not for a day but a week at Info-Activism Camp. Generally need more unconference and more camp in my life.
* Wonder if all the competition is good or wasteful (apparently it’ll take 3 years till we can fix the idiocy of mobile phone chargers?)
* Somewhat daunted by the thought of a whole new area of geekery to learn how to fake my way through.
* Saw a demo of 3-D video on an iPhone. Funtastic.

Update: Dried fish and mobile phones – read Christine Gorman on her day at M4change.
“SMS till you drop” — mobile phone ad on van in Kampala, Uganda
Uploaded to Flickr on November 24, 2006

TED envy, 2009 edition


For the second time since I started my wonderful year at the Berkman Center, I’m devouring my friend Ethan Zuckerman‘s blogposts about the TED conference. (He was delayed getting there by travel nightmares; Erik Hersman did a great job standing in for him on the first day or so.)

Now that I’m back in the world of grant-funded international media development, one of the things I hope to hold onto from my year as Alice in cyberland is the amazing tradition of eclecticism, openness to new ideas and generosity I found among the people I met at and through Berkman. TED is the epitome of this. I’ve never been to TED, but from what I’ve heard and read, it’s an inspirational event where super-smart people from an amazing range of fields talk about what they know, think, do.

A quick selection of quotes from the more than 20,000 words in the 30+ TED 2009 posts on Ethan’s blog gives a hint of what we missed:

“There is no such thing as a viable democracy of experts, zealots, politicians and spectators.”

Ariely filled fridges at MIT with coke cans and tracked their disappearance… and also put in plates containing six dollar bills. The half-life of the coke was very short, and very long for the bills.

Hunting bushmeat means lots of blood contact between hunters and their primate prey.

Jay Walker, the founder of Priceline and the owner of a legendary library, … tells us that the desire for people to learn English is now approaching mania state much as Beatlemania, sports manias or religious manias have swept through populations.

We see a video of a wooden rollercoaster made by eight year-olds.

Ueli Gegenschatz tells us he’s “addicted to air”. What he means is that he’s addicted to jumping off things. He began with paragliding, then moved to skydiving, and eventually to skysurfing – diving with a stiff board allowing him to fall more slowly, and with twists and tricks.

Mary Roach projects a slide titled, “Ten things you didn’t know about orgasms.”

The strategies that get us through childhood alive keep us from growing up.

Willie Smits lives in Borneo, Indonesia, where he works as a forrester and microbiologist. But he’s better know as the guy who saves orangutans.

Don’t worry about octopuses taking over the world – not only is their structure wrong for life outside the oceans, but they have very short memories, appropriate for their short lifespans.

The legs she wears today make her 6′1″, not her usual 5′8″, and she tells us that friends say, “Aimee, it’s not fair that you can change your height.”

Other things I love about TED:

TED is expensive (it costs $6,000 to attend)

TED is free (you can watch and participate online)

TED is a fierce meritocracy (you have to be really good to present there)

TED is egalitarian (they work hard to get people of all kinds)

TED is serious (hey you could win a fellowship of $100k, that’s no joke!)

TED is silly (I just registered, was offered the chance to identify myself as “atheist, blogger,foodie”)

Let me clear – I’m not saying that people in development or nonprofits aren’t openminded or creative but after a year in Cyberland going to a media development conference (as I did in December in Athens) made me want to hang myself. Even though GFMD2008 was a GREAT conference by the standards of typical conferences (all the right people, some good discussions, very well organized), it could not come close to the chaotic, creative juiciness of the Knight Digital New Challenge gathering (which Ethan liveblogged, of course) organized by my friends at MIT’s Center for Future Civic Media last June.

