Hello world, I’m YU

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(Technologies do not need to be new. Old tech or old-new hybrid tech is equally amazing when used on social causes)

I’m Yu, a first-year CMS graduate student and RA in Center for Civic Media. I like building things together with people. I’ve lighted up my skill tree as a researcher, web or non-web programmer, a media producer and (sometimes) a designer.

Oh, I’m working in the NGO20 project. Browse the map or follow us on twitter if you’re interesting in what’s happening in China’s nonprofit organizations and creative technologies for public good use.

I signed up for this course because I’d like to experience interacting creatively with the world through co-design methods, as well as meet the local community, and all the lovely people inside or outside campus. The mass-surveillance topic also gives me a chance to learn how people set their steps in the maze of such a complex cause.

For “the day we fight back” event, I joined the 5000 websites and installed the code on my MIT personal homepage. It is a large banner describing the arguments of the activity and what kind of action the visitor can take; the banner does not block the function of the website, and it disappeared in the next day (though I didn’t remove the code).

It’s a natural tendency to compare #StopTheNSA with “Stop SOPA” action. The latter one is more successful perhaps because of its obvious connection with the interest of big Internet companies such as google. “Stop SOPA” tries to stop an act, while “Stop the NSA” try to get an act passed. Though I doubt what the legislators may think when they are flooded with emails and phone calls with exactly the same content. Also, I appreciate this american boy (video) who argues that everything wrong with the action is that people should have their OWN voice instead of repeating someone else’s mechanically.

I’m also interested in the symbols or icons used in the action. In “Stop SOPA”, a simple black out square is adequate to convey the idea. In “Stop the NSA”, the “slap in the eye” symbol and the scary red-eyed NSA eagle are used in the action. Somehow I feel that it is not that intuitive in compared with the black out square. What do you think about it?

Intro – Jeffrey Warren

Hello! My name is Jeffrey Warren and I’m a senior at MIT in course 6. I’ve been interested in computers and programming since high school and have since adopted a passion for computer systems and systems design. I’ve really enjoyed classes and topics at MIT on web development, computer systems, computer security, and distributed systems. Moreover, I’ve worked for companies such as Amazon and Pinterest.

I am the first to back out of a conversation surrounding external servailance simply because I don’t know much about what’s going on. I think that my ignorance is unacceptable considering it is such a huge and important topic, but not only that, I’ll be working so close to the space for the next few years of my life. But more than that, I think I’m one of the few who are okay with government (and other types) of servailance. I’m not stuck in my ways, I know I don’t know everything, but I know this class will help open my eyes.

For the Feb 11 protests, I watched several videos on YouTube of people calling their representatives. My thoughts are that the people calling representatives are not accomplishing much. They seem to be calling with attempts to bring awareness to the issue (which I understand is a goal of the protest). While this seems to be a reasonable approach, I don’t think anything will result of it. The representatives [assistants] will continue as they were before.

Introduction – Miho

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I’m Miho – an undergraduate senior in Mechanical Engineering at MIT. My concentration is in biomedical applications and international development, and in the past few years, my interest in product development has been getting bigger. I have taken many CMS classes (once I was a minor candidate …) and I really, really love CMS. I enjoy photography, design projects, reading novels and writing.

 

I’m taking CoDesign this semester finally – I tried to take it last year, but couldn’t because of the schedule conflict – now with more knowledge and interest in media issues after taking Intro to Civic Media with Sasha last semester. I have been an active member in D-lab (a program dedicated for designing appropriate technologies for developing countries), and also leading a community project in Japan for more than a year now, and I’m hoping to utilize the skill I get in CoDesign for both the project and my contribution in D-lab. I’m interested in finding an intersection what kind of media use would be possible in communities with little experience in media. It would be great to see the examples of empowerment and education as well. I’m also interested in seeing how hardware projects can empower people to fight against surveillance and for their own privacy and freedom – interesting exploration can happen in urban communities, I think.

