civics

Human-Centered Research in Policymaking

by CHELSEA MAULDIN, Public Policy Lab & NATALIA RADYWYL, Fjord Article 5 in the series Data, Design and Civics: Ethnographic Perspectives "[Aims] such as unslumming slums, catalyzing diversity, nurturing lively streets, are unrecognized today as objectives of city planning. Therefore, planners and the agencies of action that carry out plans possess neither strategies nor tactics for carrying out such aims. …although city planning lacks tactics for building cities that can work like cities, it does possess plenty of tactics. They are aimed at carrying out strategic lunacies. Unfortunately, they are effective." (Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, 1961, 321) Growing density, climate change, economic instability, migration, the increasing penetration of information and communication technologies: these urban trends are pushing traditional city management approaches to their limit. It’s no surprise that the ‘smart city’ and related technology-oriented approaches are a leading innovation model among...

Ethnography of Civic Participation: The Difficulty of Showing Up Even when You Are There

by THOMAS LODATO, Center for Urban Innovation, Georgia Institute of Technology Article 3 in the series Data, Design and Civics: Ethnographic Perspectives The days of gathering in the forum are long gone. Today, the sphere of American civics is teeming with new forms of participation—from emergent advocacy organizations like MoveOn.orgi and shifting information paradigmsii to “personalized politics”iii and debates centered on computational data.iv Civics has moved beyond a notion of informed citizenship—of being educated on issues and debates, as well as keen enough to synthesize and respond (hopefully in the form of votes) to shape government. Now, in order to hold elected officials accountable, or to expose the shadowy ongoings of bureaucrats, or to reimagine a government suited for the pace of the 21st century, citizens must lead the charge to actively craft political opinion, civic life, and government itself. Of course, civic engagement has never been as straightforward as our historical fantasy of the public forum—there...

Innovation Teams, Mundane Innovation, and the Public Good

Andrew Schrock
by ANDREW RICHARD SCHROCK Article 2 in the series Data, Design and Civics: Ethnographic Perspectives The windows were dirty when I arrived on the fifteenth floor of City Hall. I had been hired as the Los Angeles’ Innovation Team’s in-house social communication researcher. My official title was “Design and Data Research Fellow,” although my badge read “intern,” which after 6 years in a PhD program was an unusual change. After a few weeks I got tired of looking through the grime, and trudged upstairs to the shared kitchen to locate a bottle of spray and a few paper towels. The only way to reach each side of the windows was to lean out, because they opened outward. I’m afraid of heights, so dangling halfway out the windows fifteen floors was enough to give me butterflies. Still, the cleaning plan was up to me. My work considers how people use technologies to improve civic life. I’m especially interested in how individuals become involved in institutional change through and around data. You hear this argument a...