Ben Wikler: Changing the World of Changing the World

Liveblogging Ben Wikler's presentation on Changing the World of Changing the World: Pushing the Models of Online Organizing at the Berkman Center. Please excuse misrepresentation, misinterpretation, typos and general stupidity.

Ben Wikler of is at the Berkman Center today to talk about new models of online organizing.

Wikler begins by explaining net-centered vs. broadcast-centered online activism. The Internet is a little bit like the Brazilian butterfly flapping its wings, causing a thunderstorm in Belgium — except we are all butterflies, and it can be hard to tell how we can act together to (for example) bring rain to the hypothetically drought-stricken Belgium.

Netcentric Activism
One method is the "Grass Mud Horse" — a grassroots protest against Internet censorship in China. Aggregated actions of individual citizens can be channeled for strategic purposes, but's a bit like a shotgun blast vs. a laser beam. It can be hard to focus on your target or to deliver a clear message.

Broadcast-Centered Online Activism sends specific, targeted e-mails to different groups of activists. The key to making this work is to incorporate dialogue: there's generally a broad consensus on the need for solutions to problems like climate change, human rights abuses and political crises (even in the Israel/Palestine conflict, "most people support a two-state solution," Wikler says). Avaaz works to "give global public opinion teeth" by building a community. They then track the numerical and qualitative responses to their campaigns throughout this community, allowing them to modify their message as necessary.

If the Internet is a series of tubes, global civil society is a series of tubs, says Wikler — each issue or campaign (Burma, climate change, Zimbabwe) has its own group of interested people. The Internet allows us to connect these tubs to tubes, channeling the water to the biggest fires.

Avaaz is intentionally multi-issue. Wikler's found that the same people who care about what's happening in Zimbabwe are likely to care about what's happening in Sri Lanka. Avaaz looks for ways to channel these common interests into actionable items that can be acted on quickly by members of the larger Avaaz community.

What is Avaaz?
Lightning rod: Avaaz's method allows the channeling of "amorphous public concern" into targeted action.

Battery: Avaaz allows you to build a movement and then tap it for future issues — people concerned about the political crackdown in Burma are more likely to care about the cyclone that came later. Avaaz stores this communal energy, making it easy to build support for campaigns without starting from scratch.

SWAT team: Avaaz operates in a very targeted way. Some of Avaaz's partners can't be political for fear of putting their in-country staff at risk, but Avaaz has the freedom to criticize.

Stem cell: multiple communities can build off of Avaaz.

Burma campaigns
During the fall 2007 crackdown in Burma, 850,000 people got involved through Avaaz. Avaaz presented a petition to the UN Security Council, but that was just the beginning. Its European members contacted the European Parliament; its members in Singapore asked the foreign minister to be more harsh on the junta; other groups acted in other targeted ways. Avaaz was able to work with established groups to get guidance about what would be effect, then to bring in a huge number of concerned people from around the globe who wanted to help but didn't know how.

When the cyclone hit Burma the following spring, Avaaz was able to partner with in-country monks who were part of the relief efforts.

Because everything is mediated through the staff, there's a limit on the number of campaigns Avaaz can run. They also have trouble tapping existing expertise. There has to be a way to open things up so Avaaz members can point Avaaz to local crises while also maintaining some sort of filter to make sure that campaigns retain a high level of quality and are relevant to members.

Wikler is afraid that opening up a dialogue may inundate Avaaz members with too many e-mails, drowning out important issues and overwhelming those who only have a small amount of time to donate to any particular cause.

Avaaz has started small but high-volume local groups to try to manage some of this, starting a small campaign and then expanding it to other members after it is established.

Another idea is to run public trainings, teaching people how to do online activism, then let them submit campaign ideas, which will then be rated by other members before being acted on by Avaaz as an organization.

Wikler believes that online activism is still in its infancy — he says there's a global gap in the models that currently exist. He closes by saying we're all in one big tub and asks if we have any ideas for new models of online activism.

Q: Has anyone ever attempted to use Avaaz's tools for a purpose the organizational staff disagreed with?
A: People wanted to boycott the Olympics because of Chinese censorship, but Avaaz felt this would backfire within China. Wikler spoke with activists in Hong Kong, who said China would respond by tightening control even further.

Q from Jonathan Zittrain: How is Avaaz governed? Are governance issues a distraction? Does Avaaz aspire to become more organically governed (like, say, Wikipedia)?
A: Avaaz is a small group of people in a huge room of noisy people. Unlike a government, it's completely voluntary. Instead of speaking on behalf of all 3.5 million members, Avaaz only speaks on behalf of those who participate in any particular campaign. It's a "horizontal culture" — the executive director only greenlights campaigns that already have support from a random sample of members, and Avaaz is 80 percent funded by its members. Avaaz wants to avoid being directed by either the whims of the staff or the whims of a small group of members.

