Civic Engagement

Networked Politics from Tahrir to Taksim: Is there a Social Media-fueled Protest Style?

Monday, June 03, 2013 Comment man standing holding peace signs in city in front of thousands of protesters

Protesters from one of the world’s richest countries, one of the world’s oldest autocracies, and one of the world’s rising developing countries walk into … a public space, use Twitter extensively, and capture global attention to their movement and their hashtag. From “#Occupy Wall Street” in the United States to the #M15 movement in Spain, from Tahrir Square and #Jan 25 in Egypt, to Taksim Square and #occupygezi in Turkey, there have been a variety of social movements that, while coming from strikingly different backgrounds and contexts, also share structural and stylistic elements. In this post,


What Comes After Election Monitoring? Citizen Monitoring of Infrastructure

Monday, April 29, 2013 Comment black man speaking into bull horn at rally

I was recently in Senegal at a board meeting for Open Society Foundation, meeting organizations the foundation supports around the continent. Two projects in particular stuck in my mind. One is Y’en a Marre (“Fed Up”), a Senegalese activist organization led by hiphop artists and journalists, who worked to register voters and oust long-time president Abdoulaye Wade. (I wrote about them last week here, and on Wikipedia). The other is a project run by Open Society Foundation West Africa – OSIWA – with support from partners in Senegal, Liberia, Nigeria and the UK. It’s an election


Beyond “The Crisis in Civics”

Thursday, March 28, 2013 Comment large audience watching presentation of measuring symbolism and impact

Two weeks ago, I gave the opening keynote at the Digital Media and Learning Conference in Chicago. The conference, which explores how digital media is and could be changing education and learning, focused on the theme of “Democratic Futures: Mobilizing Voices and Remixing Youth Participation.” In the spirit of the theme, my talk examined how digital media is changing how we participate in the civic life of our communities and the world as a whole, and how we might teach a new digital civics. This is an issue I’ve been thinking through since coming to the Center for


In Praise of Peer to Peer Connectivity: Technosociologist Zeynep Tufekci

Monday, March 25, 2013 Comment woman giving presentation at ars electronica 2011

Zeynep Tufekci, a sociologist who uses, as well as studies, social media, offers a refreshingly rigorous and empirically-scaffolded perspective amid the frenzy of armchair social science regarding the impact of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Reddit and other participatory media. Too often, public discourse about the influence of social media, both positive and negative, devolves into a Manichaean rhetoric of utopia-or-apocalypse. While strong points of view from all quarters are necessary when new technologies are debated in the public sphere, Tufekci captured my attention by her combination of empirical scholarship, ability to tackle nuanced explanations in straightforward prose,


Is Civics in Crisis? Or Just Changing its Shape?

Monday, February 25, 2013 Comment close up of i voted sticker

In late January, Austin Oberbillig and Evan Ricks, students at Olympia High School in Olympia, Washington made a video called “Lunch Scholars.” The video was meant to be a high school version of “Jaywalking,” a sketch Jay Leno has done for twenty years, where he asks people on the street near his Hollywood studio simple questions – who was the first U.S. president? – and compiles the funniest answers into video segments for his show. Austin and Evan did the same thing, shooting four hours of footage and editing it into just under five minutes, featuring


DML Conference 2013: Democratic Futures

Wednesday, February 20, 2013 Comment people sitting on outdoor steps during black lives matter rally with fists in the air

President Barack Obama recently ended his post-State of the Union tour in his adopted hometown of Chicago. Roughly two weeks earlier a group of young Chicago residents started an online petition at Change.org urging the president to visit and directly address the city’s gun violence crisis. While a strikingly high number of gun related deaths were the catalyst for the petition, the architects of the campaign made a plea to the president to address the larger social, educational, and economic hardships facing the city’s Black and Latino youth population. Specifically, the petition encouraged the president to


Augmenting Reality: Addressing Trauma with Digital Media

Friday, February 08, 2013 Comment blurred photo of yellow city cab

Colombian artist Isabel Restrepo has tackled a variety of projects to promote digital literacy, raise awareness to change public health and safety behavior, and foster civic participation in a number of different youth engagement efforts. Perhaps her best known project was Entránsito, a traveling augmented reality interactive show for teens that was designed to reduce the country’s high mortality from traffic accidents. Sixty presentations were funded by the Medellin’s Secretary of Culture, which ultimately reached more than 5,600 citizens with a message about avoiding cascading problems that lead to accidents that humanized particular victims. To reach


DML Conference 2013: Democratic Futures (Ethan Zuckerman, Keynote)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013 Comment dml 2013 logo

Ethan Zuckerman (@EthanZ) will deliver the keynote at this year’s Digital Media & Learning Conference, “Democratic Futures,” March 14-16 in Chicago, and we asked Howard Rheingold (@hrheingold) to vlog with Zuckerman, director of the Center for Civic Media at MIT and co-founder of Global Voices. As Rheingold, author of Smart Mobs and Net Smart, writes below: “Don’t miss the video. Zuckerman does most of the talking, and he knows what he’s talking about.” “What’s the most important possible effect of many-to-many communication?” I asked myself when I first started writing about life online. The term “social


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