The Future We Will Create in Civic Media

Check out this video of Chris and I talking about GlobeLab!

We at GlobeLab had a great time participating in the MIT Civic Media Conference in June. It was an exciting opportunity to present our work and vision to a community that our team holds in the highest regard.

Like all good things, our adventures kicked off with a cocktail hour to meet our fellow conference goers. It was a pleasant surprise to speak with so many talented groups who were similarly aided by grants from The Knight Foundation.

Talks opened the next morning with a discussion around Open Government and Open Data. It was fitting, as Edward Snowden?s famous leak had occurred just days prior. But beyond Edward Snowden, the participants talked about things like the development of digital spaces for public good, something that is lacking in our consumer-driven world. It's a talk everyone should watch at least once, and luckily MIT has published it online. There's no synopsis that could do it justice.

That afternoon, we led a discussion around using a newspaper to foster community in Boston. We came prepared to talk a newspaper's front page providing a focal point for community discussion, and hyperlocal investigations that sought to draw a more detailed picture of specific neighborhoods.

In the end, we touched on these ideas, but the discussion was more candid and revolved around the digital journalism space. We addressed ideas around interactivity using annotation or forum curation with journalists and scholars from as far as Kenya and as close as Cambridge. It was enlightening to hear about the ways other news organizations were thinking about the same problems, to learn from each other what was working and what wasn?t.

The next day, we introduced our work alongside projects like Dan Shultz's "Opened Captions" and Rahul Bhargava's Data Therapy community murals during an Ignite-style presentation. Indeed, there was as long list of innovative work that had come out of Civic this year, and it was invigorating to present alongside it.

For those unaware, Ignite presentations are like lightning talks. Each presenter is given 5 minutes total, and 20 seconds per slide. The slides auto-advance. There?s no time to finish a thought if you talk slowly or forget to mention a bullet point on your index cards.

Our main objective was to prove that "old school" industries, like newspapers, were capable of being innovative environments. We showed The Globe as historic innovator that continues the tradition until the present. We showcased the work we had been doing over the last 7 months, and gave a tiny window into the future of our initiatives. When the buzzer sounded, we wiped a bead of sweat or two from our brows and walked off the stage.

Throughout the conference, people were surprised and delighted to hear that a company like the Globe would invest in such a progressive undertaking like GlobeLab. R&D labs are nothing new, but our unique blend of academic outreach and internal innovation is something that gives everyone hope. I left the conference imbued with an urge to create. There's so much more to be done, and so many more perspectives to ruminate on, thanks to the energy and passion present among the attendees.