Tuesday, January 24, 2006

If a picture is worth a thousand words...

After reading Nancy White's post A Few Flickr Flights of Fancy I got to thinking about what thousands of pictures are worth? Too much to think about? How about something more focused on a particular topic or population? After talking with the International District Housing Alliance's program manager for the Wilderness Inner-city Leadership Development Youth Program about the Community Perspectives Project, I started thinking about the power of photo sites like flickr for social, civic, and overall change.

To understand the thinking behind this, it probably helps to understand a bit more about the Community Perspectives Project. Briefly this project was to engage stakeholders of the International District (residents, youth, visitors, business owners, etc) in a dialogue about their perspectives of the neighborhood. The role of technology came into play through ComNET and Photovoice. ComNET stands for Computerized Neighborhood Environmental Tracking. Photovoice is a tool that gets cameras into the hands of people often left out of the decision making process. Surveys, focus groups and community presentations were also a component of this project. My main interest in this project centers on how they essentially repurposed the tech towards an engaging, social project. (I also think this is just a great idea in general)

Now does it make more sense about where I'm going with the whole flickr notion? The possibility that I see with Flickr has already been realized to an extent, given MoveOn's forray into this. I'd be curious to see what would happen if you take it a step further -- do something like Photovoice where the photographers collaborate, put their thoughts, visions and such into their own words and visuals. Have them go through a vetting process and the like to determine which is the best photo, and all. It's not so much about the tech, but how people interact with one another as supplemented by the tech. Have debates, have discussions about which photo should be selected for a wider viewing, or whatever else is appropriate. Really it's bringing people together, with the assistance of tech, and the end result of building community.

Another way of looking at this is how any photo sharing service plugged into a blog or something could be a new iteration of Photovoice or the family photo albums that users upload on the original Sims site? Not only would the groups who created the pics be able to share, but others can chime in with comments and all too. It becomes more of a dynamic conversation rather than static images. Images are powerful because of how they affect us as individuals and as a community.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


it seems in my excitement around Benjamin Franklin's 300th birthday, I got a little excited and jumped the gun last week. oops. at least i get another chance to do good.

Turns out i didn't do any good that day anyway, at least not in the Benjamin Franklin sense. Today is looking better so far. Getting a project up and running to 1) find out what people would most like help with, and 2) pairing them up with folks in the community to help them. I know there are lots of sites that help with this already -- showing you your goals, people with similar goals, and also those who've done them. This is sort of in that vein, but smaller in scale, and more of a personalized touch to foster maximum interaction between the parties involved. Should be an interesting little experiment. I'll report back as things get going.

Later today, I'm also meeting with someone who ran a program connecting youth, tech and seniors in Seattle. Go here for a video summary of the project (real). More detailed description below:

International District Housing Alliance Community Perspectives 6/27/2005
A story of how WILD (Wilderness Inner-city Leadership Development), a youth program within the International District Housing Alliance program has used technology and a partnership between local youth and elders to strengthen the voice of residents in the international District neighborhood. In an approximately thirty square block neighborhood where more than forty languages are spoken, historically it has been difficult for residents effectively speak for themselves in the larger City system. See how local youth and elders use photography, multi-language interviews, and Personal Desk Assistants to use diversity as an asset and work toward removing language as a barrier to democracy.

Monday, January 16, 2006

A Day On...

First off, I fully admit I've been a hypocrite today. As many in the US today recognized and celebrated the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a day-on, I was at the office.

Regardless, I applaud everyone who is honoring King's legacy by volunteering in their community today. There can be no greater tribute for a man who not only worked towards civil rights in this country, but later on in his life saw the need to oppose the Vietnam War, and start a campaign against poverty. I'm not a historian, nor am I an expert in all things related to Dr. King, but to me his work seems to be that of love for this community we call humanity. Regardless of color, or social status, etc, his words and actions show an incredibly deep love the human family. By giving back to our local communities with a day on, you too can honor this legacy.

