Blogging my Berkman experience

Hello cyber world! I’ve decided to come back after a long hiatus from blogging to write about my experience at the Berkman Center as a research fellow for the academic year.

I’ve already been in the greater Boston area for a little over a month now and it’s been an interesting experience so far. I admit it’s been rather overwhelming so far, between meeting some great people most of who are now also fellows, attending thought-provoking talks and even choosing to sit-in on a class at MIT’s civic media lab with Sasha Costanza-Chock. At the end of the day I’m honored being among many who have accomplished so much in the digital media, internet and legal realm already.

Coming into Berkman, I had a vague idea of what I wanted my research to focus on.  Recently my interest has slightly shifted from topics of ICT literacy, development and infrastructure back to concepts of civic media, collaboration and storytelling.  Now bear with me as a lot of  what I’m about to write are raw ideas at the moment, some of them I will continue to develop as I pursue them, while others I might drop for the sake of time.

One topic I would like to pursue is try map the Palestinian online networked space. I want to start by looking at the networks used by activists, the main actors within these networks and the topics/ content that have dominated these networks. My plan is to scrape the data on all of Twitter, Facebook and various blogging platforms. If I can access the data I will then analyze content, key actors and trends on these networks, while studying the role of actors in spreading information about various issues in Palestine, from the prisoner hunger strike to the Prawer Plan.

Another focus topic is concepts of citizen media/ civic media or as many still call it citizen Journalism. As much as I would love to discuss what defines citizen journalism and how the term in itself is problematic starting with the term citizen (think non-state or transnational entities) to the term journalism. But I don’t want to delve too much into the definition and move beyond that to ponder on what has been arguably a prickly relationship between journalists and citizen media , especially as those lines are continuously blurred. But more importantly I think it would be interesting to look at what drives a ‘citizen’ to report on the ongoing events in their lives, neighborhoods, region or cause they care about.  I’m sure everyone has an issue they are passionate about, but what drives a person to use digital media tools to report on said issue?  Why is it that villages like Bi’lin and Nabi Saleh in the West Bank chose to use various media tools to document, and shed light on what’s happening in their villages, while other villages that are facing similar circumstances have not done that yet? Additionally, what are the tools that individuals can and should use to enhance their reports? How can individuals have their story heard?

The topic of diaspora and mapping the collective memory, is something that I’ve been thinking of for a while now.  I’ve started developing a project idea and hope to start implementing it during my time at Berkman. However, before I start with the implementation process I need to flush the idea out and conceive a concrete concept. I plan to dedicate a whole post or two on this project idea.

Of course being part of the community here means that I am exposed to all sorts of new projects and tools. It is something  I’m keen on learning more about, specifically civic media tools. This is why I’m going to try add some of the recent interesting projects, events and tools that I’ve encountered and to look out for:

This storython for undocumented immigrants has been going on over this past weekend at the MIT media lab and I’m sorry to have missed it, but I instead chose to attend Eyebeam’s conference on surveillance called Prism Breakup.

Intertwinkles is a fascinating  project under development and is a platform that aims to  help small democratic groups to do process online. It’s a platform I would love to test and see how the tools develop in the near future.

If you follow Ethan Zuckerman’s blog then you’ve probably read about this interesting new tool that MIT’s media lab has developed to track Youtube trending videos in countries around the world, while trying to find the link between the videos and countries. ie Top trending videos in India are similar to those in the UAE, imitating labor immigration patterns.

Finally, I attended a talk by the artist Molly Crabapple who’s giving tech enthusiasts and me as an amateur photographer something to think about in terms of ‘Art in the Ubiquitous Age’ and how sketch artists can still be present in an age where everyone has access to a camera easily and can take pictures of everything and anything.

These are some of the raw ideas that I’ve been thinking of during my first month at Berkman, I’m hoping to develop them some more and continue blogging about my experience and ideas for the coming few months.

One thought on “Blogging my Berkman experience

  1. These are promising topics to research. I am so keen on reading your your work on Palestine online activism, as my research project addresses this subject except that my focus is the collective actions and identity of the networked solidarity movement in Britain and Ireland.
    As for diaspora in the Palestinian context, I am sure you’ve came across the work of Miriyam Aouragh who authored “Palestine Online” that shed light on how internet creates identity among Palestinians living in diaspora.
    Anyway, good luck with your work; and I am looking forward reading your work.

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