Systems + Design
nstitutional and organizational logics necessarily constrain and define civic actions, so the design of systems is an important site of intervention. This section presents cases where the infrastructure of civic life is considered and manipulated to produce specific civic outcomes. From organizing hackathons to government procurement and the use of open data, from small tweaks to massive overhauls, the systems that facilitate civic life hold powerful opportunities for change.
Over the past several years we have taken a research-through-design approach to civic hackathons, engaging them as organizers, hosts, and participants. Of late, we have become interested in using civic hackathons to explore the civic potentials of the Internet of Things (IoT). With its focus on IoT, the 2014 National Day of Civic Hacking provided an opportunity to do just this. Meu Rio: An urban problem-solving platform in Brazil Meu Rio is built on the proposition that the city is the best place for participatory democracy, and over 120,000 Carioca (citizens of Rio) have participated in dozens of Meu Rio campaigns of varying size and success. City Beat: Social Media Data Visualization Platform for Journalists
Citybeat examines how real-time geo-tagged social media data could be useful for journalists. Based on initial interviews with a group of journalists and local government officials, we developed CityBeat as an ambient display visualization interface... Code for America (CfA) has helped define the agenda for civic hacking by fostering thick civic engagement through programs such as brigades and fellowships. this case study follows contextualizes cfa's connections to government interests in algorithmic regulation broadening of modes participation... Pop-Up Newsroom: We Are Where You Are Pop-Up Newsroom is a temporary, virtual newsroom that exists primarily on social media. It occupies a liminal space between professional and citizen journalism, de-emphasizing large equipment and permanent physical news spaces. Instead, university students and early career journalists use their cellphones and personal social media accounts to collectively produce content about ordinary citizens whose voices are often missing... The Tilburg Public Library KnowledgeCloud Public libraries are rapidly becoming "public sensemakers" and "social innovation catalysts". They are trusted and rooted institutions with a mission to serve the common good by promoting education and media literacy for all. The Dutch Tilburg public library is developing the online KnowledgeCloud platform and associated physical innovation meetups like KnowledgeWorkshops to better connect and empower the regional network of engaged individuals and communities... The award-winning Alhambra Source launched a groundbreaking Weibo (Chinese Twitter) initiative with the Alhambra Police Department... WebNabludatel: a mobile app for electoral observers in Russia WebNabludatel was developped in Russia during mass protests against falsification of elections in winter 2011-2012 by a group of volunteer developers with the help of the NGO Golos, experts in electoral law. This app served as a roadmap for election monitoring, guiding observers and helping them to document all observable cases of electoral fraud… The Community Media Drupal Project In 2012 a loose coalition of community access TV stations committed to continue to work towards the original vision of the Knight funded Open Media Project at a summit in Austin, TX. This collaboration's aim was to further develop the project to align the principles of open source with the philosophy of community access. Participants challenge each other and themselves to be more than users and invest in a shared code base that is functional, feature rich, free and flexible… The California Report Card The California Report Card (CRC) is a mobile-friendly, web-based platform, developed to expand opportunity for democratic participation and to increase the responsiveness of elected leaders on timely policy issues. Participants grade the state on timely issues and suggest issues for increased priority to the state… The Regulation Room RegulationRoom has explored the use of an evolving mix of human, automated, and computer-assisted elements to make policymaking more democratic. To date, RegulationRoom has hosted seven “live" public engagements in federal rulemakings and planning consultations in the US, in collaboration with the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Administrative Conference of the United States… Social Auditing & Transparency: Domestic Cooking Gas Cylinders Distribution in India Project Lakshya, an online portal with real time updates about distribution of domestic liquid petroleum gas (LPG) cylinders, enabled social auditing that resulted in increased transparency, and reduced wastage and corruption in India. It also provided information about dealers, consumers and the distribution delivery information for the approximately 3 million LPG cylinders delivered everyday… OpenNY: Civic Engagement through Open Data and Open Platforms New York's Open Data Portal (data.ny.gov) is a statewide, public data resource available online that offers agency datasets, search and sorting mechanisms, and multiple visualization platforms. It facilitates informed discussion and represents a marked change to how the state responds to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests… Slovak Government's release of procurement information through an online platform and their public central contract repository In 2011, new procurement regulations in the Slovak Republic mandated the implementation of comprehensive e-procurement and required that all government contracts be published online in a centralized repository. The widespread publication of procurement data online has fundamentally reshaped the civil sector… Mobilizing from above: Government use of ICTs for state and nation building in Ethiopia Woredanet and Schoolnet are two of Africa’s most ambitious government-led ICT projects. These projects use IP based satellite communications to provide a variety of services to local administrations