Many of the people I work with in media development are dedicated, passionate (even obsessed) about their work, and also fun to hang out with. But like most people they draw lines between stuff they love that they keep separate from work, which must remain serious and serious=dull. Whereas, at their best, my new cyberpals consider that everything they’re interested in may be a learning experience, even when silly, and that everything they learn must belong to the world, just in case someone might need it. They actually work incredibly hard (take a look at the output of people like David Weinberger, Doc Searls and Ethan Zuckerman on their blogs and you will realize how much effort it takes) to share it. They understand that they are phenomenally privileged to have the time and opportunity to meet people and learn about things and they feel compelled to give back.

Anyway, thanks people for a transformational experience, hope I can do it justice as I return to life as an electronic paperpusher.

Images: Aimee Mullins‘ amazing legs; Living Skyscraper, Blake Kurasek

Vote for human rights media!


I care about journalists and human rights

Just a few hours left to cast your vote for the audience award for next Saturday’s Every Human Has Rights Media Awards. There are 30 finalists, and the professional jury has already made its choices. The contest is part of a celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The stories are not cheerful – the first few I looked at included torture, rape, and child labor – maybe a good excuse to remind ourselves of everything we have to be thankful for this weekend.

Above, a photo from a story by Mario Magalhaes in Folha de S. Paulo on the slave-like conditions of sugar cane workers in Brazil. I’ll be at the awards ceremony on Saturday, looking forward to meeting the 30 finalists from around the world. They’re doing God’s work (despite my deep atheism, I have no good replacement for that phrase – suggestions welcome).

Coming to Conclusions


I have been a certified “dead blogger” recently thanks to focusing all writing energy on white paper trying to summarize all the stuff I’ve learning during my wonderful year here at Berkman.

But I did thoroughly enjoy getting some feedback on the current version of the conclusions from a thoughtful Jay's bookgroup of colleagues inside and outside Berkman yesterday. If you weren’t there, Ethan Zuckerman kindly liveblogged it. His post is more lucid than the talk itself.

Post-factum, the soundbite version of our conclusions is this:

All of the functions that we consider to comprise journalism in the public interest, from reporting to analysis to contextualizing to editing, are more vital than ever.

There are lots of different organizations (commercial and public legacy media, citizen media, web-native commercial media, nonprofits, etc.) who are doing this work in various structures and for various reasons, but they are not doing everything that is desirable, and much of their work is not reaching the public who needs it.

New institutions or new configurations that are possible in the networked digital media environment are needed to make sure that a broad range of audiences are well served and that reporting on topics and populations that are difficult, expensive and commercially unattractive is included in the mix.

How simple. Now, back to work!

At right, the book that I’m speedreading (wishing I’d read before) this week is Jay Hamilton’s All the News That’s Fit to Sell Check it out!

New England News Forum


Dave Mathison, author of Be the Media is opening Sharing the news: Reaching students, training citizens New England News Forum ‘s one-day event here at UMass Lowell (watch it live here, follow #nenf on Twitter) Warning: live blogging, expect mistakes. A small group with a mix of community news, students and education folks here, plus a couple folks from professional media outlets. Looking forward to meeting folks from well-known community news sites the Forum and New Haven Independent to hearing about what journalism educators are thinking about participatory media.

Dave is a “traditional” cyberutopian, anyone can do it, cut out the middleman, don’t let the artist be treated like slave labor, self-publish, get on facebook and twitter, etc. “What about credibility?” is heard muttered nearby during his presentation (can you guess that I’m sitting with the professional journalists?). In fact, when we get beyond the 1000 true fans who can support an independent rock musician to discussions of hard news (he reminds folks he did used to work at Reuters) Dave admits that he doesn’t actually think editors and editorial judgment will go away, in fact he predicts an “explosion of the need for editors and editorial judgment,” but it will exist in new structures.

Image: Photo of David Mathison taken on my phone

Grantee roundup (Knight@MIT’s Center for Future Civic Media 3)


Rick Borovoy from nTAG interactive is telling us about how we’ve been interacting with members of other groups. The groups are Knight Foundation staff (there are a lot of them here and they’ve been talking to each other 103% more than random chance would predict), MIT folks, 2007 Knight winners, 2008 Knight winners and staff/guests. Meanwhile, Ellen Hume and Gary Kebbel are at the top of the “Kevin Bacon” list of folks who interact most (I made number 5!)