Q from Jonathan Zittrain: Might be interesting to use multiple approaches to issues, letting people choose multiple ways to be involved in multiple campaigns. Either that or giving people multiple ways to participate in choosing campaigns, so you can see what appeals to people with various amounts of free time.
A: Avaaz does some of this. They responded to the economic crisis with a long poll open to all members that generated options for action and let members vote these up or down. This resulted in a package of action items, some of which Avaaz staff wouldn't have thought of, that people could pick and choose from.

Q: How do you define action? Just writing letters to politicians and sending money? What about collecting best practices that can be adapted for individual causes? We give away our power when we say that petitioning politicians is the best we can do.
A: What happens on the Internet often stays on the Internet, and using online activity to unleash offline activity is something Avaaz is working hard on. Many of the issues on which Avaaz works can't be affected by individual actions that don't involve government — such as carbon emissions. Avaaz is about helping people to find ways to take action together when they know that taking action alone isn't enough — looking for the domino effect.

Q: When will Avaaz have achieved its goal? What metrics are being used to show the community the progress that has been made?
A: Avaaz exists in moments and particular campaigns. It doesn't have a manifesto — its brand is "deployed" on behalf of the people who are taking action. In a world this complex, there aren't any good yardsticks to measure success. The ultimate metric is communicating with your members to let them know how things turned out.

Q: It seems like you're focusing on short-time action that can make a difference on a specific issue, rather than long-term sustained action.
A: In some senses that's true. Each individual development (a march, a petition) is somewhat disconnected, but over time the number of people involved in a campaign (supporting democracy in Zimbabwe, for example) grows and can be remobilized — it's like a snowball.

Q: What percentage of Avaaz's actions is based on global public opinion, and what percentage is focused on other things? It's easy to get "petition overload."
A: Maybe half and half, or closer to 40 percent opinion. Avaaz does a lot of funding public opinion polls, advertising campaigns, support for Internet access — moving more towards these types of things: "activity beyond the outcry." But more people are willing to sign a petition than to donate, at a ratio of 100:1.

Q: How did you pick your languages?
A: Political activism in multiple languages involves more than just translation — you have to shift your content into the political idioms of those languages. Avaaz is working on a Farsi language site right now. They have to figure out how to expand without becoming a translation organization.

Q: How often do members reject an idea from Avaaz?
A: Can't think of a time when something's gotten strong support in a test but not in the general membership. Around 30-50 percent of tested campaigns don't pass the threshold, though. The rate has improved over time, as staff become more familiar with the work and with the members.

Question from Wikler
What's the most convenient way for you tell Avaaz about an issue you want them to work on? Contact Ben [at]

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There Will Be Ink

The research I did in Uganda in January has just been published.

There Will be Ink: A study of journalism training and the extractive industries in Nigeria, Ghana and Uganda (PDF) is the product of research I conducted with five other students from Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs in the spring of 2009.

We surveyed media coverage of the extractive sector and interviewed African journalists who had training in business and economic reporting. Our goal was to identify the training practices that are most helpful in teaching journalists how to encourage government transparency in the extractive industries through their reporting.

The journalists surveyed said that journalism training had improved their coverage of the extractives, but we concluded that there are other challenges in the African media landscape that are not addressed by training. These include low salaries, lack of resources, pressure from government and advertisers and the lack of freedom of information laws. The report includes recommendations for organizations planning journalism training activities in countries with extractive sectors.

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WordPress blocked in Guatemala

WordPress blocked. Guatemala follows China's example
Crossposted on the OpenNet Initiative blog

Guatemala's ongoing political crisis, which began with the murder of lawyer Rodrigo Rosenberg and has been fueled largely by YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and blogs, reached a new level over the weekend when several ISPs began blocking access to

Reports of the blocking first reached Twitter on June 26, when user @demuxer noted that some Internet users in Guatemala were unable to access WordPress and wondered if Chapintocables, a political blog created after Rosenberg's death, was somehow involved:

Some users in Guatemala can't access wordpress, is it @chapinocables' fault? #insolitogt #escandalogt

The news spread through Twitter and Facebook, with many Guatemalans encouraging their fellow Internet users to report the blocking on Herdict, which tracks reports of inaccessible sites worldwide. Reports from Guatemala saw a spike over the weekend, with reported inaccessible nearly 30 times.

