In Citizen Science, Commons Lab, Crowdsourcing on June 18, 2013 at 3:12 pm
Ariel Levi Simons, a high school science teacher and founder of the Southern California community lab LA Makerspace, sees great benefit in taking students outside the “artificially constructed” curriculum of the classroom. And he’s looking to spread the message to other area teachers.
“LA Makerspace brings together researchers and teachers to work on projects, and only a small number of teachers who want to invest the time and energy do,” Simons says. “Most public teachers are overwhelmed with trying to maintain what they have in their classrooms, and the rule with most educators is to not give a lot of support to managing anything or connecting to anything larger.”
The community lab officially opened its doors in downtown LA earlier this year following a successful Kickstarter campaign. According to the group’s website, it offers lab space and classes for youth and adults interested in science, design and software, among other disciplines. “This space is an experiment to bridge the gap between academia and the community-at-large, establish a peer-to-peer mentorship network, and give members of all ages and abilities the chance to apprentice into a whole variety of fields ranging from industrial design to data analysis,” the site says. Read the rest of this entry »
In Governance, Guest Blogger, Commons Lab, Crowdsourcing on June 11, 2013 at 11:57 am
As of this afternoon, we have 79 conflicting opinions about the best way for citizen science to support environmental research. It’s entirely our fault—we asked.
As an AAAS fellow with EPA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD), I’ve spent the past few months immersed in the best of federal creativity. The ORD Innovation Team looks for new and better ways to solve environmental problems—and looks across the agency for ideas about how to do so. That means their brainstorming sessions don’t just involve a few people sitting around a table. Online ideation sessions help the team gather, and develop, the best suggestions. They also come with their own set of challenges.
Most online ideation platforms let you do three basic things:
- Collect new ideas in response to a question or problem. Every person who logs onto the system can add their thoughts, and every idea appears as its own blog-like post.
- Discuss and build on posted ideas. People critique, support, or add to what’s already been posted—these appear as comments on the original posts.
- Vote on ideas. Suggestions with more interest get pushed toward the top of the list, allowing more people to see and comment on them. This also makes it easy to pick out, at the end of the session, the ideas that have garnered the most excitement.
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In Governance, Foresight, Technology and the Law, News and Events, Commons Lab on May 22, 2013 at 10:13 am
In our recent post on the Open Data Policy, we mentioned Project Open Data as an exciting manifestation of collaborative government concepts put into practice. To learn more, we reached out to GitHubber Ben Balter, former Presidential Innovation Fellow and previous contributor to the Commons Lab. Ben also provided input on agile development for our paper on the National Broadband Map.
How did GitHub become a part of this project?
I was working as a Presidential Innovation Fellow when the process to create the Open Data Policy began. Anyone within government is used to seeing documents circulate with no real idea of when it was edited, by whom, whether it was the most current version, and so on. This is very opaque. So while we’re working on open data policy, the process itself was very not open. Open source developers within the Innovation Fellows started talking about using GitHub to create the actual document. Lowering the barrier to entry was always the idea—we want people editing this and sharing their perspectives. Read the rest of this entry »
In Commons Lab, Foresight, Governance, News and Events, Technology and the Law on May 9, 2013 at 12:08 pm
FCC Visualization of Low Power FM Availability, built on open data and explained on GitHub.
Today, the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Science and Technology Policy jointly released a new Open Data Policy directing agencies to implement specific structural reforms. In conjunction with an Executive Order prioritizing open and machine readable government information, these adjustments are forward looking and exciting. They speak to a general understanding that a deliberate approach to the way that data are processed and released can exponentially enhance their value.
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In Commons Lab, Crowdsourcing, Disaster Management, Foresight, News and Events on May 6, 2013 at 2:28 pm
Editor’s note: In September 2012, the Commons Lab hosted the Connecting Grassroots to Government for Disaster Management workshop. Over two days, we spoke with a number of event participants for a series of video podcasts covering various aspect of the proceedings. The conversation below with Eric Rasmussen is the first of these podcasts. Please stay tuned: Additional installments will be posted in the coming weeks and the workshop summary report will be published in June.
Eric Rasmussen wears many hats: He is a medical doctor, a research professor for environmental security and global medicine at San Diego State University, an affiliate associate professor of medicine at the University of Washington, and the managing director at Infinitum Humanitarian Systems, a “profit-for-purpose” company in California that focuses on reducing vulnerability for systems and populations. In addition to sitting on a number of boards, Rasmussen served in the Navy for more than 25 years and was deployed more than 15 times to Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries.
In this podcast, Rasmussen discusses the limitations software developers face when moving ideas from concept to implementation in disaster response, noting that developers often have too little access to end users and too little understanding of the constraints faced by those users in the field. He also discusses the need to engage agencies and other responders early on to make sure new systems are incorporated into agency response plans and the role of policymakers in addressing these challenges.
In Commons Lab, Crowdsourcing, Disaster Management, Foresight, Technology and the Law on April 22, 2013 at 2:02 pm
During last week’s frenzied pursuit of suspects after the Boston Marathon bombings, we commented on the danger of attempting to crowdsource a criminal investigation. After Friday’s arrest of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, new information on how law enforcement located the suspect has shed light on the process. Despite good intentions, intelligence analysis of this type is a poor fit for untrained amateurs. From the Washington Post:
[T]he social media revolution meant that the FBI and Boston authorities were under intense pressure to move even faster, because thousands of amateur sleuths were mimicking the official investigation, inspecting digital images of the crowd on Boylston Street and making their own often wildly irresponsible conclusions about who might be the bombers.
On an investigative forum of Reddit.com, since removed from the site, users compiled thousands of photos, studied them for suspicious backpacks and sent their favorite theories spinning out into the wider Internet.
“Find people carrying black bags,” wrote the Reddit forum’s unnamed moderator. “If they look suspicious, then post them. Then people will try and follow their movements using all the images.”
The moderator defended this strategy by arguing that “it’s been proven that a crowd of thousands can do things like this much quicker and better. . . . I’d take thousands of people over a select few very smart investigators any day.”
In addition to being almost universally wrong, the theories developed via social mediacomplicated the official investigation, according to law enforcement officials. Those officials said Saturday that the decision on Thursday to release photos of the two men in baseball caps was meant in part to limit the damage being done to people who were wrongly being targeted as suspects in the news media and on the Internet.
Fortunately, the suspect was apprehended and critiques of Reddit’s investigative techniques were swift and emphatic. But this could have easily gone much worse. This experience provides an example of where the wisdom of the crowd can be anything but wise.
In Commons Lab, Foresight, Governance on April 9, 2013 at 11:37 am
The Government in the Lab blog has an interesting April 8 post looking at current government foresight efforts, including initiatives at the Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Air Force and Department of Veterans Affairs, among others at the federal and state levels. Thinking about the long-term future becomes particularly important when the short-term budget outlook is so bleak, the post concludes.
“Strategic foresight is not futurist forecasting, nor is it the sole purvey of Popular Science magazine, the World Future Society, or the Jetson Family,” the blog says. “It is about having the imagination to be prepared for what may come, regardless of which scenario occurs – it’s a mindset, not a process.” The post suggest the need for greater cross-agency work on foresight, emphasizing the need to show the value of foresight to policymakers (including the costs of not being prepared).
The post also references Leon Fuerth’s recent report on the subject, Anticipatory Governance. Fuerth visited the Wilson Center late last year to discuss the report, while the Science & Technology Innovation Program in January held a launch event for the Global Futures Intelligence System and the 2012 State of the Future report.