Now Gary (the proud father) is going to emcee a review of the grantees. He first explains the genesis of the project: newspaper circulation falling, revenue falling, newspapers losing influence, do we have to sit and watch this happening, or are there tools that can help fill the vacuum that is being created? We think yes, we believe in the mission of the news and information industry. What we think newspapers do: unite a town, bring people together to discuss their problems, perhaps lead them to solutions. But it’s also about place. So when we started the News Challenge, people said what is this nonsense using digital media to serve geographic communities, this just shows you don’t understand the Internet, it’s about virtual communities. But we don’t elect virtual presidents, it’s not a virtual school board that cuts arts funding, this geography thing is still important.

Anyway, he’s now going to try to get ALL the new Knight grantees to describe their projects and have the 2007 grantees say something about the impact of their projects (turns out foundations don’t just give away money, they want to see impact from it – who knew?). Important to notice that many grants are using OLD technology in new ways to bridge the digital divide. He gives the 2008 grantees a couple minutes each, see if I can keep up:

Brenda Burrell ( explains that dial-up radio in Zimbabwe is able to provide the information and community-building role of radio without expensive transmitters.

Brein Macnamara of SignCasts is working to find ways for deaf people to be able to do civic reporting using their primary language of American Sign Language (ASL), which means finding ways for them to get better access to video technologies. He’s also remarkably cheerful about the exhausting task of participating in a conference in a foreign language through an interpreter.

Aaditeshwar Seth from University of Waterloo describes his Community Radio in India project to provide radio in rural India, using telephone-based playback and also bringing the Internet to the radio stations who can interpret and contextualize the information for their audience.

Joel Selanikio, co-founder of Datadyne, an organization generally seeking sustainable projects to deliver needed services in the developing world. Knight grants funds a cell-phone project to deliver news. They will likely roll out in Kenya.

Guy Berger, South Africa, project is “The News is Coming,” working with journalism students to connect citizens of black township with white urban residents.

Jessica Mayberry is in India, where her project Video Volunteers is making videos in rural India that are shown on mobile video screens. They promote these screenings widely, sometimes to people who’ve never seen a movie or TV in their lives.

Alexander Zolatarev ‘s Sochi Olympics Project is going to track the attitudes of the people of Sochi, Russia as the town is prepared for the Olympics in 6 years. He’s been studying citizen journalism at CUNY for the year, goes home to Sochi later this summer. Gary Kebbel points out that the accumulation of 5 years of data on citizen reactions will be useful to international journalists who arrive to cover the Olympics.

Transparent Journalism, the project of Tim Berners-Lee and Martin Moore, is presented by Gary K. The idea is you will be able to know more about the journalism that ends up on your screen, things that will let you decide something about its quality. Partnering with Reuters and BBC. I like and respect Martin, but I still find the idea that metadata will solve the credibility problem dubious. Looking forward to being proven wrong.

Printcasting – presented by Dan Pacheco of the Bakersfield Californian, making tools to allow people to produce high-quality printed products.

Tools for Public Access TV presented by Tony Shawcross, is exactly what it sounds like – helping public access stations link to each other and share expertise and content.

RadioDrupal is a really interesting model for a grant-funded project! Local NPR station wanted to hire Margaret Rosas and her company Quiddities to build their site, but had no money. So they applied for the Knight grant to make it happen. And of course be available to other stations. Gary explains why they like funding tools and why they insist that everything developed be openly available, something that to their sadness has led to fewer newspapers applying for these grants (will they ever learn? no, they’ll never learn) because they don’t want to give technology away to their competitors.

