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Public Lab Builds Environmental Monitoring Community, Online and Off

BY Sam Roudman | Tuesday, August 19 2014

Balloon photo of Gowanus grossness by Eymund Diegel Public Lab

Environmental monitoring can be expensive and difficult but tech is changing how we relate to the environment. Until recently, the mechanics of political influence in America created a segment of environmental activism that isn’t always about connecting people to the environment. But as smart phones have gotten into more hands, and more people get connected online, environmental activism has started to shift, or grow, as well. Read More

HandUp Chips Away at Homelessness

BY Sam Roudman | Monday, June 30 2014

A cross section of people trying to raise money with HandUp.

Poverty is a social problem, but can it benefit from a business solution? According to HandUp, a San Francisco startup that teams with service organizations to channel donations directly towards those in need, the answer is yes. Co-founder and CEO Rose Broome started thinking about the issue a year and a half ago, after coming across a woman sleeping in the streets of San Francisco on a cold evening. Read More

Urban Reviewer Maps New York's Forgotten Master Plans

BY Sam Roudman | Thursday, June 19 2014

Cities are capable of forgetting just like people are. Take the city of New York, where for decades vacant lots created through destructive, federally funded Urban Renewal Plans sat unused, despite being earmarked for ... Read More

Muckrock Looks to Track the Trackers

BY Sam Roudman | Thursday, June 12 2014

Majestic cellphone tower. Credit: Raymond Shobe, Flickr

Police have the ability to trace you from your cellphone, track you from your social media activity, and even collect or buy data on where you've been driving. But the degree of surveillance –knowledge of which police ... Read More

Towards More Effective Civic Innovation with Anthea Watson Strong

BY Sam Roudman | Monday, June 9 2014

Anthea Watson Strong at PDF. Credit: PDF Flickr

In a talk entitled “The Calculus of Civic Innovation,” Anthea Watson Strong discussed how tools for civic engagement might be made more effective. Read More

Defining the Sharing Economy, Dissecting its Merits

BY Sam Roudman | Thursday, June 5 2014

What is the sharing economy? Today's PDF panel "Defining and Debating the Sharing Economy" yielded a broad spectrum of responses from its panelists. Very broad. Author Adam Greenfield said it didn't exist because true ... Read More

Adam Harvey Fashioning a Way Around Surveillance

BY Sam Roudman | Thursday, June 5 2014

In 2010 when Adam Harvey began a project using fashion to sidestep facial recognition, the project wasn't always taken seriously. "I didn't think it was too far away from reality, but at that time privacy was not a ... Read More

Visions of the Sharing Economy Present and Future from NYU Conference

BY Sam Roudman | Tuesday, June 3 2014

An act of sharing unmediated by a P2P network. Credit: Ben Grey, Flickr

Friday's conference on the Collaborative, Peer and Sharing Economy (let's say CPSE for short, though CollaPSE is a tempting acronym) at NYU's Stern School of Business was an attempt to reckon with the so-called sharing economy, its potential and its contradictions. Everyone agreed that peer-to-peer networks are changing markets for lodging (Airbnb), transportation (Lyft and Uber), commerce (Etsy, Ebay), and potentially other parts of the economy like finance, and healthcare. Views over the extent of this change differed as panelists explored the new economy's potential as a business, its fraught relationship with regulators, and its capacity to transform society. Largely moderated by NYU Stern professor and sharing economy booster Arun Sundararajan, the conference provided an opportunity to see what those working within, or at least dealing with (as in the case of regulators) the CPSE thought of their own work. Although many speakers took the transformative potential of the CPSE as more of an article of faith than evidence, on the whole, the conference provided insights into how the economy might work, and the impact it might have. Here are a few highlights: Read More

Uber Drivers Organize Themselves in Seattle, Other Drivers Look to Do Same

BY Sam Roudman | Tuesday, May 27 2014

Seattle. Credit: Bala Sivakumar, Flickr.

About 9 months ago, Daniel Ajema, a 33-year-old law student moonlighting as a driver for Uber, ran into a fellow driver in a gas station parking lot. The man had just been fired for getting poor ratings from passengers. But as a private contractor, like every other driver for the app based transportation network, he had no recourse to the company. What could he do? Two Sundays ago, a couple hundred Uber drivers provided an answer, by forming a labor group with the help of the local Teamsters union, called the App-Based Drivers Association. The group won’t have the full powers of a union, for instance leadership can’t vote to make its entire membership strike. But with about a third of Seattle drivers signed on, the group hopes to use its leverage to advocate for greater transparency and responsiveness from the $12 billion company. Read More

Airbnb Gives Up New York Data, Won't Give Up Regulatory Fight

BY Sam Roudman | Thursday, May 22 2014

Just over a week ago, Airbnb public policy honcho David Hantman wrote a note to users titled "Good News In New York." A wide reaching request for user data in New York by the attorney general had been defeated. "This is a great victory for our community," wrote Hantman. Over a week later, the victory is over. While Airbnb loses for now, the company and its opponents are readying for a larger battle about the New York law that regulates short term rentals. Read More

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In Mexico, A Wiki Makes Corporate Secrets Public

Earlier this year the Latin American NGO Poder launched Quién Es Quién Wiki (Who's Who Wiki), a corporate transparency project more than two years in the making. The hope is that the platform will be the foundation for a citizen-led movement demanding transparency and accountability from businesses in Mexico. Data from Quién Es Quién Wiki is already helping community activists mobilize against foreign companies preparing to mine the mountains of the Sierra Norte de Puebla.

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NY Study Shows How Freedom of Information Can Inform Open Data

On New York State's open data portal, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation has around 40 data resources of varying sizes, such as maps of lakes and ponds and rivers, bird conservation areas and hiking trails. But those datasets do not include several data resources that are most sought after by many New York businesses, a new study from advocacy group Reinvent Albany has found. Welcome to a little-discussed corner of so-called "open government"--while agencies often pay lip service to the cause, the data they actually release is sometimes nowhere close to what is most wanted. GO

Responding to Ferguson, Activists Organize #NMOS14 Vigils Across America In Just 4 Days

This evening peaceful crowds will gather at more than 90 locations around the country to honor the victims of police brutality, most recently the unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, who was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, on Saturday. A moment of silence will begin at 20 minutes past 7 p.m. (EST). The vigils are being organized almost entirely online by the writer and activist Feminista Jones (@FeministaJones), with help from others from around the country who have volunteered to coordinate a vigil in their communities. Organizing such a large event in only a few days is a challenge, but in addition to ironing out basic logistics, the National Moment of Silence (#NMOS14) organizers have had to deal with co-optation, misrepresentation, and Google Docs and Facebook pages that are, apparently, buckling under traffic.

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