Goals: To share approaches for understanding impact in civic media – from randomized controlled trials to qualitative evaluation to artistic research methods. The workshop will explore the variety of ways in which people are responding to the increased need to demonstrate the impact of media interventions, including how we evaluate the impact of research, practice, and classroom-community partnerships.
Link to Conference Paper
Can drones be fully accepted as civic technologies? Are there values embodied by drones that undermine their ability to perform in a civic capacity? What design principles might make drones more civic? Where does responsibility lie between civil society actors, drone designers, and policymakers in pursuing this goal while balancing privacy, security, and innovation? Although drones have several proposed civic use cases, particularly involving practices described as monitorial citizenship, drones are different from other civic technologies. Civic technologies are about shifting power away from corrupt actors and toward virtuous actors. And a motivating concept and ethic for civic technologies, whether used for interacting with governments or against them, is participatory practice. If we aspire to a definition of civic action that is fundamentally participatory and we hope for our civic technologies to embody that value of participatory practice, we must investigate whether drones can be fully accepted as civic technologies. This paper will address these questions and issues, problematizing the use of drones for civic purposes by defining a set of values and design principles for civic technologies and by showing where drones may play a role, situating contemporary cases among relevant political and ethical questions.
Many platforms for civic engagement, whether online or offline, are inconvenient and disconnected from the source of issues they are meant to address. They require that citizens leave the places they normally inhabit physically or virtually and commit to a separate space and set of processes. Town hall meetings are still a key point of engagement, occurring during specific times and in specific places. Online forums function similarly, in that deliberation occurs within profile-based websites for which you need to sign up and regularly return. This paper responds to the design challenge and research question: How do you address barriers to “minimum effective engagement” in community projects, and ensure that all citizens can have their voice heard on how to improve their local communities?
In order to raise levels of participation in community projects and expand the range of voices heard in governmental decision-making, there is a need for civic technology that is lightweight and compelling enough to enjoy continued use and to promote civic learning. In this paper, I develop a theoretical basis for effective citizenship through crowdsourcing monitorial activity by finding connections between several theories of citizenship and learning, which point to this activity fostering civic learning through reflective political practice.
Using a needs assessment of Boston-area municipalities, I reinforce my argument and concretize a set of design goals for a new socio-technical system to foster local civic learning and engagement around issues like urban planning. In the end, I respond to the research challenge and design goals by introducing a prototype for a location-based survey platform for Android smartphones called Action Path, and discuss early-stage user feedback and future work.
Researchers have tested a variety of personal informatics systems to encourage diversity in the political leaning, geography, and demographics of information sources, often with a belief in the normative value of exposure to diverse information sources. Methods attempted have included information labeling of media sources, personalized metrics of reading behavior, personalized visualization of social media behavior, recommendation systems, and social introductions. Although some of these systems demonstrate positive results for the metrics they define, substantial questions remain on the interpretation of these results and their implications for future design. We identify challenges in defining normative values of diversity, potential algorithmic exclusion for some groups, and the role of personal tracking as surveillance. Furthermore, we outline challenges for evaluating systems and defining the meaningful social impact for information diversity systems operating at scale.
In his book The Good Citizen, Michael Schudson talks about different eras in America that idealized different types of citizenship (1998). What it meant to be a good citizen at the dawn of American democracy differs substantially from whatever it means now. In particular, Schudson talks about how the ideal of the “informed citizen” dominated the discourse of the 20th century and was deeply intertwined with the role journalism played in society.
However, we are at a point where journalism’s role is fraught in society and where the range of information necessary to be a fully realized participant in democracy, according to these ideals, is impossible. There is too much to know and too much to have an opinion on. Schudson argues that we need a new framework, a new kind of citizenship for contemporary times.
One model he proposes is the “monitorial citizen.” “Monitorial citizens scan (rather than read),” in Schudson’s words (1998, 310). And they integrate their civic duties into their daily lives: watching their kids, keeping abreast of important consumer recalls, noting how weather affects the cost of groceries or their ability to check in on family members’ safety. In aggregate these might give us the omniscience necessary to fully participate in Walter Lippmann’s opinion, that is according to Lippmann’s books The Public Opinion (1922) and The Phantom Public (1925). So rather than rely on individual specialist and experts, we might crowdsource expertise among monitorial citizens—to use contemporary jargon.
This can be a year-long, rather than a season-long practice of citizenship, argues Schudson. We can’t and don’t need to expect the kind of participation that only emerges during the fall of a Presidential Election year.
Where I think we can go one step farther than Schudson is by saying that monitorial citizens are gathering useful information rather than simply watching. Mobile phones and social media give us a trail of data that might be convertible into civic utility.