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What is "New Urban Mechanics" and Why Does Philadelphia Want Some?

BY Nick Judd | Wednesday, October 3 2012

When Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter announced on Monday that Philadelphia will get a new arm of city government called the Office of New Urban Mechanics, he was signing on to a sizable experiment in how government is supposed to work.

Nutter's administration is emulating a program Boston City Hall put in place two years ago to find innovative — you might also say "untested" — ideas and see if they can make government work better. The Boston Office of New Urban Mechanics is just a handful of people led by Nigel Jacob, a former programmer, and Chris Osgood, a city official who came to Boston after a stint at New York City's Department of Parks and Recreation. Their job is to help those new solutions to old problems navigate the often tricky hallways of city bureaucracy.

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What the Early 20th Century and the SOPA/PIPA Fight Have In Common

BY Nick Judd | Wednesday, September 26 2012

As it happens, there's a connection between the SOPA/PIPA fight and sexuality and politics in 1920s Austria. That's the argument Beth Noveck made Monday at New York Law School, during an evening book event Personal Democracy Media hosted to discuss Steven Johnson's new book, "Future Perfect: The Case for Progress in the Networked Age." Noveck spoke alongside Tina Rosenberg, co-writer of the Fixes online column for the New York Times, Internet thinker Clay Shirky, and our editorial director, Micah Sifry. Read More

Coming Up: "The Rise of the 'Peer Progressive'" Monday 9/24 7pm in NYC

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, September 19 2012

We're looking forward to this Monday night's conversation on "The Rise of the 'Peer Progressive'" with author Steven Johnson that we're hosting along with NY Law School's Institute of Information Law & Policy. We'll ... Read More

PDM Special Book Event, Sept. 24: Steven Johnson on the Rise of the 'Peer Progressive'

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, September 11 2012

Credit: Steven Johnson

Is there a new political philosophy emerging from things like open source software development; massive community sharing hubs like Wikipedia, Kickstarter, and Reddit; peer-to-peer social networking; experiments in "Liquid Democracy," and the rapid spread of resource sharing tools like ZipCar, AirBnb and Car2go? Is it time to start talking about replacing the "welfare state" with the "partner state"?

On Monday, Sept. 24, at 7:30 p.m. at the New York Law School, I'm looking forward to exploring all those questions and more with noted author Steven Johnson, whose new book "Future, Perfect" is must-reading for people who believe in the power of open, collaborative peer-to-peer networking to achieve real social progress.

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NYC Open Data Advocates Focus on Quality And Value Over Quantity

The New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications plans to publish more than double the amount of datasets this year than it published to the portal last year, new Commissioner Anne Roest wrote last week in an annual report mandated by the city's open data law, with 135 datasets scheduled to be released this year, and almost 100 more to come in 2015. But as preparations are underway for City Council open data oversight hearings in the fall, what matters more to advocates than the absolute number of the datasets is their quality. GO

Civic Tech and Engagement: Announcing a New Series on What Makes it "Thick"

Announcing a new series of feature articles that we will be publishing over the next several months, thanks to the support of the Rita Allen Foundation. Our focus is on digitally-enabled civic engagement, and in particular, how and under what conditions "thick" digital civic engagement occurs. What we're after is answers to this question: When does a tech tool or platform enable actual people to make ongoing and significant contributions to each other, to a place or cause, at a scale that produces demonstrable change? GO

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Tweets2Rue Helps Homeless to Help Themselves Through Twitter

While most solutions to homelessness focus on addressing physical needs -- a roof over the head and food to eat -- one initiative in France known as Tweets2Rue knows that for the homeless, a house is still not a home, so to speak: the homeless are often entrenched in a viscous cycle of social isolation that keeps them invisible and powerless. GO

Oakland's Sudo Mesh Looks to Counter Censorship and Digital Divide With a Mesh Network

In Oakland, a city with deep roots in radical activism and a growing tech scene at odds with the hyper-capital-driven Silicon Valley, those at the Sudo Room hackerspace believe that the solution to a wide range of problems, from censorship to the digital divide, is a mesh net, a type of decentralized network that is resilient to censorship and disruption and can also bring connectivity to poor communities.

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