The block was initially attributed to technical errors, but as WordPress continues to be inaccessible, opinions are changing. Eduardo Arcos of Alt1040 writes [ES]:

Supuestamente se atribuyen problemas técnicos, pero el sentido común dice que se trata de un intento por parte del gobierno guatemalteco de reducir el acceso a información independiente, libre y crítica sobre la crisis política que se vive en el país y la relación con el caso del Twitter de Jeanfer.

[The block has been] allegedly attributed to technical problems, but common sense says that this is an attempt by the Guatemalan government to reduce access to independent information that is free and critical about the political crisis experienced in the country and the respect for Jeanfer of Twitter. [the man who was arrested for criticizing the government on Twitter].

David Alayón of Bitacoras concurs [ES]:

Desde hace unos días, los usuario de residentes en Guatemala no tienen acceso a este servicio. Se ha descartado la posibilidad de ser un error relacionado con los proveedores de Internet y se baraja el hecho de que el propio gobierno lo haya bloqueado.

For several days, the users in Guatemala have had no access to the service. The possibility of this being an error related to Internet service providers has been ruled out, and [opinion] has shifted to the idea that the government has blocked it.

Today Chapintocables reported [ES] that three ISPs, Turbonet, Telgua and Tigo, are currently blocking access to

Actualmente, TurboNet, Telgua, y Tigo son los que tienen restringido el acceso a nuestros blogs, los invitamos gentilmente a que levanten este bloqueo, porque ESTAMOS EN GUATEMALA, NO EN CHINA.

Currently, TurboNet, Telgua and Tico have restricted access to our blogs, we gently invite them to the lift the block, because WE ARE IN GUATEMALA, NOT IN CHINA.

According to Twitter reports, is still accessible through ISP Cybernet de Guatemala S.A.

UPDATE: Renata Avila just posted an update on the situation on Global Voices Advocacy.

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Wedding rush sparked by free malaria nets

The Onion is good, but it definitely doesn't have a monopoly on satirical journalism. Yesterday Uganda's Weekly Observer published this breaking headline:

Uganda: Millions More to Wed As Govt Doles Out Mosquito Nets

"When we asked the couples why they have chosen this particular time to enter holy matrimony, they all had the same answer: that government was going to give them free wedding gowns!" said a source at Peter's Church of Uganda in Kampala. The source added that when they investigated further, they realized that the couples were referring to the government's recent announcement to distribute over 17 million free mosquito nets to combat malaria, which is the leading killer disease in the country. According to health officials, malaria kills 320 people daily.

Asked whether converting mosquito nets into wedding gowns would not undermine government efforts to reduce malaria deaths, one church official said that "the soul is more important than the body."

Well played, Weekly Observer. Well played.

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Ugandan journalist, 10 others arrested for treason

The New Vision is reporting that Patrick Otim, a Pader-based freelance journalist, was arrested and charged with treason along with 10 other men. The group was allegedly forming a rebel organization to fight against the Ugandan government:

They allegedly mobilised logistical support for their rebellion, which included satellite phones, solar panels, Global Positioning System (GPS) machines, black polythene sheets, gum boots, walkie talkies, laptops and fire-arms.

The 11 suspects appeared before Buganda Road Court Magistrate Geoffrey Sayekwo but were not allowed to enter plea because the court did not have jurisdiction. They were unkempt.

Sayekwo read out the charges before sending them on remand to Luzira Prison. They face a second, alternative charge of concealing treason.

The suspects, according to the charge sheet, committed the offence between 2006 and May 2009 in eight districts, including Masindi and Kampala. The other districts are Gulu, Pader, Kitgum, Nebbi, Apac and Amuru.

Blogren, have you heard anything about this?

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Beth Kolko: ICTs and their uses in resource constrained environments

Liveblogging Beth Kolko's presentation on Form, Function and Fiction: ICTs and their uses in resource constrained environments at the Berkman Center. Please excuse misrepresentation, misinterpretation, typos and general stupidity.

The Design for Digital Inclusion group at the University of Washington, which Kolko heads, works on a variety of topics, including tech in Central Asia, the Global Impact Study, the impact of public access to ICTs, technologies for youth with autism, games for development, and more.

Kolko focuses on three main questions: what ICTs are adopted in diverse communities and why? What do people in these communities do with these ICTs? How can we design better technologies for these users?

We assume that ICTs have universal meanings across cultural contexts, but the functions of these technologies vary widely from culture to culture. We need to pay attention to this diversity because designing with it in mind makes systems stronger, less brittle.

Kolko approaches design from both the engineering and humanities perspectives: both form and function. The goal is to blur the boundaries between these two categories until they eventually collapse.