Some relevant links for today's MLK Jr. Celebrations:

Heed Dr. King's words, Atlanta mayor urges
Stanford University -- Articles by the Staff of the
King Papers Project

MLK Jr Speech, "I've Been to the Mountaintop" (text and mp3)
The King Center
I May Not Get There with You : The True Martin Luther King, Jr. reviews

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Happy Birthday Ben!

In the spirit of this space, I want to wish Benjamin Franklin a wonderful 300th birthday. While none of my accomplishments are even remotely on the scale of his, it is good to know that we both seem to have a passion for technology and civics. Here's an article from the Seattle Times talking about celebrations planned in his honor.

Also, I thought this was a nice little blurb about Benjamin Franklin and civics in general:

Civic Visions tells the story of Franklin’s involvement with the founding of several key philanthropic, educational and civic institutions. From self-improvement, Franklin turned his attention to improving the community around him, asking himself, “What good shall I do this day.” Franklin, and a group of eleven working-class friends, known as the Junto were at the core of several Philadelphia institutions that were founded in the mid-18th century on behalf of the citizens of that city. Many of these institutions, such Pennsylvania Hospital and the University of Pennsylvania continue today, and the account of their founding will be told in this section, focusing on the universality of this group of new institutions— basic to any new, rapidly growing community.

from http://www.franklin300.com/exhibit.htm

What good shall I do today?

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

On the tip of my brain

It's one of those times again when the forces that be are throwing things at me hoping I get an "A ha" moment. Whether or not this is the right "A ha" remains to be seen, but this broad notion of creativity is hitting me like a hammer lately.

First -- I've been reading The Big Moo ever since Jackie Huba and Ben McConnel sent me an unexpected copy of the book. Basically, the two of them along with 31 other thought leaders submitted essays on how to be remarkable. Many of the essays also focused on this notion of creativity.

Second -- Working with a casual game community, I can't help but follow happenings with community and games. ARGs is probably the best manifestation of this that insprires me to dream. In my opinion, play goes hand in hand with creativity. And with the growing influence of entertainment in day to day life, this sort of thing will be even more relevant.

Third -- The latest Fast Company has an article on something called Breakthrough Cafes. Some related information can be found at Idea Champions. This sounds a bit reminiscent of discussions I've had around the notion of Mind Camp, or some sort of conference a la the Pyramid-type events put on by Seattle Works.

So...all of those things coming together around the same time makes me wonder...how can I take it to the next level? There are certainly opportunities with Seattle Works, ACLF, or the Guiding Lights Network. And no doubt there are countless more opportunities. It's just a matter of focusing on a handful, be successful, and move from there.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Politics and Media

It's amazing what slight differences there are between Seattle and Vancouver, BC. The other week, my partner and were up there to get away for a few days. We met up with some of her friends from school and ate well as usual.

What was interesting about this trip was that it was in the middle of campaign season for Canada's government. I don't know if this only happens during elections, but I found it fascinating that while channel surfing late at night, I stumbled across a channel devoted to campaigns throughout the provinces called CPAC. Think of this as a mix between the History Channel, CSPAN and a cable news station. From a casual observation of the programming it was a mix of debates, features with potential voters, and candidate interviews. The reporters asked substantive questions and there was enough information to provide some historical context. Makes me wonder what something like this would look like in the States?

Also related to media and campaign coverage, while reading the paper in a cafe, I stumbled across an interesting assertion in The Globe and Mail (reg required):
Internet blogs also seem to have less influence in an issues-based campaign. Blogs thrive in negative campaigns. They counter misleading statements by politicians, challenge party advertising messages and expose media manipulation, bias and errors. Highlights from their postings can end up influencing coverage in the mainstream media.

So far, it seems there's less for blogs to chew over when policies dominate the campaign and media coverage.

All this suggests there's enough different in media coverage of the first half of this campaign that, if the parties focus on the negative in January, they may be surprised to find it less effective than in the past.
Not following Canadian politics all that much, I can't speak to how accurate this statement is, though it does seem to make sense. That is, if a campaign or it's supporters aren't playing defense or offense the whole time, and instead focusing on the issues at hand, the tone of the conversation is vastly different. Now wouldn't that be novel!