Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Monday, June 28, 2010
The much-anticipated TEDxOilSpill gathering on the human and environmental impact of the BP oil spill kicked off today in Washington, the 70th day of the Gulf oil crisis, with repeated urgings by speakers for stepped-up nationwide civic engagement around the expanding devastation.
Friday, June 25, 2010
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Digital Content: 'Free' No More?
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Monday, June 21, 2010
Networkers' Bill of Rights
2. Clarity: Make sure that policies, terms of service, and settings are easy to find and understand
3. Freedom of speech: Do not delete or modify my data without a clear policy and justification
4. Empowerment: Support assistive technologies and universal accessibility
5. Self-protection: Support privacy-enhancing technologies
6. Data minimization: Minimize the information I am required to provide and share with others.
7. Control: Let me control my data, and don't facilitate sharing it unless I agree first.
8. Predictability: Obtain my prior consent before significantly changing who can see my data.
9. Data portability: Make it easy for me to obtain a copy of my data.
10. Protection: Treat my data as securely as your own confidential data unless I choose to share it, and notify me if it is compromised.
11. Right to know: Show me how you are using my data and allow me to see who and what has access to it.
12. Right to self-define: Let me create more than one identity and use pseudonyms. Do not link them without my permission.
13. Right to appeal: Allow me to appeal punitive actions.
14. Right to withdraw: Allow me to delete my account, and remove my data.
Friday, June 18, 2010
A group of environmental activists and social innovators will be hosting a TEDxOilSpill event on June 28 in Washington to talk about clean-up solutions to the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Since Monday, a group of photographers and videographers tied to the conference have been in the Gulf gathering visual evidence of the spill's spread (and the anger it is causing among some Louisiana coastal residents). The team's best work will be shared with conferees on the 28th; for the past week, the photographers have been sharing some of their trip observations on Twitter, at @TEDxOilSpill.
To see the full set of Davidson's oil spill photos so far, check out his collection on Flickr and on his journal site. For more on Davidson, see his short bio on Wikipedia.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Bill of Rights for Social Networks?
Reacting to the Facebook privacy uproar and Google Buzz's recent release of users' top email contacts, an influential group of social media activists is meeting this week in Silicon Valley to hammer out a Web-wide Bill of Rights for social network users.
The goal: to catalyze a user movement that will compel social network owners and operators to give users more say over their personal information -- including a right that lets users quit a site (leave it) and take every trace of their data with them.
The group, meeting through Friday at the 2010 Computers, Freedom & Privacy conference in San Jose, is livestreaming and posting its deliberations, as well as conducting some of its conversations on Facebook and Twitter so as to involve as many interested users and viewpoints as possible. (Those interested may follow the deliberations at #BillofRights and #cfpconf.)
"We're not the first people to have the idea of a social network users' bill of rights," said conference chair Jon Pincus. "In fact, we decided to make the creation of a user Bill of Rights a main focus of our gathering because people all across the country are starting to push for a set of principles to define best practices for social networks. We thought it was time to combine inputs and produce one such document that embodied the sentiments of as many social network users as possible."
Being used as a basis for the discussion is the Electronic Frontier Foundation's recent framework, which proposes that any rights manifesto should contain three broad categories of rights: the right to informed decision-making (compel social network owners to tell users what they are doing with user data); the right to control (giving users ownership of their information and control over who can view that information), and the right to leave (letting people quit Facebook or any other social networking service with the ability to take their personal information with them.)
"A networking Bill of Rights is a tool that users can use for education and empowerment," Jack Lerner, director of the USC Intellectual Property and Technology Law Clinic, told conferees yesterday. Lerner added:
What do you think? What rights should users of social networks have? Are user rights a value that social media entrepreneurs can build new businesses around?
-- Marcia Stepanek
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
There's a new social innovation initiative that just launched called Code for America. It's a big deal; it was founded to help American cities innovate around paralyzing budget cuts, old technology and rising taxes.
Starting this month, Code for America is recruiting the brightest minds of the Web 2.0 generation to transform city governments -- to re-wire them for transparency, citizen participation and action. "Our cities are in major crisis," says Founder Jen Pahlka, yet this is a time of major opportunity for social innovation in cities across the country. Some 60 percent of municipal employees, she says, are set to retire over the next five years. "What if, instead of cutting services or raising taxes, cities could leverage the power of the Web to become more efficient, transparent, and participatory?"
