Articles by Annie Shreffler

  • Article

    Using tech to connect, and keep us human

    July 20, 2011 by Annie Shreffler

     

    The tag line on the website Between the Bars, a blogging platform for the outside world to communicate with prisoners, is a simple request that packs so much punch:

    Leave a comment….we’ll pass it on.

    Behind the scenes, Between the Bars is an intense—and difficult to scale—operation. Five core volunteers open mail, yes, that old form of communication printed on paper and sent in an envelope, coming from prisoners who participate in the program. They scan and publish the letters to their website, where the rest of the world can take a look and choose whether or not to respond.

    Charlie DeTar is the MIT graduate student who co-founded the effort, a project of the Knight-funded Center for Civic Media,  and has since kept it going. He calls it addicting to witness the connections that happen between a very marginalized part of our population and the outside world. He hopes some good can come from raising awareness of the failures in our criminal system that result in broken lives rather than ones that are rehabilitated.

    “You start realizing that the person who’s been put in prison is somebody who could be doing so much more for society, so much more for themselves and be harmed so much less by some other means of dealing with criminality. That’s the thing we want to influence. We want to..."

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    Online stories of courage draw Juarez residents outdoors

    July 15, 2011 by Annie Shreffler

    One mark of a successful online project intended to foster community is when that community finally responds – and extracts the content for its own use.

    For the website Crónicas de Héroes, archiving positive stories of the everyday heroes of Juarez, Mexico, this moment happened when a group of street artists asked permission to paint some of the accounts as murals.

    It wasn’t easy to get to that place. For six months the tireless Yesica Guerra, a Juarez resident, with the help of two others, talked to small groups and hosted workshops to encourage members of her city to tell their positive stories. As she worked on plans for the project from MIT’s Center for Civic Media, which is funded by Knight Foundation, she sent streams of...

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    Congratulations to this year's winners of the Civic Media Conference Collaboration Contest!

    June 27, 2011 by Annie Shreffler

    Congratulations to this year's winners of the Civic Media Conference Collaboration Contest!

    Each year at the Knight-MIT Civic Media Conference, to foster the spirit of innovation and cooperation, attendees are welcome to participate in the Collaboration Contest. Ideas are pitched during dinner, feverish campaigning occurs to win votes, submitted by text, and the winners are announced during the conference wrap-up.

  • Article

    Civic fictions – the opportunities and limits of online personas

    June 24, 2011 by Annie Shreffler

    When is it OK to create an online persona – and when is it wrong?

    The answer varies, depending on whether the alternative persona is for works of fiction or deception, for entertainment or personal protection, panelists said at the MIT-Knight Civic Media Conference Thursday.

    “There are some civic-ly useful stories that are probably best told through fiction,” said Ethan Zuckerman, director of MIT’s Civic Media Lab, who moderated the panel. “We’ve also got an understanding that there are necessary fictions to allow people to communicate with the media.”

    Diving deep into their own experiences, Zuckerman and three writers and star tweeters discussed the role of  civic fiction: Dan Sinker, author of the wildly popular @MayorEmanuel feed, and BlogHer journalist Liz Henryand NPR’s Andy Carvin, who both helped unmask a middle-age man in Scottland who had been posing as a gay Syrian woman blogger named Amina.  

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    Civic media mobilization: putting down the screens, and putting on a T-shirt

    June 24, 2011 by Annie Shreffler

    Civic media mobilization: putting down the screens, and putting on a T-shirt

    Social media tools may connect us over geographic or social barriers, but are we hitting that “Like” button too much rather than actively participating in our own governance? Chris Faulkner thinks so. As a political consultant and Tea Party member, he wants to see people leave their screens and congregate in person more often.

     

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    A rock in one hand, cell phone in the other: Crowdsourcing crisis info in the Middle East

    June 29, 2011 by Annie Shreffler

    If you take a look around these days at any event, you can be sure to spot mobile phones taking pics and video – allowing anyone to share news in real time. So how does our society adjust to gather and disseminate accurate information?

    That was a session topic at last week’s MIT-Knight Civic Media Conference, featuring Mohamed Nanabhay, head of New Media at Al Jazeera and Joi Ito, director of MIT’s Media Lab and co-founder of the crowdsourcing project Safecast, which aggregates radiation levels in post-quake Japan.

  • Article

    Crowdsourcing in a crisis: mapping radiation levels in Japan

    June 30, 2011 by Annie Shreffler

    Crowdsourcing in a crisis: mapping radiation levels in Japan

    Above: iGeigie from Joi on Flickr

    Yesterday, we looked at crowdsourcing in crisis, taking the Middle East as an example. The thoughts came from Al Jazeera’s head of New Media Mohamed Nanabhay, who spoke on a panel at the MIT-Knight Civic Media Conference.

    Today, we turn to the experiences of Joi Ito, new director of the MIT Media Lab, who has been crowdsourcing radiation levels in post-quake Japan:

    On the panel, Ito said he was frustrated with the lack of useful information from Japan’s news organizations in the first few hours after the earthquake. As he monitored events from the U.S, he was glad for the rapid Twitter updates.

    “People sitting in pitch dark rooms, phones aren’t working and they’re on the net or watching TV. They don’t know what to do. They don’t know if they should be running away. Twitter was offering instruction long before news organizations offered any information. In that way, they were more effective in the early hours of the crisis.”

    After the nuclear plant meltdown at Fukushima, Ito’s frustration was compounded by the ongoing misinformation from the government on safe levels of radiation. Rather than relying on inaccurate reports from government agencies, Ito began...