UYC SMS Survey

UYC SMS Survey
A secure mobile means to gather stories from students in over-policed NYC schools

You can access our final presentation here.

Our revised case study is available here.

Posted in UYC

UYC Update #7

This week’s “Fail Hard” workshop in class addressed many of our concerns and questions regarding our collaborative project with UYC. As  none of the members of our group can code, building an app for UYC would have required extensive help from Neo or other programmers. Additionally, there are several platforms, including Vojo, that already perform many of the functions that UYC requires (sharing stories, text and video, as well as geo-mapping).
Our updated project is then to work on the front end for the Vojo page, and we will be meeting with Maria and Yorman to discuss how they would like to have that designed (e.g. an independent website/blog or as an additional page on the UYC website). We would like to test the efficacy of this platform with student users as soon as possible, so that we can get any issues with contributing to/using the site sorted out before the end of the semester.
This weekend we looked over Vojo and familiarized ourselves with the tools on the website. For our second iteration we have created a sample website that features the functions of the app we initially planned, most importantly the story uploading, pictures, text and heat-mapping. We have added several stories via email, text, and the blog function on Vojo, taking examples from UYC’s website and creating example “profiles” to show how telling stories will look like on this platform.
During this week’s meeting with UYC, we will take them through this alternative, and answer their questions about Vojo’s functionality, as well as get their feedback on refining the page further.
This week was incredibly helpful, since we will be able to use Vojo to achieve most of our initial goals with the app. We will be speaking with NEO this evening, and get their feedback on some of our questions on developing the website, including the possibility of a ‘skin’ for mobile that allows users easy access to the site, and/or suggestions for optimizing the web page/site.

UYC Update #6

This past Wednesday we presented our three design candidates in class – a texting service, an app, and a “selfie” photo project. We received a lot of feedback on our project designs that we discussed during a Thursday meeting with Maria.
Our selfie photo project received great feedback during the class presentation and seems like a popular idea among students as well. However, after talking to Maria, we discussed the concerns regarding privacy and retribution. The concern was that students who show their face on these campaigns may be targeted by school officials or security officers for their participation. She noted that while there is still a possibility that students will be singled out by officers  when using an app recording events in real time, student and teacher witnesses to the action mitigate the risk to a degree. Mainly, there was also a concern about not being able to monitor an Instagram account for inappropriate material.
So in this case, we decided that an app would probably be best for the purposes of this project. However, instead of just an input/output app that tells stories, the app should have fun and appealing aspects like social networking integration. Students should be able to communicate within the app, send texts, upload videos, chat, and tell stories as well. Based off of this platform, social media campaigns can possibly branch out. UYC can utilize their main instagram/twitter/facebook account and mobilize students to use hashtags for certain surveys, go out and explore surveillance, photo-document police presence, etc. Therefore, the app platform would be a good networking platform for students to communicate with each other and also tell their stories to the outside world.
The design of the app will include several functions. There will definitely be pages regarding UYC information, contact and community events. Also, the app will have information telling students what their rights are and how to counter police abuse.
The core of the app will include photo sharing, story submissions, inter-member communication and various ways to view the submissions. Instead of all the submissions falling under individual student accounts, the students should rather submit their stories and picture to the app, and then UYC can comb through submissions and post them at a central location viewable to everyone in the app. Therefore, all the photo submissions and stories will fall under those “uploaded” by UYC and not individual students. Likewise, important media campaign photos will be gathered by UYC and can be uploaded through a centralized instagram/twitter account (perhaps this can eliminate some of the retribution). Whenever there are hashtag campaigns, students can use individual submissions and then tag them for UYC to post.
Inside the app will also be a function where students can connect with other students from the same or different schools. Students can learn about what goes on in other school systems and even make friends. The app can also even have a chatroom function with a live feed. Another possibility is adding a function where students create their own discussion logs or advice panels to gather peer input (for example, asking for advice on something that happened in school and what to do). The social networking component would probably be an important aspect of the usability aspect of this app.
Overall, instead of being just an app for information, this UYC app can possibly act as a platform for further social media campaigns. By drawing students in and connecting them with others, the app will allow UYC broader influence among students and mobilize them to participate in UYC activities and campaigns, rather than just 1 selfie campaign on instagram.
UYC are having their monthly meeting today (07th April), and Maria will present the design candidates to UYC members for their feedback. We will be discussing this, as well as class feedback on our first iteration during our weekly meeting on Thursday, which will feed into our second iteration of the app next week. At present, our app draws inspiration from NYCLU’s Stop and Frisk Watch app, and a multimedia app called Com-Phone Story Maker that brings together photo/video/text elements to tell a story.
- Dan, Elizabeth, and Nushelle
Posted in UYC

UYC: Project Update 4

On Tuesday, March 11, we had a Google hangout with Yorman and Maria. We settled on Thursday at 4pm as our weekly check-in time.  We discussed the exercise on shared values and user stories, as well as a preliminary conversation about the User Agreement. Yorman and Maria talked more in depth about their needs for the project. In terms of users, they are most keen to reach policy-makers and the press. They hope that the information gathered will serve as a useful body of evidence backing UYC’s policy recommendations.
We will also have a video chat with student representatives on Tuesday, March 18, at 5pm, and will be facilitating a workshop on brainstorming potential design candidates. Before the meeting, we’ll be ‘meeting’ with Bex, who will give us some pointers and guides for facilitating.
We checked in with Yorman briefly on Friday about the User Agreement and the meeting with student reps on Tuesday. We discussed the collection and analysis of data at a granular level (e.g. how long students were waiting in line, etc). He also gave us more information about expected outcomes of the project (he has updated the User Agreement accordingly), and how students deal with having their phones taken away for the day (keeping them at a bodega or truck for a dollar a day). We discussed the design candidates, and the potential for a trusted information station as specific schools.
We also sat in on a CURE project meeting last Monday night, which gave us some ideas about getting help from community members (e.g. Terry Marshall from IntelligentMischief). It was also very helpful to learn more about their meeting facilitation and design processes.