 

Reading through The Day We Fight Back gave me a chance to read more about Aaron Swartz – since there is so much information about this issue, I couldn’t internalize everything but gained more understanding than before for sure. I was browsing through the Twitter #DayWeFightBack which remained very active even until 11PM of the day. I also watched multiple videos uploaded on YouTube today – wow so many – and I finally realized that it is actually happening widely around the Internet. It was good to see some people in protest in videos – my favorite one is this one, where a guy with hand-made “NSA camera” keeps appearing while others are giving a speech. haha

 

However, it is a bit sad that I didn’t hear anyone I met today talking about this movement at MIT which is relatively an Internet-heavy community, and where Aaron Swartz studied. Tech released today was not covering that as well. Though the movement is a big issue among Internet activists, the event may not be very effectively participatory for the others.

 

Lastly, here‘s something I found that would be a nice thing to have done last weekend to prepare for The Day We Fight Back –  DIY projects to fight for online privacy. People would keep finding these solutions no matter how much the government tries to oppress them – I feel like I found some hope.

 

 

 

Hi, I’m Wei-Wei

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Hi everyone, my name is Tiffany, but I usually go by Wei-Wei, so you can call me either. I am a junior at MIT in Course 6-2 (Electrical Engineering & Computer Science) and minoring in CMS. I enjoy building things from end to end, so I have a lot of web app experience and am working on my mobile skills. I like to make video games, and I love doing Hackathons.

I am taking this class because I would like to get more experience working with and designing for a specific client, and the issues presented in the first class seem interesting problems to tackle. I am excited to learn more about Civic Media and the codesign process, and to work with the project partners!

Today for the February 11th protest, I shared the Day We Fight Back link on Facebook and sent an email to legislators about the USA Freedom Act and FISA Improvements Act. I personally have not paid much attention to the NSA issues except for whatever news stories I happen to read, but after reading about it on Reddit and doing some of my own research, I think it’s important for people to know what information is being spied upon and be able to make educated decisions to protect their privacy. Without this class I would not have known about this protest as I did not see anything about it on Facebook or on Reddit really, so I hope my sharing of the link encouraged more people to take a look and educate themselves about the issues as I did.

I’m Daniel!

Hey everyone, I’m Daniel Wang, a Junior in Mechanical Engineering. My background is in medical devices and I plan to attend medical school. I have had lots of experience with mechanical design and am currently involved in the Gordon Engineering Leadership program, in which I have taken several design classes. I am very interested in technology innovation and designing better products than the ones currently on the market. I believe the design experience I will gain from MIT will surely assist my career as an engineer-physician.

My reason for taking this CMS class consists of two reasons. First, having never taken a CMS class before, I thought it would be an interesting and fresh perspective different from my normal engineering classes. Secondly, I am interested in the design aspect of this class as it pertains to social and lifestyle design, which is very different than product design.

As for the 2/11 protests, I mainly followed some of the posts on Reddit. The topics were overwhelmingly about the NSA and made me think more about my position on the NSA. When all the leaks started coming out I didn’t think too much of it since much of the surveillance were supposed to be deemed against “non American citizens”. I never really followed in detail all the NSA revelations after the initial leaks. However, some of the arguments and articles presented on the protest pages highlight the deeper reaches of the NSA. For instance, the interception of foreign private communications and cracking cell phones are a huge concern for everyone. In addition, the NSA is able to install many decoy objects that serve as secret surveillance tools. I think the NSA’s overreach is a burden US citizens don’t need and a threat to a stable government in the future. After reading through the protest pages and information, I believe I came out with a better understanding of the NSA and will be more active in my opposition and awareness as well.Mosaic

Hello, I’m Elizabeth

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Hello all! My name is Elizabeth Cho, but I more often go by first intitial and last name (Echo, but pronounced “eee cho”). I’m a sophomore at Wellesley College who just declared Cinema and Media Studies, or CAMS as we call it, as my major last semester. More recently, I’m beginning to strongly consider Computer Science as a potential minor, despite being one of those students who swore she wasn’t built for science or math (if anything, I’m beginning to realize that holding such a conviction held me back from considering CS-y things earlier). I wanted to take this class because I have a particular fascination with how people use media to connect on social, political and even emotional levels, and I wanted to see how I can implement this interest “irl”. I’m even more excited that this class can help me in considering what it is I’d like to do with the education I’m being given all while I can help a local organization. Though I consider myself to be very much at beginning level 1 in Civic Media, I hope that doesn’t scare off potential partners. As far as a quick, personal background, I’m originally from Chino, California, a suburb about 40 minutes south east of Los Angeles. My parents are both immigrants, my mother being from Nayarit, Mexico and my father being from Seoul, Korea. I’m the first in my family to attend a four-year college, and as such I feel a strong commitment and tie to my community and the southern California/ LA/ Inland Empire area.