and are implemented by the Ethiopian government to improve service delivery while maintaining control. Analyzing the two systems offers an entry point to understanding how the civic media agenda can be appropriated… Better Reykjavik: Open Municipal Policymaking Better Reykjavik is an “e-petition" or “open innovation" website that enables citizens of Reykjavik, Iceland to submit policy proposals and ideas for consideration by the city government. Developed in 2010 by grassroots activists, the project was later formally adopted as an official channel for citizen petitions… The Civic Cloud: A Public Access Model and the Internet The Civic Cloud is a public cloud computing resource for community organizers, nonprofits, government staff and civic hackers in Burlington, Vermont. Building on Burlington's fiber-optic gigabit network, the Civic Cloud is a community platform and digital commons for public, non-commercial Internet applications and creative works… Mapping the Elections: Use of Crowdmapping in Ukraine This case considers the use of crowdmapping by Ukrainian civic activists during 2012 parliamentary elections. The technologies and their relative merits used in the OPORA network, Maidan monitoring, and ElectUa are examined. Talking to key actors behind each project reveals their missions and motivations …
Cuban Blogosphere: a Scenario for Political Debate and Dissent by: Lazaro Bacallao-Pino The thought leaders that extend the conversation about Cuban through blogs are highlighted here. Their positions are compared through their coverage, dynamic comment discussions and the interrelationships with other ICT’s… Citizenship and Digital Mobilization in Brazil The project Viva Favela in Brazil's city, Rio de Janeiro, is attempting to change mainstream ideas about favelas (poor districts) and their inhabitants. In 2001, assisted by professional journalists, community correspondents (reporters and photographers selected and trained by the NGO Viva Rio) started to produce the portal content. This case study takes an ethnographic and discursive approach to investigating how Viva Favela operates to empowering the people living in Brazil’s favelas. Implication of social media on electoral participation in India Social media networks are effectively increasing voter participation in the ongoing elections in India. Facebook and Twitter are witnessing a surge in sharing of voting images and messages by the youth, creating a campaign in their network on the right to vote. In the ten phased 16th general elections, there has been an increase of 7.9% voter turnout in the first six phases, compared to the 2009 elections… Internet Parties: The Internet as Party, Policy, Platform, and Persuasive Symbol Much has been made about how the internet facilitates democratic deliberation as well as protest mobilization, but little attention has been paid to internet policy as a reason for political party formation. Pirate Parties throughout the world, the Internet Party in New Zealand, the Wikileaks Party in Australia, and the Five Star Movement in Italy all see internet policy as central to their cause... The ‘Solutionistic’ Logic of the National Day of Civic Hacking The first National Day for Civic Hacking took place in the summer of 2013 in over eighty cities in the United States, supported at the national level by the likes of the White House and Intel Corporation. This case brings together the rising belief in greater forms of participatory citizenship, but also reifies the ideology of 'solutionism' (Morozov) over other forms of civic deliberation… Exploring Net Neutrality with Mozilla Webmaker Mozilla Webmaker.org includes tools, resources and a community. Mozilla helps people develop web literacy: by teaching to build not just consume, the technology, media and information that makes up the web… Mobilizing Collective Urban Actions through MicroActs How can we engage informal and ad-hoc networks of individual and collective actors in productively addressing critical conditions within their urban localities? MicroActs used participatory research and co-design with residents and urban activist groups in districts of Moscow, Russia... Designing Policy This case introduces a codesign toolkit about urban technology for policymakers that will enable others to replicate the codesign workshops for their own purposes… Mashnotes During the spring of 2011 nearly 2000 Vancouverites weighed in on the future of the city’s urban design by casting votes through strategically located interactive kiosks. The kiosks, commissioned by the Museum of Vancouver, and designed and built by local outfit Tangible Interaction, were part of Mashnotes: a public engagement initiative aiming to broaden conversations about urban architecture and planning… Priorities and Pathways for Civic Caucusing: The Michigan Student Caucus The Michigan Student Caucus (MSC) is a civic platform representing the interests of Michigan’s K-16 students. Schools advance (and conceal) civic priorities and participatory pathways. Since 2001, MSC has challenged how school values students’ everyday interests and promotes civic participation... Missing Intentionality: The Limitations of Social Media Analysis For Participatory Urban Design This case study reflects upon some limitations of Urban Sensing, a research project funded by the European Commission, which explored the potential of social media analysis and data visualization as sources of knowledge for participatory urban design and management... Innovation in the Absence of a State: Civic Media and the Inclusion of the Marginalized in the Somali Territories This case study examines the growth of mobile money in Somaliland. In 2009, the mobile operator Telesom launched the mobile money service, ZAAD. Somaliland is now one of the most active mobile money markets and this service has filled a critical gap in the absence of a formal banking sector... A Report from the First Hackathon at the White House This case study recounts some of the goals, projects, and dynamics that unfolded at the White House’s first hackathon which convened to test the new API for the “We the People” in 2013....