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First POST: Reaching

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, March 16 2015

The FBI makes communities sign nondisclosure agreements if they want to use this cellphone tracking tool; police really like their automated license plate readers; edits to Wikipedia pages for Eric Garner, Sean Bell and Amadou Diallo traced to the New York City Police Department; it's Sunshine Week; and much, much more. Read More

First POST: Video Stars

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, January 26 2015

How the White House hit a home run on YouTube post-State of the Union; why the Barrett Brown sentencing casts a chill on online security research; how media producers use Crowdtangle to optimize their Facebook audiences; and much, much more. Read More

First POST: System-Gaming

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, October 30 2014

Why techies interested in political reform are facing challenges; the latest data on Democratic voter contacts in 2014; Hungary's anti-Internet tax demonstrations are getting huge; and much, much more. Read More

Civic Tech and Engagement: With Waze, Who's in the Driver's Seat?

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, October 21 2014

Screenshot of Waze.com's live map for Rio de Janeiro

Can you be a "connected citizen" if you don't know that you are connected to government? That's the question that's been on my mind since Waze, the crowdsourced traffic data company recently acquired by Google, announced a major new partnership with ten local cities and governments around the world called "Connected Citizens." Under this program, Waze will be giving city, state and county authorities like the New York Police Department and Rio de Janiero's Operations Center real-time traffic incident data (aggregated and anonymized) and in turn getting timely and relevant data from the authorities about scheduled events (construction, marathons and the like) that can also cause traffic problems. Since the program's announcement, dozens more governments have been applying to join in. At first glance, this can only be seen as a net plus good where everyone wins. But upon further inspection, Waze's new "Connected Citizens" program can teach us a lot about the potential, and limits, of tech-empowered civic engagement when the users aren't really in the driver's seat (pun intended). Read More

Civic Tech and Engagement: In Search of a Common Language

BY Micah L. Sifry | Friday, September 5 2014

Marten van Valkenborsch, Construction of the Tower of Babel (c. 1600)

We need much clearer language to describe civic tech. Too often, people working in this field struggle to put into words what it is they are striving for. It's not enough to assume that, like the Supreme Court and obscenity, we know good civic tech when we see it. And if we can't say why something is good (or even great), how can we know what to design for? Indeed, how do we even know if we're after the same design goals? Read More

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

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, July 24 2014

An old-fashioned barn-raising in Lansing, Canada (circa 1900-1919)

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? Read More

Civic Tech and Engagement: How SeeClickFix is Changing the Fabric of Local Reality

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, July 24 2014

To see how people using the Internet can thicken civic engagement in deep and positive ways, there is no better example than SeeClickFix.com, a community platform that was founded in 2008 by Ben Berkowitz, a computer programmer living in New Haven, Connecticut, and his friends Miles and Kam Lasater and Jeff Blasius. Read More

Digital Engagement Starting to Be New Normal in New York City Council and City Hall

BY Miranda Neubauer | Friday, February 21 2014

Google Hangout with Ben Kallos

Public officials in New York City, from the mayor down to newly elected members of the City Council, are starting to make digital engagement more of an integrated part of their daily routine, as Miranda Neubauer reports. Read More

New Knight Report Maps Growing Civic Tech Ecosystem

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, December 4 2013

Investor networks in civic tech, per Knight Foundation report

The Knight Foundation has released a fascinating and valuable, if incomplete, report on "The Emergence of Civic Tech: Investments in a Growing Field." It's the first major effort I've seen to define and map this growing space, and covers 209 companies that have received funding since 2011 in its purview. Read More

First POST: Not Psyched

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, September 12 2013

Exclusively for Personal Democracy Plus subscribers: Mark Zuckerberg and Marissa Mayer offer their responses to the NSA revelations; the "tech intellectuals" get their academic review; educational technology moves in on public schools; and much, much more. Read More