Pahlka says her project aims to do for city governments what Teach for America has been doing for America's public schools -- creating a body of knowledge and context for how institutions need to rebuild themselves for the Digital Age. The initiative also represents a big step for the accountability-in-government movement; freeing up more of the information stored in city databases for public use "will catalyze new forms of problem-solving and service," Pahlka says, "and there is a huge community of talented technologists and designers who want to help."
Pahlka and her team have chosen five cities for Code for America projects -- Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Boston, Boulder, and Seattle. Pahlka is now recruiting people to work on those projects. Five fellows will be chosen per city; each five-person team will attend a short training program in the San Francisco Bay area and then travel to their various host cities to learn about each cities' unique challenges. The fellows then will return to the Bay area to build solutions; top social innovators in government and technology will be brought in to support the fellows in their work "and help them create this new ecosystem of open cities across America," Pahlka says. "We're looking at each of these cities as a new tech start-up." The year-long program will provide each fellow with a $35,000 stipend and cover all travel costs.
Interested? The application deadline is August 15.
(Illustration by Giovanni Merino for istock.com)
Sunday, June 13, 2010
Social Media Skewered
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Labels: allison fine, american red cross, beth kanter, marcia stepanek, mashable media summit 2010, nonprofit innovation, personal democracy forum 2010, social media, the networked nonprofit, wendy harman
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Raising the Bar
Monday, June 7, 2010
Saturday, June 5, 2010
Susan Crawford, a former technology policy advisor to President Obama, issued a stark warning to civic activists and Internet technologists attending this year's Personal Democracy Forum in Manhattan. "We are," she said Friday, "in a titanic battle for the future of the Internet in the United States" -- one that pits those who would keep open, high-speed Internet access available to all and those who would seek to change that.
Crawford, an Internet and communications law professor at the University of Michigan, said Web technologists and social media-for-social-good activists are "radically under-represented" in this battle and need to start getting involved so that online social advocacy and open government can evolve and thrive, unfettered by corporate controls and new pricing restrictions. She said that Web innovators and social media entrepreneurs should not take for granted the kind of low-cost, high-speed, open Internet access they now enjoy -- nor ignore Washington's telecom policy battles any longer.
Friday, June 4, 2010
Fixing Social Media
1. Raise the cost of communication. Design your cause around group commitments to do more than simply fire off emails. "When the cost of communication falls, the (strength of the) signal falls," Shirky said. Case in point: A group of women in India last year formed a group on Facebook called The Consortium of Pub-going, Loose and Forward Women to fight beatings by religious conservatives seeking to squelch their freedom of expression. The group attracted hundreds of supporters, who organized a campaign to send pink underwear to leaders of the conservative group and to government officials to fight the harassment. The women won; the government stepped in to stop it. "Governments (authorities) tend to respond to groups rather than individuals," Shirky said.
2. Assume factions. The Obama Administration's change.gov site, during its first days, stumbled when it asked people to list what one issue they wanted the government to tackle most immediately. The crowdsourced favorite? Marijuana law reform -- above all other issues facing the nation at the time, including war and the failing economy. "Was this a result of people who hadn't been given a voice before finally getting their say or was it a successful effort by some people to game the system so that their issue could came out on top?" Shirky queried. "That's one of the central tensions facing online activism today." The government, in this case, needed to enable multiple discussions around multiple issues on the change.gov site, Shirky said -- rather than invite supporters to make just one list. "By making one list, the Obama administration made a mistake," Shirky said. "It didn't give each faction room to have its say online."
3. Regard elected representatives (or corporate managers) as partners, not targets, in your push for change. On Capitol Hill, Shirky said, lawmakers consider messages from activist groups that are delivered via thousands of emails to have "zero signal" and so they largely are ignored. But if a social action group could say, instead, to a lawmaker that it was "sending only 1,000 emails from people who really care about a particular issue, who live in your district and who vote in each election," the noise turns to signal -- "and a rare kind of signal that is largely missing in digital political activism these days," Shirky said.
Among other conference highlights from today:
* Alison Fine and Beth Kanter, coauthors of the new book, The Networked Nonprofit, said most nonprofits still act like fortresses, detached and self-protected from the world around them. This needs to change, Fine said. Nonprofits needs to start engaging their supporters and others interested in the issues they're advocating, or these organizations will risk losing support and won't survive.
* Howard Rheingold, author of the 2003 book, SmartMobs, said it's time to start teaching people how to better vet and shoulder the explosion of information that's coming at them over the Web. He also urged conferees to be more mindful -- intentional and deliberate -- in what they do to fight for change online. "By mindful, I mean there needs to be more directed attention given to things," Rheingold said. "We need to get out and meet each other and engage in the physical world. ... We need to give more active attention to the big issues .. to making sure, for example, that the information we are getting online is not getting narrorwer and narrower" because of rising use of Web filters by Web companies seeking to provide personalized information to their users.
