A Lesson in (Digital) Civics

September 12, 2014

Come One, Come All! (But Register First, Please)

It’s nearly fall, which means that we’re serving up another series of breakfast presentations at the intersection of policy advocacy, evaluation, and social change. Next up is Sam Daley-Harris, founder of the anti-poverty lobbying group RESULTS and the Center for Citizen Empowerment and Transformation. He’ll be stopping by on September 26th at 8:15AM for a conversation with our very own Mickey Edwards about what makes for effective grassroots engagement. Be sure to register here! Politics and Prose will be peddling Sam’s book. (And dress sharp, people: C-SPAN plans to be here too.)

A New, Digital Civics

MIT’s Ethan Zuckerman thinks about citizen engagement and digital media a whole lot. Looking back at one of his blog posts from earlier this year, we’re struck by the evaluative potential of a framework he’s  developing to better understand the process and outcomes of digital activism. He posits a matrix with two axes – from “thin” to “thick,” from “symbolic” to “impactful.” Offering apt examples of recent projects in each category, Zuckerman unpacks these definitions while underscoring how digital media is opening new and unique opportunities for engagement (and measurement?).  

Big Data = Big Thinking? Not Exactly.

We’ve all heard about big dataover and over again – along with several insightful critiques. This week, we came across an ethnographer’s 2013 blog post questioning the view of big data as a panacea and defending the value of qualitative information. Oh yes, a woman after our own heart! Comparing big data with “thick data,” Tricia Wang outlines the kinds of lessons we can learn from systematically collecting and analysing stories in pursuit of answers to our research questions. As we say to folks, no stories without numbers, and no numbers without stories.