Student editors from the UCLA student paper did apply though, to come up with a system that would replace the whiteboards most college newspapers are using now (helloo digital natives – aren’t all people their age know instinctively how to collaborate online??) Project is Community News Network, difficult from their description to get how it’s different from any number of other things, but I’m sure there’s some secret sauce I don’t get. Warning to professors – student says the system will let kids “work on the paper while they’re in class,” stealing away those last few who haven’t succumbed to supplementing your lectures with Facebook, etc.

Ryan Sholin has a small grant to help him develop “Reporting On” in his spare time (his day job is interesting too, helping really small papers across the country get wired). It’s a resource for journalists working on stories of any kind to share and find expertise. So if you’re reporting on an earthquake and building codes, you find out what sources others used, etc.

Our buddy David Cohn explains SpotUs, which I’ve mentioned before. Freelancers pitch stories to communities, communities/individuals can make microdonations to fund reporting on the issues they care about. I think this could be an incredibly tool and if anyone can get it up and running with only $300,000, it’s Dave.

That’s all the 2008 winners, now progress reports from 2007 winners:

Our City, Our Voices project for digital inclusion of immmigrant workers in Philadaelphia also presented through an interpreter. They’re training people in video and online tools and using the free wireless from the city. Originally started with one English-language and one Spanish-language class, used the video to bring people together. Distributed via DVD, public screenings and web.

Geoff Dougherty of Chi-Town Daily News. We have 50 volunteer citizen journalists we train them pair them with professional editors and task them with covering their neighborhoods. Results have exceeded their own optimistic expectations. Now at 18,000 visitors per month. 75% of readers are 18-40, which is exactly who the Tribune is losing. (Gary: Geoff has 2 Pulitzer Prize winners on his board, the original goal was one reporter in each neighborhood: how do you find them, train them, and retain them. Now Geoff knows that 3-4 reporters is what you really need. Also they have synergy with 2 other Chicago Knight grantees: Everyblock and the project at Northwestern. We hope this is what will happen with this year’s 16 projects, that they will help each other do more than they originally planned.)

What is the project at Northwestern? We have 2 students here with us – it’s a scholarship program to give Masters degrees at the Medill School of Journalism to Computer Science students. Ryan Mark says it was surprising that it’s difficult to learn this writing and other stuff that journalists do. He’s getting an A though. Thinking about how to use technology to connect to source or improve data collection. His buddy Brian Boyer says his friends thought he was crazy to do this. Until he read post about this project on Boing Boing it had never occurred to him to consider that journalists have a mission. But the commercialization of the media is weird. He reiterates the broccoli theory (people eat their newspaper for the horoscopes not the news) though he calls the news “medicine.” So although technology has ruined the newspaper, perhaps it will save it. Near-zero cost of production and distribution. Make the news portion of the Tribune part of a foundation and then sell it back to people who want to print it?? He’s out to fix the business model. Rich Gordon is their professor, he’s pleased that Knight would take this risk. All they’ve promised is that 9 folks with CS backgrounds will learn journalism just as we’ve always taught it (well our curriculum is updated, but you get it). I’m confident that they’ll all go off to do something interesting. They still have 5-6 slots – apply now!!

Well that was exhausting, but fun (the liveblogging part). Additional coverage by prolific Tweeter Amy Gahran and others here and by Mark Glaser here.

Action! (Knight@MIT’s Center for Future Civic Media 2)


“Thus we seek to bestir the people into an awareness of their own condition, provide inspiration for their thoughts and rouse them to pursue their true interests.” John S. Knight, 1969

Chris Csikszentmihalyi opens session on “civic action” [warning amateur live-blogging ahead] with this quote which he claims to have used more than 13,000 times. He goes on to tell stories of the Media Lab’s most political projects (he says their maxim is “All technology is political.”) TXTmobs at the RNC. Complaining about Total Information Awareness, losing NSA sponsorship to the Media Lab, etc.

