The view from the MIT Media Lab (iPhone photo by JD Lasica).
Lofty goal of Knight Foundation gathering at MIT: To strengthen citizen engagement
On Thursday and Friday, about 70 thought leaders in new media gathered at the MIT Media Lab, at the invitation of the Knight Foundation, to discuss how to strengthen tools to engage citizens. Here’s our working doc on Google. (I previewed the gathering on Socialbrite.)
The ambitious undertaking was designed to inspire and facilitate on-the-ground action at the community level, beginning with this initial gathering to assess how individuals and organizations can collaborate in the months ahead to lift up our communities and make sure we have a strong foundation for citizen engagement at the local level.
Overheard at the summit
Many of the summit’s discussions were videotaped for dissemination at a later date, but here are a few nuggets that I jotted down:
• Loved Youngjin Yoo’s description of “strategic ambiguity,” referring to the need for a lack of strict balance in the relationships between stakeholders. If one exercises too much control, it chokes off creativity; if one relaxes too much, it could lead to chaos. Thus, a middle ground of intentional ambiguity is sometimes required.
• Yoo also described a “tyranny of or” — requiring everything to be put into a discrete box of private or public.
• “Data shame” was described this way: We won’t open our data because you’ll find out how bad it is.
• “Rapid prototyping” and “user-centered design” were two of the buzz phrases that swirled throughout the summit.
• “The best way to predict the future is to invent it,” one participant said, channeling Alan Kay, credited with inventing the concept of the laptop in 1968.
• Clay Johnson, CEO of Localize.io and former co-founder of Blue State Digital: “The numbers don’t really matter, the differences do.”
• More Clay: “The fact that Jack Abramoff was not caught by an algorithm is just infuriating to me.” Brilliant!
• More Clay: “Instead of a Komen Race for the Cause, we should do a Knight Foundation Race for the Data.”
• Jennifer Pahlka, head of Code for America, led a session on formulating a list of “what sucks” at the local level for developers to begin building solutions for engagement.
• Overheard: “Neighborhoods provide engagement at a level that government cannot.”
• And: “We need to get past clicktivism.”
• Clay Johnson, CEO of Localize.io and co-founder of Blue State Digital
• Shannon Spanhake Deputy Innovation Officer, City and County of San Francisco
• Susan Crawford, Visiting Stanton Professor of the First Amendment, Harvard Kennedy School
• Scott Geller, CTO and President, Points of Light Digital
• Urs Gasser, Executive Director, Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Harvard University
• Youngjin Yoo, Professor of MIS and Strategy and Director, Center for Design+Innovation, Temple University
• Marci Harris, CEO of POPVOX
• Michael Smith, SVP of Social Innovation, The Case Foundation
• Christopher Hoene, Director of the Center for Research and Innovation, National League of Cities
• Jennifer Pahlka, Founder & Executive Director, Code for America
• Micki Krimmel, Founder, NeighborGoods
• Ethan Zuckerman, Director, Center for Civic Media, MIT Media Lab
And a host of other brilliant people who didn’t notice that I must have been invited by mistake. Still, I’m intrigued and hopeful that some of us will be game for working together to promote innovative use of technology at the community level in the months and years ahead.JD Lasica, founder of Socialmedia.biz, is now co-founder of the cruise discovery engine Cruiseable. See his About page, contact JD or follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.