This infographic from Floor Gem blasts the Transportation Security Administration's prodigious terribleness (prodigious in the sense that the TSA is a terribleness prodigy, on the level of Bobby Fischer and chess). There's nothing that inherently lends this data to the infographic form. It's flawed. There's nothing that that the graphicality adds to the data. But, the infographic is just so good-looking, its imperfections don't matter. It affects you. You remember it. And that's really what counts when it comes to communicating data. I'd like you to read the whole post and infographic below and then go to the bottom, where...more »
Idea Lab is a group blog by innovators who are reinventing community news for the Digital Age.
Each Idea Lab blogger is a winner of the Knight News Challenge grant to reshape community news.Learn more about the Knight News Challenge »
The MIT Technology Review recently posted an article titled, "Campaigns to Track Voters with 'Political Cookies." It freaks me out for a reason I'll get to below. From Technology Review: The technology involves matching a person's web identity with information gathered about that person offline, including his or her party registration, voting history, charitable donations, address, age, and even hobbies. Companies selling political targeting services say "microtargeting" of campaign advertising will make it less expensive, more up to the minute, and possibly less intrusive. But critics say there's a downside to political ads that combine offline and online data. "These...more »
In my nearly four years here at the MIT Center for Civic Media, I've seen the rise of some great solutions to communications challenges. MailChimp and other email marketing platforms have made signing up and emailing friends and followers dead simple while avoiding the worst practices that lead to spamhood. Twitter not only works as a broadcast medium but also makes rebroadcasting more respectable than it had been. (You think I'm kidding, but older professional communications folks still reflexively hesitate, wondering if featuring others' news weakens one's own brand or, worse, constitutes a copyright violation.) Eventbrite helps manage ticketing and...more »
For those who may not know, we at the MIT Center for Civic Media have doubled down on our events schedule. In addition to co-hosting events with other groups around MIT as we have the last few years, we now have two major event series: Civic Media Sessions and Civic Lunches. The latter is an import from Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet & Society, courtesy of Ethan Zuckerman, our director/Berkman researcher. They're informal and free, and full of food. The former -- the Civic Media Sessions -- are remarkable evening talks. Held at the MIT Media Lab, they bring together...more »
This post was authored by Matthew Hockenberry, who co-created Sourcemap as a visiting scientist with the MIT Center for Civic Media. Knowing where things come from is a fundamental part of humanity. Things are very different when they come from different places. The provenance of a work tells us the importance of not only where something has come from, but when it was created and who it was that fashioned it. Ancient vessels in Pompeii bear the eternal mark of Vesuvinum, and shelves of China are still identified by their geographic namesake. With supply chains we talk about traceability, or...more »
One of the things we at MIT are very quietly considering -- quietly in the same sense that I first considered getting a creative writing degree, as in, seduced by the prospect while overawed by the reality -- is holding a large, public civic media conference as part of, or in addition to, our invitation-only Civic Media Conference with the Knight Foundation. We last discussed it as videos from this year's Civic Media Conference came online, and I'd like to share those videos, not just for their own sake, but for you to ask yourself: Would you travel to Boston...more »
MIT's Center for Future Civic Media redoubled its public events efforts this past year, thanks to a push by its fellow Ethan Zuckerman. Zuckerman brings a unique perspective -- a civic one -- to media developments so often dominated by politics and business-model debates. This approach couldn't be more evident than in the case of two recent Civic Media Sessions, videos of which you'll see below. Our sessions, spread throughout the semester, are conversations around civic media topics we're just now defining, including the coalescing of the field itself around information needs, geographic communities, and replicable, sustainable technical innovation. "Design...more »
With a redoubled focus on the community in the civic media community, the Center for Future Civic Media at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) launched a new series last week. These relaxed, informal conversations about civic media featured ground-level practitioners, activists, hackers, and local leaders. The first session, "Bustling with Information: Cities, Code, and Civics," brought good friends Nick Grossman, Nigel Jacob, and Max Ogden to our Cambridge campus. As you can see from the video clips below, these sessions are unique opportunities to talk about the amazing work that goes on in this sphere, intriguingly out of earshot...more »
Last Friday, MIT Center for Future Civic Media's director Chris Csikszentmihalyi formally released extrAct, a suite of Internet-based databasing, mapping and communications technologies for use by communities impacted by natural gas development. extrAct is targeted not only at communities and landowners but also at the journalists who cover local development and environment issues. It is a novel platform for community education and civic action. While outlets such as 60 Minutes have picked up on both the unprecedented opportunities and health risks of American natural gas extraction, which is touted as the country's path to energy independence, Csikszentmihályi and his team...more »
