Hello from Ben!

Hello all! My name is Ben Silverman and I’m a first-year masters student in the Comparative Media Studies program here at MIT, doing research on the furry fandom and rave subcultures. I also work at the Active Archives Initiative, formerly known as HyperStudio. On the side, I like to make electronic music.

I am interested in issues of housing equity, gentrification, and activist archives. As such, I am quite excited by the project Sasha mentioned involving Karilyn Crockett from DUSP and the local organizations that protested the interstate highway system. I would love to work directly with these activist organizations in remixing and reanimating their archival materials—especially as housing justice is a struggle that continues to be pressing and vital around this country. Co-designing a project with a community organization involved in that struggle is an opportunity I do not want to miss.

That said, I am also open to working on other projects! I have never been involved in planning (or hacking) a hackathon before, and I look forward to finding out what that entails. In whichever project I work on, I hope to make use of my skills in web programming, data visualization, and/or audio/video editing.

My sense is that design factors into many disciplines and professions, and therefore I feel that design justice principles will be with me for the rest of my life. In this course, I look forward to putting those principles into action and understanding them on a practical level.

Hello, World! It’s me, Sam.

I’m Samuel R. Mendez, and everyone outside of my family usually just calls me Sam. I’m an artist and researcher from Chicago.

In this semester’s codesign studio, I mainly hope to support ongoing work in the Boston area around some aspect of social equity. My focus in my academic work is usually some aspect of health equity. It’ll be interesting to see how this focus can bring something useful to the table for an organization working on a topic that might not seem directly related at first glance. I’m super excited to learn from people who have been focusing on a different set of social issues than I’ve been.

On the production side of this class, I have skills in animation, video, and basic front-end web development. I’m constantly exploring new methods of expressing ideas and bringing people together to discuss them. Most recently that’s included performing and writing short stage pieces. I enjoy the surprises that pop up when I’m helping to figure out what methods are best suited to realize a certain idea and accomplish engagement goals. In this codesign studio, I’m looking forward to the process of exploration and finding the right methods to help a community organization further its goals through a specific project.

An abstract representation of the collaborative design process: a triangle surrounded by squiggly lines on each side and thick, short curved lines on each point. Three thinner, shorter curved lines surround the squiggly-line shape in an outer layer.
An abstract representation of the collaborative design process: a triangle surrounded by squiggly lines on each side and thick, short curved lines on each point. Three thinner, shorter curved lines surround the squiggly-line shape in an outer layer.

I think the codesign process should be something that invites codesigners to flip on its head, rotate, take apart, and toss around to find the best angle from which to approach their goals. I think it should be a cycle without a very clear starting or ending point, both exciting and challenging in its flexibility. I represented these qualities through my abstract image in our “Name That Tech” exercise.

As such, I don’t yet have a clear idea of what I want to work on in this studio. I hope to find the area where I can best contribute by learning more about some of the projects and groups that classmates have connections to.

Hi everyone! – Annie Wang, MIT CMS/W

Hello, all! My name is Annie and I’m a first-year Masters student in the Comparative Media Studies department. I work in the Education Arcade and focus primarily on edtech, game design, and new media technologies in education. Recently, I’ve become very interested in civic education and the potential of incorporating race and tolerance curricula into classes through the use of new media, such as mixed reality. I don’t have a lot of experience in civics (though I did spend some time as a design intern for WorldTeach in undergrad), so I’m excited to learn more about the field and what I can do to benefit people who truly need the assistance.

I don’t have a specific community partner in mind and would be excited to either join a preexisting project or help someone set up a new project. My background is in art and design – digital art, 3D modeling, UI/graphics, storyboarding, and so on – and I am also relatively well versed in writing and research. In a given project, I often wear many hats.

Although my background is multidisciplinary, my experience is largely limited to academic projects with coders, designers, and scholars. I feel that this semester will provide a great opportunity to make connections with people deeply involved with civic/community initiates and learn more about how to leverage my skills in the relevant practice. Whatever the work is, I’m excited to work with a group of people with diverse skills and get my hands dirty creating something that can have both a direct and positive impact on the local community.

James Vorderbruggen – Massachusetts Mesh Net

Ideas radiate from our comfort zone when we’re shocked to life.

I’m James, and during the co-design lab, I’m hoping to meaningfully engage communities in the design process of Mass Mesh, a community owned internet initiative that is currently in its infancy. This project is really comprised of the shared effort of a small group of core developers/enthusiasts right now. Work so far has focused on developing a low-cost, high-throughput router that is capable of scaling the network. The developers are disillusioned by market-based approaches to community internet like Althea, and unimpressed by short-cut implementations like the NYC Mesh (See: hub and spoke network.) In order to move beyond these implementations, though, we will need to engage with potential network participants in order to create a better strategy. It would be impossible to build a meaningfully decentralized network of this kind from the top down.

