Planning Democracy: Technology in Local Communities

FRI, NOV 21, 2003 (1:22:03)

The Planning Democracy conference explores how advanced telecommunications technologies and policies can help strengthen local communities. For over a decade, the convergence of the computer and telecommunications industries has inspired grand predictions of a bright new world of freedom and prosperity, an "e-topia." We have seen advanced communications technologies help improve business practices, enhance medical services, enrich educational opportunities and deliver a wide array of entertainments to our home. How can these advanced telecommunications services be used to foster strong democratic communities? How are these communications technologies being used, if at all, in the City of Cambridge? What role, if any, does local government play in making sure that 21st Century communications technologies serve public needs?

+ BIO: Mitchel Resnick

Mitchel Resnick is LEGO Papert Professor of Learning Research, Director of the Okawa Center, and Director of the Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Lab. Resnick's research group has developed a variety of educational tools that engage people in new types of design activities and learning experiences, including the "programmable bricks" that were the basis for the award-winning LEGO Mindstorms and StarLogo software. He co-founded the Computer Clubhouse, an award-winning network of learning centers for youth from under-served communities.

Resnick's group has developed a new programming language, called Scratch, that makes it easier for kids to create their own animated stories, video games, and interactive art. Resnick is also involved in the next generation of Programmable Bricks and in the $100 laptop project.

Resnick, a graduate of Haverford High School (Pa.), earned a BA in physics at Princeton University (1978), and MS and PhD degrees in computer science at MIT (1988, 1992). He worked for five years as a science/technology journalist for Business Week magazine, and he has consulted widely on the uses of computers in education. Resnick was awarded a National Science Foundation Young Investigator Award in 1993. He is author of the book Turtles, Termites, and Traffic Jams, co-editor of Constructionism in Practice: Designing, Thinking, and Learning in a Digital World (1996), and co-author of Adventures in Modeling: Exploring Complex, Dynamic Systems with StarLogo (2001).

+ BIO: Keith Hampton

Keith Hampton, an expert in the study of social networks and new technologies, says that rather than destroying community life, being wired actually helps people connect. In fact, people who frequently use e-mail are more likely to be in frequent touch with others by telephone and in person, too.

Seven years ago, Hampton set out to discover how online communication vehicles like e-mail are likely to impact our social contacts with family, close friends, and casual acquaintances. Are we going to meet less frequently in person? Are we going to become cut off from our communities? He also wanted to learn the extent to which global communication technologies can affect us at the local level particularly within our own neighborhoods.

Keith Hampton is assistant professor in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and is completing a doctoral dissertation at the Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto.

+ BIO: Ceasar McDowell

Dr. Ceasar McDowell is President of the Interaction Institute for Social Change. As founder of MIT’s Co-Lab (previously named Center for Reflective Community Practice), he works to develop the critical moments reflection method to help communities build knowledge from their practice or, as he likes to say, “to know what they know.” Through his work at the global civic engagement organization, Engage The Power, he developed The Question Campaign as a method for building democratic communities from the ground up. At MIT, he teaches on civic and community engagement and the use of social media to enhance both. of the Algebra Project. In addition he has developed programs for public discourse and conflict resolution among educators from Northern Ireland and The Republic of Ireland. He also designed a public dialogue process for informing the Boston Foundation's Persistent Poverty project work in Boston.

MIT Communications Forum
American Experience: The Presidents Series
FRONTLINE: The Tank Man Series
Media Shift: Digital Revolution Series
Our Democracy Series