Being Californian serves as a nice segue into the second point I’d like to mention in this post; that of The Day We Fight Back. I decided to partake in the event by emailing and calling my Californian representative and discussing the issue with my peers. All of this I did only after reading more about the background of the event, visiting some reddit threads, and skimming through the proposed bills. The emailing was, not surprisingly, effortless to do. I entered my name and zipcode and within a minute received a “Thank you for emailing!” from the organization. I decided afterwards to also call my representatives, and while I was easily able to leave messages with the staffers of Senator Barbara Boxer and my representative Gloria Negrete McLeod, Senator Diane Feinstein’s calling hours were suspiciously closed. Lastly, I found my conversations with other students to be especially revealing about the sentiment of surveillance and political action. My roommate, in particular, had mentioned that while she feels generally negative about the issue, she simply doesn’t feel a need to go so far as to download and learn software like Tor “just to hide that I looked at tumblr today.” I think that many people feel similarly concerning the idea of surveillance, and I think this class will bring to light the many different ways surveillance affects people and the ways we can react and counter that.

Richard Pignataro [WIT M.Arch]

Hi, my name is Richard Pignataro, and I am currently in my last semester as a Master of Architecture student at Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston, MA. As my thesis semesters approached last year, I knew I wanted to develop a relevant topic that had somewhat little prior groundwork within architecture. With a strong passion for surveillance and the associated current events, it became my thesis topic of interest. As I grew more specific within the broad field of surveillance, I started to focus on an end goal; interaction generated by surveillance and transparency. My initial studies looked at CVS and Walgreens. CVS has hidden overhead surveillance cameras, which neglect the occupier. Walgreens however, incorporates a television at the entrance to show what is being recorded. This simple move towards interaction with the user starts to generate play between camera and person; creating a possible point or even a wave. Since then my thesis has progressed into a full scale project that utilizes surveillance within cities to generate play and interaction facilitated by a central architectural form with limbs that extend into a cities public space. The main problem with surveillance is the 1% doing the watching vs the 99% being watched. The power struggle between the idea cannot be resolved without a compromise. To quote Evgeny Morozov “Surveillance cameras might reduce crime – even though the evidence here is mixed – but no studies show that they result in greater happiness of everyone involved.”

To get involved within “The Day We Fight Back”, my first step was to add the banner to my WordPress Thesis Blog page. Since it is very relevant to the topic of the page, it seems to fit right in with the theme of the site.

Hi, I’m Nushelle

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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 www.thedaywefightback.org 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.

Intro: Paulina

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Hi! I’m Paulina, an Ed.M. student in the Technology, Innovation, and Education cohort at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. I’m also an RA with Youth and Media at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society. My background is in classroom education and digital literacies, although lately I’ve been interested in libraries, museums, and other places of informal learning. Although my work deals with young people and their privacy, it is often construed as a concern for social privacy, and I’m curious about some of the questions around surveillance and privacy relating to institutions and corporations.

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On The Day We Fight Back, I emailed my legislators and circulated the notice among my social media networks (Fight for the Future makes it very easy to do so). I also have the Internet Defense League‘s “cat signal” installed on websites I manage, which is an easy way to be an activist (or “slacktivist,” as it were). I remember being involved with the SOPA/PIPA debate, and in comparison, “The Day We Fight Back” seemed much quieter. Given that we have visualizations of the media generated around SOPA/PIPA, I’m wondering how visualizations of “The Day We Fight Back” would look like, in comparison.

 

 

Hi, I’m Emily

Hi everyone! My name is Emily, I’m from Newark, DE, and I’m a senior in Course 2 (mechanical engineering) at MIT. I’m interested in robotics, manufacturing, and product design. Most of my project classes thus far have been very technical and product-focused, so I’m excited to use my brain in a different way for civic media projects. Looking forward to a great semester!