We have not done market research, as far as I know. We have agreed that we should focus on low income communities, but this decision was made based on no data about where that community may be. We have also not verified whether this imagined community would be receptive to operating network hardware in their home. We hypothesize that those without the means to purchase internet access from corporate providers will be the most receptive to alternatives because they have the most to gain.

I personally think that events and targeted advertising would be a good way to get the ball rolling on community engagement. Events could focus on getting hardware up and running, but I don’t think that’s the most effective way to use our time. Hardware setup is basically a fixed process. I think that the question of how to overcome the service provider -> customer relationship on our network is of central importance. Organizing as a co-op makes intuitive sense, but this is vague. Establishing basic by-laws and funding mechanisms will take some conversation. It would be best if we had early adopters to engage in this conversation with. Ideally, these people would know what it means to run a network node, and understand the methods available for connecting our mesh to the broader internet infrastructure at least in general terms. This basic knowledge will help guide the conversations about ownership of network infrastructure.

The problems facing Mass Mesh are multifarious, and we will be up against strong capitalist players in this market. Radical engagement with the community provides a way forward for us without compromising our core mission of bringing internet access into the Commons.

Amber’s Intro

The Design Process: Access TV Style

The Design Process: Access TV Style

Hello everyone, Amber here!

I work at Billerica Access Television (BATV) where, in my current capacity as Youth Coordinator, I create and manage youth media programs. Essentially, I work with groups of students, teachers, and community members to help Billerica’s younger populations think critically about the media they consume while also empowering them to create their own media. I’m always looking to grow our programs and venture into new project areas as technology and the interests of the students I work with change, which is why I’m here! I’m really looking forward to working with everyone and seeing the progression of everyone’s projects in the Co-Design Studio!

My project idea popped into my head while I was planning out curriculum for one of my middle school groups. I plan to have this group in particular make PSAs that center around a topic that they feel is relevant and important to them. But this got me thinking: kids are often left out of the mix when it comes to town issues and town government. Sure, they aren’t able to vote yet, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t issues and decisions in town directly or indirectly impacting them.

Additionally, although the “how” of town government is taught in schools (i.e. how the system works), the “why” and “what” are often neglected. When I asked a few of my students (5th grade, 8th grade, and 10th grade) if they knew what was being discussed in our town’s various committee meetings, they “had no idea” and “why should they?” because “that stuff’s boring.” The responses were what I expected, but it’s still concerning. How are kids supposed to develop into citizens who fight for their rights, challenge oppressive systems, bring awareness to issues, and generally feel empowered if they don’t know or care to know what is going on in their own town hall? People can learn about these things as they get older, but why not start earlier? Why wait?

My goal in this class is to develop a project that engages Billerica’s youth in understanding what articles/issues are discussed in town government without having to sit through multiple hours a week of broadcasted meetings. It should be interactive, include BATV resources (e.g. VR or 360 video technologies), and, most importantly, be developed with student input taking the forefront. Kids may not be interested in this type of subject matter, but if they are included in the process and taken seriously, they are more likely to feel invested in the project. I don’t want students to feel talked down to by another adult who claims they know what’ll work best. I want to help foster a collaboration between students, BATV, the schools, and the town in order to make this project as successful as possible. I realized I definitely needed help with this undertaking, which is why I seized the opportunity to join the co-design studio.

The expectation I have for my design process (pictured above) is that it will originate from the current resources at BATV and in Billerica, which is noted by the old school television set and green background (Billerica’s colors are green and white). The three squiggly lines coming from the “rabbit ears” signifies our station’s three channels: public, government, and educational. In the process, I hope to see an explosion of creativity and a re-thinking of these current systems, which is signified by the central squiggly line aka our government channel with the pink “firework” coming out of it. I imagine that lots of ideas and help will be thrown our way from various sources, which may lead to dead ends or help keep energy alive in the design process (signified by the yellow bits of paper). Most importantly, I imagine that the process itself will “crack open” the public’s preconceived notions about access television (Wayne’s World is great, but that’s not a full representation of what our industry does) and will also challenge my own ideas about how program/project design works. Based on my physical representation, I know that the process will be messy and all over the place. However, it will end up producing a worthwhile project that generates interest and a sense of empowerment when it comes to Billerica’s youth and their town government.

People (including some of my students) have told me that this project may not pan out the way I want it to, which I expect. After all, this is an ambitious project with many moving parts. Design is not easy, but my hope is that through the process of designing whatever this project becomes, something positive will emerge.

Introductions – William Wu

Hello! I’m Willy.

I’m a third-year MIT student studying Digital Media. I work with all kinds of software, hardware, media, and people. I build multiplayer games, music controllers, and interactive visualizations. I study the creative process and how it evolves with computers and computation.

I’m going into this class without an established community partner or project, with the expectation that I’ll join an existing group and offer my support. As a jack of many trades, I often find myself as a mediator or translator, for example, explaining design concepts to engineers or technical terms to designers. In past teams, I’ve also found myself moving around to fill in missing roles as needed.