Though we were the top winner in the inaugural Knight News Challenge back in 2007, MIT's Center for Future Civic Media took as our mandate something rather "un-news": Applying our tech expertise to information needs, broadly defined, rather than what we'd traditionally call news. This focus has had a big impact on the kind of work we take on. It's pushed us to identify key needs left unmet by traditional news outlets, even ones otherwise adjusting well to the transition online. We've worked on urban signage, open-source grassroots mapping, natural gas drilling databases, and much else with big, ground-level...more »
I'm helping MIT's Center for Future Civic Media put together a talk on how better to cover slow-motion disasters, and I'd like your thoughts. The bursting of the housing bubble, for example, cost the American economy $8.3 trillion. Yet for a decade, national media missed signs of the coming disaster, acting instead to simply keep pumping. While we can cover hurricanes and terrorist attacks, we – the media, Americans, humans – seem to be terrible technologically and rhetorically at covering disasters that unfold slowly, stories like oil spill cleanups or health care policy that take months or years to fully...more »
We're in the midst of another wartime disconnect, though it's different this time around. During the Vietnam War, the disconnect was between the government and its citizens. With the publishing of the Pentagon Papers, the press solidified a long-suspected belief that the government, through its spokespersons and the military, was misleading the public about the prosecution of the war. Because they were published in 1971, the Pentagon Papers were too late to the game, so to speak, to affect public opinion about the war. Yet they helped turn Americans away from their government: Americans knew their government had failed them,...more »
Imagine you're sitting at the back of a classroom. The lecture is on a fascinating topic -- the American Civil War, say. The professor has started a riveting back-and-forth with students in the front about the Union's initial motivations for fighting. The professor says, "And then Harriet Jacobs wrote 'Uncle Tom's Cabin,' which galvanized many northerners in the cause of abolishing slavery. What role do you think Jacobs' book played?" You cock your head. Harriet Jacobs? It was Harriet Beecher Stowe who wrote "Uncle Tom's Cabin." You raise your hand to ask for a clarification, but the back-and-forth between the...more »
This week, all past and present Knight News Challenge winners descend here upon the MIT campus as Knight Foundation and the MIT Center for Future Civic Media co-host the 2010 Future of News and Civic Media conference. There has been an interesting evolution in the conference's -- and the News Challenge's -- focus: the question is less and less "How do we save, finance, or repurpose the functions of newspapers?" and more and more "How do we blow apart what we once thought media was 'merely' capable of?" News Challenge winners are showing that investigative journalism doesn't always need an...more »
In a recent Idea Lab post from the Center for Future Civic Media, Jeff Warren wrote about using inexpensive balloons and cheap cameras to make pseudo-satellite imagery of a given area. He had been using it to help people in poor areas establish title to their land (Google Maps satellites don't map poor areas as fast as these areas actually grow). But then the Gulf oil spill happened... Phone calls and emails started coming in from suddenly out-of-work fishermen who were frustrated with British Petroleum, and also flummoxed by the lack of imagery explaining how and where the oil slick...more »
The MIT News Office recently interviewed one of our colleagues at the MIT Center for Future Civic Media, Mitch Resnick. Resnick is a long-time Media Lab professor best known for helping develop and deploy Scratch, a programming language for kids. But this month Apple rejected an app that would allow kids to view Scratch programs on iPhones and iPads. Resnick is his ever-reasonable self in the interview, saying that Apple doesn't allow applications that interpret or execute code and thus the Scratch app in question (which was developed by a third party) violates that policy. But it's an indication of...more »
Yesterday colleagues of mine at MIT were brainstorming plenaries for an upcoming media conference. Data visualization came up, but each of us grumbled. "Overdone," one of us said, to nodding heads. We'd done a session on that at every one of our conferences and forums, as had others at theirs. Data visualization had become tragically hip, as if we were in charge of a music festival and one of us had just proffered Coldplay. But as we teased out our reservations, we realized that it wasn't visualization that we had an issue with; yes, we agreed, it's an overdone topic,...more »
If you want to know what it's like pitching a new media project, just go to the experts: This South Park clip, a classic in its own right, is a favorite around the MIT Center for Future Civic Media because every single new media project -- ours and those from our Knight News Challenge colleagues -- inevitably hits a wall at "Phase 2." For South Park's Underpants Gnomes, "Phase 1: Collect underpants" is like every great idea we've all had: It doesn't quite make sense to everyone else yet, but we know it's gold. We also know it totally will...more »
Poor Clifford Stoll. His 1995 Newsweek essay The Internet? Bah! Hype alert: Why cyberspace isn't, and will never be, nirvana resurfaced last month and, yes, is still so curmudgeony that it makes Dennis the Menace's Mr. Wilson sound like Pangloss: What the Internet hucksters won't tell you is that the Internet is one big ocean of unedited data, without any pretense of completeness. Lacking editors, reviewers or critics, the Internet has become a wasteland of unfiltered data. You don't know what to ignore and what's worth reading. Logged onto the World Wide Web, I hunt for the date of the...more »
I think newspapers, blogs, and magazines should all be doing audio versions. I grew up enjoying and listening to audiobooks and now I don't have the same option for the short form content that I prefer to consume.
MediaShift delivers the best news on media and technology directly to your in-box.