Saturday, July 11, 2015

Civic Hacking In The News: July 11, 2015

Here are some recent online items relevant to civic hacking that caught my eye this week. Click on the item headlines to read ones of particular interest to you...

Neighborhood Campsite Lets Locals Camp In Nearby Parks
For the third year in a row, De Buurtcamping is popping up in parks across Amsterdam and Utrecht. De Buurtcamping, which translates to The Neighborhood Campsite, invites neighbors to share a mini-holiday together in a park close to their house...De Buurtcamping has proven to be a successful concept for creating sustainable, social connections in urban neighborhoods. What makes De Buurtcamping so special is the presence of all sorts of different people. A banker borrows toilet paper from his homeless neighbor, an old widow is invited for a BBQ by the huge family. On the campsite they’re all equal...everyone wears short pants and flip-flops, and it’s sometimes easier to talk to your one-week camping neighbour than to your actual neighbours in your apartment block...“It’s funny how you can be neighbors for three years and never get to know each other. And once you’re camping together, it takes less than three days.”...”
This would be a fun, low-cost guerrilla civic hack. And we could make it twice as cool by combining it with popup [freespace] hacks , like mobile makerspaces in shipping containers from MODS International or the Computer Integrated Manufacturing Mobile Lab from NWTC.

Civic Innovation in the Triangle
This past weekend, a CityCamp unconference and hackathon were held in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina. CityCamp NC is an "unconference," where attendees collaboratively decide on the agenda for the event in a brainstorming session that takes place shortly after the event begins. CityCamp NC was also complemented by some planned sessions run by APPCityLife (an Accela Development partner) and Girl Develop It. In addition, a panel discussion kicked off the event where innovative uses of geospatial data by municipal governments in the state were showcased...Charlotte, North Carolina, discussed their use of an application called CityGram, which provides personalized notifications to city residents based around land use and development, rezonings, accidents and delays, and other categories of city activity.
The CityCamp format is a model that NE Wisconsin cities could consider for organizing a civic hackathon. If we emulated CityCampNC and had a Girl Develop It session, their website says there are chapters in Milwaukee and Minneapolis, so they might be able to help out.

What Does NeedNow Need?
“ of the most popular projects was pitched by Josh Levin, the Project Manager for Coordinated Access for the Cambridge Department of Human Service Programs...His team – which consisted of around 20 people – worked together to create NeedNow, an interactive resource finder for the homeless in Cambridge...By the end of the weekend, the team had created a working prototype for an application that allows users to search for food, shelter, or medical care based on their age, gender, or transportation needs. “In the long term,” Levin explained, “of course we want to change the system and address the real problems of homelessness and need in the continuum of care, but in the short term, we want people to be able to easily find more appropriate, relevant, and targeted resources...”
If you want to work on social issues such as homelessness and hunger, consider being the civic hacker who creates a NE Wisconsin version of NeedNow.

‘Geek Heresy': Why this former Microsoft researcher says tech is not the answer
This former Microsoft researcher reveals how years of work in India changed his perspective on the role of technology in affecting real social change. He takes the position that technology is not, on its own, the solution to improving conditions around the world...The core of the book is this idea that technology amplifies underlying human forces. What that means is that when people can use technology to help them achieve their goals, it can have a great effect. But the positive effects of technology don’t necessarily come from the technology itself, they come as a conjunction of technology and people. So when you go to an environment where the human institutions are dysfunctional or corrupt, the technology may have no effect or it may even harm the situation.”
Civic hackers in NE Wisconsin can probably get a few useful tips from “Geek Heresy.” Technology can be applied to just about everything, but just because you can, doesn't mean you should. I’ll submit a request for the Appleton Library to buy this book. Check your library website in a month or so to see if it’s available. A good companion book to read after "Geek Heresy" is Kevin Kelly's book, "What Technology Wants." Kelly's book has an insightful section discussing the unintended consequences of technology that has been created to solve a problem. The result we too often get is new problems. :)  If you prefer a "What Technology Wants" TEDx 20 minute video over the book, YouTube is happy to server that up:

New Discussion Paper: “Democratising the Data Revolution”
New technologies are leading to an exponential increase in the volume and types of data available, creating unprecedented possibilities for informing and transforming society and protecting the environment. Governments, companies, researchers and citizen groups are in a ferment of experimentation, innovation and adaptation to the new world of data, a world in which data are bigger, faster and more detailed than ever before. This is the data revolution...What will the “data revolution” do? What will it be about? What will it count? What kinds of risks and harms might it bring? Whom and what will it serve? And who will get to decide? Today we are launching a new discussion paper on “Democratising the Data Revolution”, which is intended to advance thinking and action around civil society engagement with the data revolution.
Probably not a lot of immediately actionable material in this book, but if you’re planning to dive deeply into civic hacking and open data, you might want to check out “Democratising the Data Revolution.”

A Call to Action for City Leaders: Create a Food System Resilient to Local Disruptions
In recent years, cities and regions are looking to build resilient food systems in the face of climate change. One motivation for expanding local and regional food systems, including increasing urban agricultural production, is the fear that global climate change will disrupt reliable supplies of food from other regions and countries. A New England Food Vision, for example, explores what would be needed to produce at least 50 percent of the region’s food supply in New England by 2060. 
But the impact of Hurricane Sandy...begs a different perspective: An expanded local and regional food system could create new vulnerabilities to natural disasters...A resilient food system—the production, processing and distribution of food—would have the ability to adapt to changing conditions, withstand disruptions such as natural disasters, and return to normal operations in a relatively short time period...Resilient Food Systems, Resilient Cities: Recommendations for the City of Boston highlights the findings from this one-year study...One key takeaway from our study is that if the City of Boston wants to strengthen its food system, it should focus more on improving local transportation infrastructure than on expanding local food production. Ninety-four percent of Boston’s food arrives by truck...”
Here’s a civic hack I could really get excited about! Working with other NE Wisconsin civic hackers to document and work on resilient food systems for our area. The first step towards creating a "Freedom(™)" type of holon...

“...Holons are the geographic structure of the darknet. Any darknet community lies at the center of an economic radius of one hundred miles for its key inputs and outputs -- food, energy, health care, and building materials. Balancing inputs and outputs within that circle is the goal. A local economy that’s as self-sufficient as possible while still being part of a cultural whole -- a holon -- thus creating a resilient civilization that has no central points of failure. And which through its very structure promotes democracy...”


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