* Susan Crawford, on the law faculty at the University of Michigan and formerly an FCC advisor to President Obama, urged conferees to fight for keeping high-speed access to the Internet accessible to all. “We are in the course of a titanic battle for the future of the Internet in the United States," she said. "The technology community is radically underrepresented in this battle" and needs to speak out so that digital citizen activism can have a strong future. Crawford urged the few hundred technologists in the audience not to take "high-speed, open Internet access for granted" and to speak up against further consolidation of broadband control by corporate interests.
The conference ends tomorrow.
The New Digital Divide
Call it the New Digital Divide. In the early days of the Web, social innovators predicted it would spawn a more open and democratic society. Today, though, that hope is being strongly challenged.
* We are not using the social media tools we have to solve problems so much as we are using them to socialize with like-minded people about these problems. It's time to get more active offline, said Clay Johnson, the director of Sunlight Labs and cofounder of the online political strategy firm, Blue State Digital. Social entrepreneurs and activists need to focus less on using social media to build email lists and focus more on getting people active offline solving social problems, he said. He cited the online social network, Momsrising.org, as a good example of a social network that is highly civically engaged, using government data on health, education and economic trends to create a "Moms Score" to help catalyze offline protests and social change.
* We must work harder to break out of these self-imposed (or machine-imposed) comfort zones if we're to affect social change. "We are too focused on climbing the hierarchy ladder in our workplaces and social networks online, and not focused enough on dismantling these hierarchies, which is where the true power lies," said Deanna Zandt, a social media consultant and author of Share This! a new book about social networking. "We're living like fish right now," she said. "We don't know we're wet. We're taking our perception that the Net is a wonderful meritocracy but that's not true. We need to interrupt this pattern of thinking immediately." Zandt urged conferees to shatter their comfort zones to start making the Net a more hospitable place for civic engagement. "We have to work harder at civic engagement online," she said. Zandt, who is white, shared her own experience of finding herself in an unexpected discussion on Twitter about race in America after she spoke out against an action last summer by Philadelphia's Valley Club to ban black children from swimming in its pool. "This was completely outrageous, I got really angry about it and signed petitions and all of that, but what was more interesting was what happened in the days following that," Zandt said. "People started sharing on Twitter about the first time they'd been discriminated against as children and this blew me away. I wouldn't have found myself in a group of people of color, sharing stories about discrimination without Twitter" and without "stepping out."
* We must stop enabling the status quo. John Perry Barlow, the founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a 20-year-old nonprofit digital rights advocacy group, told the gathering that he stands by his earlier statement, made many years ago, that "the Internet is the most powerful event since the capture of fire." Barlow said there is massive power in the hands of individuals, thanks to the Web, but this is power that destabilizes the status quo and can cut both ways, for better and worse. Most people still don't know how to use this Web power to organize and affect social change. But they are learning, he said. "We have to stop expecting the government to shower us with things it can no longer deliver," he said, "and start running this country and our institutions (including companies) the same way the Internet is run, from the edges."
* We must stop assuming that civic engagement will occur online on its own. James Fishkin, the director of the Center for Deliberative Democracy at Stanford University, said the best way to boost public deliberation online is to create it. Fishkin says that the current way we "self-select" our social networks online has led to only the most extreme views being heard by one group or another. He suggested a five-step "Deliberative Polling" methodology to start creating issues circles, which first gets all stakeholders together from all sides of an argument to agree to a set of detailed survey questions that will help frame a debate around issues where civic engagement is most needed. Second, select 500 people who represent specific groups across viewpoints to participate. Third, send them the survey. Fourth, assemble them in small groups and facilitate discussion and deliberation, either online or in person. Fifth and last, survey the participants again to see if their opinions have changed as a result of that engagement.
* The Net can be a force for civic engagement, especially in societies around the world where there has been none before. Ethan Zuckerman -- a social media expert, blogger, founder of Tripod.com, a Web hosting enterprise, and cofounder of Global Voices, an internationally crowdsourced news site -- said the Net "really changes things in the long-term by creating a new public space, one that in most closed societies around the world is not available any other way."
What do you think? Does the surge of online social networks and corporate use of Net filters to segment consumers of their products make it harder for people to engage with one another -- in or out of the workplace? Let us hear from you.
-- By Marcia Stepanek