Through taking this class, I hope to learn more about what it means to cultivate, sustain, and modify a community. Community, to me, is more than a group formed out of similarity; be it geographical region, heritage, interest, etc. For me, a potent community draws out the best in humanity – collaboration, creativity, support, and selflessness, to name a few. I hope that as we examine, break down, and build back up the elements of a community, we can uncover more of what pull us together… and makes us human.

Well, of course, all while working with awesome folks and making an impact in a real-world initiative; who would have thought that classes were for learning only?


A little bit about myself

Hello, my name is Aveen, I have many hobbies such as building, coding, and assembling stuff in general. I am a 6th-grade student enrolled in Nuvu Studio School and cause and effect I am surrounded by many challenges that I love to take on. These four teenage girls organised a massive protest (and a silent one) against gun violence and police brutality in Chicago http://www.chicagomag.com/city-life/July-2016/Black-Lives-Matter-Chi-Youth-Sit-In-Rally

About Me – Kate

Hi everyone! I’m Kate Weishaar, a junior in the architecture department here at MIT. I consider myself a designer and an activist, and I hope this class will give me more experience combining the two. My extracurricular work includes being Junior Design Editor for Technique, MIT’s yearbook, and being a mentor for Maker Lodge, a new initiative at MIT to train incoming freshmen to use machine shops safely and effectively.

I grew up in Germantown, Maryland, a reasonably diverse suburb of Washington, DC. From a young age, I valued a diverse group of teachers and classmates as a key part of my education, but began to notice disparities in how students are treated based on gender, race, and mental illnesses. As someone who has worked closely with many people struggling with gender identity and mental illness, I have always tried to help support and advocate for students in similar conditions, primarily on a personal level. Particularly in today’s political climate, I would like to expand my efforts to a more institutional level and take more steps to change the culture surrounding gender and mental illness, starting in public schools.

A group I find inspiring is School Girls Unite, an organization based in a town near where I grew up. Initially formed by a group of 12-year-old girls, the group has worked to bring quality education to girls around the world, but specifically have started an initiative in Mali to provide scholarships for girls who cannot afford to attend school. By working directly with a partner organization in Mali, they have succeeded in efficiently delivering funds and can continuously check on the scholarship students to make sure they continue to benefit fully. In addition to the scholarships, they also use their close proximity to DC to advocate for educational policies and act as a member of the Global Campaign for Education – US.


About Calvin

Hi everyone!

I’m Calvin, a Junior now in the Architecture Department and excited to participate in the CoDesign studio this semester! I come to this class as a designer and activist– I hope to explore how we can apply art and technology in innovative ways to create and inspire movements.

I grew up all over New York City– Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan, in diverse neighborhoods such as Flushing and one of Brooklyn’s many Chinatowns. Growing up in New York, I’ve developed a keen sense of the problems that minorities face living in urban environments. As a designer, I like to tackle these problems and examine how we can design the built environment to be more accommodating, safe, and provide equal opportunities.

During high school and at MIT, I worked with ECAASU (East Coast Asian American Student Union), a youth-led NGO. While working with ECAASU, I was engaged with people from organizations such as WHIAAPI (which got me thinking more about policy and education) and NAAPIMHA (mental health and intersectionality) at the yearly ECAASU Conference.

Coincidentally, this past weekend was the 2017 Conference in North Carolina, co-hosted by the Triangle-Area universities: the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University, and North Carolina State University. This is what inspires me this weekend– the conference brings in thousands of youth from all over the country to focus on the issues that matter to us as students, activists, organizers, et cetera. This year I was unable to attend, but what stood out to me was their passion and reason for hosting in NC this year.

In the past couple of months leading up to the conference, there was a lot of discussion about North Carolina, specifically. ECAASU has brought themselves out to North Carolina to be engaged in the conversation and has shown solidarity with the marginalized communities in the South.

Looking forward to working with you all!


I’m happy to be here

Hi everyone! I’m Bridget. I’m a writer, editor, and digital marketing analyst. I’ve worked for myself and for others in operations research, public health, advocacy, and startuplandia. I like to investigate problems and I love to be surprised by what I find. I aspire to be a better human. I’m really looking forward to working with you this semester.

What I have to offer is my voice and perspective, as well as my experience with customer development interviews, user research, developmental editing, and measuring things.

We all have something to teach each other. Collaborative design appeals to me because I believe we can only build something that is truly essential, helpful, useful, interesting, and beautiful if we take an inclusive, empathetic approach to design.

I’m interested in lots of things:

  • Justice and equity
  • Preserving public spaces for community participation and engagement, both in the physical world and online
  • Exploring biases inherent in selecting which data to measure
  • Visual art, mostly painting and drawing
  • Conceptual art, which I mostly practice by writing long grant proposals and not submitting them

Until this point, friends have described me as a digital lurker, but I’ve recently found IndieWebCamp, a project-movement that just might have inspired me to join the world again.

I satisfy my need to grow carrots and other things by gardening in a friendly community member’s yard that I found through My City Gardens, a project that connects people looking to share their yards with people looking for space to grow.