Some food for thought

I subscribe to a daily news email from Quartz, and the intro from a couple of days ago felt particularly pertinent to our class. Enjoy!

“Russian troops take over Crimea! Rubbish, said Vladimir Putin: “Local self-defense forces.” Bitcoin’s inventor, the pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto, is really a man called Satoshi Nakamoto! Nonsense, said the real Nakamoto; he’d never before heard of “bitcom.” The man behind spoof Twitter gossip account @GSElevator never worked for Goldman Sachs! Yet in fact, his true identity was hiding in plain sight for months.

It seems that even in our hyper-surveilled and sharing-obsessed world, identity remains a fraught and nebulous thing. Putin used the confusion over what was really happening in Crimea to the fullest to steal a march on the West. The Nakamoto unmasked in Los Angeles might be telling the truth—online, an account linked more or less definitively with the bitcoin creator piped up to say he wasn’t that Nakamoto—or it might all be a ruse to keep himself out of the spotlight. And @GSElevator’s book deal mysteriously evaporated after he was outed.

Identities are increasingly central to the internet economy, since whoever manages your online identity for you manages your data, and thus acts as your broker for a growing number of services. Identifying and profiling online users could soon be an industry worth tens of billions of dollars.

Some think that means that, as people’s online identities fill out with real data about them, anonymity will gradually vanish. But as all three of the above cases show, there’s always demand for fake, fudged or invented identities. And where there’s demand, there’ll be another industry around it.”

Posted in UYC

Hi, I’m Nushelle


Hi, I’m Nushelle, a first-year SMArchS (Master of Science in Architectural Studies) in HTC (History, Theory and Criticism of Architecture and Art). You can see why we use all the acronyms! When I first became interested in architecture, I was most compelled by its potential for reconstruction, reconciliation, and peace-making, especially in the aftermath of the Sri Lankan Civil War. My research interests coalesce around themes like the relationship between design and politics, anti-monuments and counter-memorials, and (because of my love of theatre) the intersections between architecture and performance. I’ve always been very interested in storytelling (I’m an avid listener of The Moth!), and I recently realised that there are a lot of projects that use the power of stories to inspire collective action, encourage reconciliation, and simply make people stop and think. This is one reason why I became interested in this course, because I was interested in working on a project that worked with a community rather than just for it. I’m also particularly interested in the theme of surveillance, because even in the aftermath of the Civil War, Sri Lanka is still highly militarised.

Although I don’t often take part in protests, I read through today, posted the link on Facebook and Twitter, and added the banner to two of my blogs. It felt like I had really done nothing at all, so I decided that since this campaign seems to be a lot about creating awareness about privacy issues, I would try to learn more about different aspects of the issue. I had only a rudimentary understanding of the Aaron Swartz case, and began to appreciate more the work he did on reading more about him. I also hadn’t heard of a cryptoparty before – apparently there was one on Sunday at Northeastern University! These seem really useful, and fit in with the apps being developed by the Codesign partner organisations.

Taking part in an online campaign, at least for me, means your collaborators and audience invisible, so it feels that either you didn’t do very much (which is how I felt) or that you’re doing it alone. Mostly, the protest was a reason for me to meditate on the things we take for granted or try not to think about because we’re so busy just trying to get through the day. One of the little factoids on the campaign banner was that the NSA can collect data through mobile apps, even Angry Birds. While that sounds ludicrous, it also means that they can collect information on my location through the pedometer app on my phone. The sheer volume of possible collectible information is mind-boggling, so my brain tends to shut down instead of really thinking about how the internet is suddenly this virtual Panopticon for the NSA. It takes effort to think about this issue, and it is deeply uncomfortable, especially for a person who is as private as I am. Thinking about today’s campaign made me realise why there wasn’t more of a public outcry after the Snowden leak – it’s almost too much to process. It also highlighted the importance of long-term projects that can help people to actually process the idea so that they can feel strongly enough to get on board.

I was also reminded of some photos that a student brought in to class last semester from a book, showing the Stasi dressed up as tourists to blend in, or of people’s rooms before they combed through the contents so that they could return the rooms to normal before their occupants got home (you can see some of these pictures here). The book gives the reader a sense of what Big Brother actually sees when he is watching. The whole thing sounds ridiculous and hilarious because it’s in another time and place, but it’s more chilling when you realise that something similar is taking place here and now.

Participating in today’s campaign got me thinking about how I’ve ignored the issue because it seems too big to process, and how civic media projects might help people to actually break down that information and process it, and be moved to act on it.