Now extrACT, his current project (not yet online, perhaps for good reason), mapping gas wells in Colorado. There are literally 80,000, less than half now active. Takes 1-3 acres of land, pump fracturing fluid into the ground to get the gas out, these chemicals are unregulated (since 2004), millions of these chemicals going into the ground (and ground water), 93% of them turn out to be health hazards. Terrifying stuff. Frightening shot of cemetery next to industrial operations, to emphasize the ubiquity of these poisonous industries, I can’t keep track of the names of the chemicals. Tap water so chemically tainted it catches fire. Asthma, cancer, etc. (Honestly friendly suggestion to team – get a sound recording lesson before you do more video so we can hear the testimony of the folks you’re interviewing as well as we hear your questions, the BBC clip Chris showed is what you’re aiming for.)

Describes how they went back and forth between feeling that it’s hopeless that “there is so much we can do.” Great quote: “The companies have satellite uplinks from each well telling exactly how much each one is producing every minute but the people living literally next to them have no information on what they’re being exposed to. So we decided we’ll start being objective once the information access is in better balance.” Web penetration is only 20% so using paper forms as well, phone systems soon.

Buy It Like You Mean It Clay Ward presents a project to help socially responsible consumers. The idea is so clearly needed, he’s met 6 others working on the same thing, he’s collaborating with some of them. The idea is to build a centralized database with input from everyone and accessible in many ways, including SMS and voice.

Hero Reports Alyssa Wright shows project that encourages people to report small acts of heroism, kindness, etc. Inspired as a response to the anti-terrorism “If you see something, say something” campaign. Online template for reporting or self-reporting. Various input (postcards!) and browsable in many ways, to allow not only “Facebook people” to use.

Sourcemap Leonardo Bonanni says he started doing visualizations for their own sakes now mapping how things get into a product as it’s made, you see where the cadmium in your computer is mined, where the oysters on your plate were grown and so on. Also calculates the energy of people travelling to meetings and so on. All open for you to use!

About Us Annina Rüst Disparities of perception and reality in the “gender-configuration” of technology culture and how to intervene.

Freedom Fone / Kubatana Brenda Burrell representing one of the international (bravo, Knight!) new winners of the Knight award. They are working in Zimbabwe – she shows a graphic of “freedom of speech” with the quotation marks barbed and bloody. She shares a poem to remind us that even in the worst situation, people need hope:

Dance your anger and your joys,
Dance the military guns to silence,
Dance oppression and injustice to death,
Dance my people.

Meanwhile, 80% unemployment and 2 million % inflation. So we have to use new technologies but we can’t limit ourselves to the web, or email or texting. But mobile phones are ubiquitous in Zimbabwe, which as she notes is a sophisticated society despite its current tragic political situation. So they are creating radio for telephones.

Everyblock Adrian Holovaty shows us his “hypermicrolocal news” site, which grew out of earlier project to map crime in Chicago. Provides data on crime, restaurant health inspections, yelp restaurant reviews, etc. Says the site is simple “not getting in your way with a lot of content like newspapers do.” This “news” (I would call it “information,” but that’s me). Refers apologetically to the site serving “I guess it’s the cliche of the long tail.” “Anyway,” he concludes, “it’s a geographic filter for stuff around your house. Thanks.”

Questions: JD Lasica asks Adrian about social aspects, how do they get people to contribute content? Answer: only indirectly, people have to go to Yelp (restaurants), Flickr (photos) and tag things in ways to get on everyblock. Dedicated staff person gets the government info.

Person I don’t know (yet) says he works in developing countries where often no addresses (but they do have blocks) why not mobile phone based input? Adrian: some of it aleady is GPS. Follow up: People in Kibera don’t have GPS but their cellphone triangulates. Adrian: yes.

Amy Gahran who is live-tweeting asks where are the links to these projects. (Thanks Amy, I can’t find some of them either.) Extracts promise to get links onto Center for Future Civic Media blog.
Jeremy Liu: why not mash Hero Reports with Everyblock? Alyssa: YES! I’m dying to.


Photo: borrowed from MIT Media Lab website