Laws, norms, policies, and institutions have failed to keep up with advances in artificial intelligence. Popularly, we still think of governance of these systems using quotes and metaphors from science fiction authors. The public awareness of the sophistication and capabilities of current systems are also skewed, often in extremes: predicting robot warfare and mind control or suffering complete naivete.
The reality is that intelligent systems are embedded in more and more everyday products and services. The so-called “internet of things” represents a kind of ubiquitous computing that anticipates our needs and provides us information or adjusts the room temperature based on usage patterns. Smarter algorithms power seemingly neutral services like Google’s search engine or Facebook’s news feed.
This panel brings together domain experts researching the impact of intelligent systems in a variety of arenas including household products, civics, and cyberwarfare. The panel will explore gaps in our existing framework of regulation around these technologies, identify challenges common to the deployment of different intelligent systems in a broad range of contexts, and suggest a common set of research goals to advance the cause of effective governance, mapping out the role different constituencies can play in this effort.
Many platforms for civic engagement, whether online or offline, require that citizens leave the places they normally inhabit physically or virtually and commit to a separate space and set of processes. Examples include town hall meetings, occurring during specific times and in specific places, and online forums, where deliberation occurs within profile-based websites for which you need to sign up and to regularly return. This thesis 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 contribute their input 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 a civic engagement platform that is lightweight and compelling enough to enjoy continued use. To this end, I have developed a theoretical basis for effective citizenship through monitorial actions aided by mobile computing, finding connections between various theories of citizenship and learning to fill a gap in the literature and in terms of civic technology design. My argument and design goals for such a system are reinforced by findings from a needs assessment of Boston-area municipalities that confirmed a desire to use new technologies to elicit feedback on community issues from a more diverse demographic than those who currently attend public meetings. Based my analysis of the literature and the distilled design goals, I built and completed early-stage user testing of a prototype smartphone app-based civic engagement platform called Action Path, which uses location-awareness in the form of geo-fences along with push notifications to prompt users to respond to one-item surveys dotting their urban landscape. Interviews with users suggest Action Path might help people see their communities as filled with opportunities for civic intervention, and might increase their sense of efficacy. Additionally, workshops about geo-fence design and curricular design with potential stakeholders showed how Action Path might be effectively deployed through civic technologists and in schools.
One of the biggest news stories of 2012, the killing of Trayvon Martin, nearly disappeared from public view, initially receiving only cursory local news coverage. But the story gained attention and controversy over Martin’s death dominated headlines, airwaves, and Twitter for months, thanks to a savvy publicist working on behalf of the victim’s parents and a series of campaigns offline and online. Using the theories of networked gatekeeping and networked framing, we map out the vast media ecosystem using quantitative data about the content generated around the Trayvon Martin story in both offline and online media, as well as measures of engagement with the story, to trace the interrelations among mainstream media, nonprofessional and social media, and their audiences. We consider the attention and link economies among the collected media sources in order to understand who was influential when, finding that broadcast media is still important as an amplifier and gatekeeper, but that it is susceptible to media activists working through participatory or nonprofessional media to co-create the news and influence the framing of major controversies. Our findings have implications for social change organizations that seek to harness advocacy campaigns to news stories, and for scholars studying media ecology and the networked public sphere.
‘Mapping the Trayvon Martin Controversy.’ MIT Center for Civic Media blog. http://civic.mit.edu/blog/erhardt/mapping-the-trayvon-martin-media-controversy