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 for Vulnerable Populations” was a session we held last month, and it addressed the fact that designers of new media — web-based or otherwise — seem to have in mind an idealized user, someone who’s hungry for news, is digitally connected, and feels one technical solution shy of changing the world.
Sadly, that idealized user hardly exists outside of the New York Times’ “Weekender” ad. In fact, civic media innovations, to be truly civic, have to work for the marginalized, poor, the ill — even for the imprisoned. So “Design for Vulnerable Populations” was moderated by our center’s own Charlie DeTar, creator of the prison blogging platform Between the Bars, and featured speakers critiquing how we bring environmental justice, health and sustainability into the design of cutting-edge media tools.
Design for Vulnerable Populations
And then earlier this month, Zuckerman moderated “Civic Disobedience,” with Clay Shirky, Zeynep Tufekci and Sami ben Gharbia. Zuckerman addressed a key set of questions: What accounts for the rise of networked revolt in the Arab world and elsewhere, and how is it succeeding in some places while failing in others?
We’re awfully proud of the intelligence brought to bear on these often-overlooked but critical issues. So as this spring semester wraps up, be sure to sign up for our center’s updates to hear what we’re planning for the fall.