Civic Engagement

Community Innovation Lab: Mashups of Youth, Activists, Technologists, Policymakers

Monday, December 17, 2012 Comment what is upham's corner poster on side of building

If you seek examples of civic engagement by young people, look no further than the Community Innovation Lab, a mashup of Harvard students and faculty, the city of Boston, and established neighborhood associations. The core of this town-gown-local government hybrid is a course jointly taught by Harvard Graduate School of Design professor Michael Hooper and Harvard Kennedy School professor Susan Crawford. The Lab is the activist portion of the course, which also includes weekly seminars taught separately by each professor. Crawford’s syllabus on ”Solving Problems Using Technology” and Hooper’s syllabus on “Advanced Workshop in Participatory Urban


What Ancient Greek Rhetoric Might Teach Us About New Civics

Thursday, November 29, 2012 Comment picture of old new greece city skyline

A great deal of our conversation lately has focused on getting governments to open up their data and to share what they know with the general public. We are beginning to see a larger trend emerge -– much of the thinking of the power of technology to transform societies, especially societies in the developing world, focuses on government transparency. I think this focus is deeply important, but I also think it’s an incomplete way to understand the space of technology and social change. We need to understand not just governments and transparency, but the rights and


Gaming the System

Thursday, November 08, 2012 Comment shadow of man working at computer

Before the presidential election took place this week, many teachers used attention to the political drama unfolding across the nation as a way to draw students into classroom discussions and assignments.  Lesson plans that focus on elections have been around for decades to promote civic education and other learning goals.  However, the idea that video games are a way to promote civic engagement and an understanding of democratic systems is a newer idea, although role-playing activities and strategic games around mock elections have long been used in K-12 classes about government.  And, as Joseph Kahne pointed


Facebook, Public Education and Equity: A 13-year-old Fights for a “Better School”

Monday, October 08, 2012 Comment diario de classe facebook group page

Last April, 9-year-old Martha Payne created a blog to discuss the quality of the food served in her school called “Never Seconds.” In the blog, she discussed the quality (and quantity) of food available in her school using terms such as “food-o-meter” and “healthness.” The blog become an international hit and attracted the attention of several celebrities, including Jamie Oliver. Martha’s blog also increased awareness about the quality and quantity of food served in the UK’s (and the world’s) public schools, leading to several changes, including in Martha’s school. Inspired by Martha Payne’s case, Isadora Faber,


Understanding Digital Civics

Monday, September 03, 2012 Comment group of students working on their laptops individually

Last week, I gave a lecture titled “The Emergence of Digital Civics” at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia. I was in South Australia to give another lecture, a joint lecture with Dr. Genevieve Bell of Intel in memory of her friend James Tizard. I hope to write up the talks Genevieve and I gave, but since I had detailed notes for my civics lecture, I’ve worked them into a blog post. In Kansas City, a young man named Jase Wilson is trying to build a trolley system. Kansas City applied to the US department of transportation


How Do We Make Civic Crowdfunding Awesome?

Monday, August 13, 2012 Comment thousands of hands in the air

Ten people each contribute $100 a month into a pool. They meet once a month and discuss possible projects to support. Each month, they give a grant of $1000 to a project that meets a simple criterion: it’s awesome. That’s the logic behind the Awesome Foundation, founded by Tim Hwang and friends, brilliantly built and managed by Christia Xu. Awesome Foundation now has 50 chapters in 10 countries and has given 252 grants, sponsoring awesome projects like Float, which attaches air pollution sensors to kites to report on air quality, and Free the Billboards, which invites


Learning from Kony 2012

Thursday, June 14, 2012 Comment large group of student at science fair

In March of this year, as I taught my winter lecture class that focuses on Public Rhetoric and Practical Communication Online, I began to receive urgent e-mails from students about a viral video produced by a group called Invisible Children, which my undergraduates implored me to watch.  A number of the messages came with warnings that it would require thirty minutes of my time and attention.  A typical cautionary message read as follows: “you should really watch the whole thing in one go, so set up a good chunk of time.” So I made sure to


PortoAlegre.cc: Giving A City Back to Its Citizens

Monday, June 11, 2012 Comment girl in sound booth working on laptop with headphones on

Several new projects are trying to use cyberspace as a platform to help citizens build an information network and share information about their cities. One effort that has achieved significant traction is PortoAlegre.cc, a platform for the citizens of Porto Alegre, the capital of Rio Grande do Sul state in Brazil to interact, share information about their city, and mobilize for cause. The idea is to provide an online space for people to discuss the city’s problems and to collectively think about solutions. It was the fruit of a smaller project created by Rio dos Sinos


Worthy Reads: Mobile Learning, Flipped Lessons, New Media Literacies

Thursday, June 07, 2012 Comment global kids working at table together eating snacks

Fast Company magazine recently featured this article, from design studio Frog’s Fabio Sergio, on how mobile devices will provide learning opportunities for people across age and income spectrums. It offers a nice overview, from a design perspective, on how mobile is opening new opportunities for learning. He details the following: 1. Continuous learning2. Educational leapfrogging3. A new crop of older, lifelong learners (and educators)4. Breaking gender boundaries, reducing physical burdens5. A new literacy emerges: software literacy6. Education’s long tail7. Teachers and pupils trade roles8. Synergies with mobile banking and mobile health initiatives9. New opportunities for traditional


Social Media and Public Sphere: The #VetaDilma Movement and Brazil’s Forests

Friday, May 25, 2012 Comment people filming interview in large art studio graffiti on the walls

Today Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff vetoed several parts of a controversial forest bill that had been approved by Brazil’s Congress and promoted by powerful agricultural interests. Until today, it was unclear how President Rousseff would decide and she did not opt for a full veto, which is what environmentalists had pushed for. But in recent weeks millions of Brazilians protested the bill, both online and offline. Given today’s actions by President Rousseff, this is a situation and outcome comparable to the online campaign mounted against the controversial SOPA legislation in the U.S. that was also backed