People tend to "get sleepy" when people talk about technology and development, but the findings from the ICT4D field are relevant to a number of communities. Geography is not the primary determiner of resource constraints — the technology developed in, say, Central Asia can be useful in Yakima Valley (in Washington state).

Resource constraints include not just money but also time, cultural capital, screen size, bandwidth.

Kolko's work in Central Asia has both quantitative and qualitative components, including annual surveys, interviews and usability tests. The survey doesn't focus on tech use (though it does have a tech use model) — Kolko's interested in issues of trust, social networks and social institutions as well as technology.

[[Side note: Kolko apologizes for not having a LOLcat photo in her presentation.]]

Internet is weather-dependent: in some places, when it rains, the Internet goes down because rainclouds block satellite access. This intermittent connectivity happens in Central Asia and Cambodia, but also in the rural United States.

Patterns of Internet use (both frequency and duration of access) vary widely across cultures. In Central Asia, most users are online for an hour at a time. There are different pricing structures for chat and actual Internet use (accessing Web pages, etc.).

Mobile phones are particularly key in resource-constrained environments. Mobile phones weren't created to transfer money, but they're being used for banking. This, along with general mobile Internet access, brings up questions of mobile phone security. (Moral: if you have an iPhone, use a password.)

Why don't people use the Internet? It's too expensive, too hard to access, or too confusing. Also: many Central Asians think it's "for young people" (though the definition of who's young depends on who's answering the question).

Kolko has conducted some design ethnography work focused on the exchange of goods and information via social network in Central Asia. Controlling for demographics, people who use their conventional social networks (face-to-face communication) more are more likely to use technology. These people are also more likely to have higher levels of trust in their friends and family.

Of Central Asian Internet users, more people use the Internet for research for school or job training than for any other purpose. The least common use is for online auctions.

Most Central Asians use their mobile phones several times a day (though only 2% of mobile phones are connected to the Internet). People use their phones not because landlines are particularly expensive or hard to get, but because they want to be able to be reached no matter where they are.

Mobiles aren't always great: people are already using them for 419-type scams. But their role has been noticeable in the political sphere: after the 2008 revolution in Kyrgyzstan, phones were used to report rioting and looting, both to warn people to stay home and to rally friends and family to help protect businesses. In Kenya, SMS was used to spread rumors and incite violence.

Part of Kolko's research focuses on games for development. Games are cheaper and, often, easier to use than the Internet. For many Central Asian kids, games provide an first introduction to ICT. This initial training in ICT may give these kids a leg up in terms of later educational and career opportunities.

All of the examples above help provide a better understanding of how ICTs are used in resource-constrained environments. But how to build better ICTs for these regions? You need to focus on design ethnography. For example, looking at how people use mobile phones, how they use their social networks, and the "pain points" of their everyday lives.

Researchers interviewed Central Asians in their homes and had them draw diagrams of their own social networks. Their research lead them to two projects: the Mobile Social Software (MoSoSo) directory addresses the lack of published information directories, working through SMS instead of Internet to list and rate businesses. The Starbus focuses on providing more information about public transportation, using GPS and traffic algorithms to track the location and estimated arrival time of a bus, then send this information via SMS to users who request it.

Interestingly, the initial Starbus design was as low-power as possible to maximize the battery life. They tested the system in Seattle and it worked, but when they brought it to Bishkek they realized that the cell phone towers there required the GPS to have more power. They had to rewire the whole thing — "a classic design approach that failed miserably."

In order to design the best and most appropriate ICTs, you need to drill deeply to truly define what an "Internet user" is in a particular environment — you can't assume all Internet users access or use the Internet in the same way.

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My muse is sadly thin.

Last Tuesday I was at the Berkman Center for "The Second and Third Enclosures", a presentation by poet and cultural critic Lewis Hyde on what he calls "our 'cultural commons,' that vast store of ideas, inventions, and works of art that we have inherited from the past and continue to produce."

Hyde is working on a book about why these ideas and works of art should be owned by the commons, rather than by individuals. His thesis is that limiting ownership of creative works also limits human creativity in ways we can't begin to imagine (mostly because there's no way to know that we're missing out on them).

I've been trying for a week to write up my notes from the event, but I keep getting bogged down by amusing quotes (see: "beating back the bounds," "fattening your muse") and a train of thought that winds through medieval England, Scottish printing presses and Roman law to somehow end up at John Cage's 4'33".

This is not to say that Hyde's presentation was less than coherent: many others, including fellow Berktern Joey Mornin, blogging machine David Weinberger and Ethan Zuckerman, have posted recaps.

But potential blog posts have painfully short half-lives, and in half an hour I'm heading back to the Berkman conference room for a talk by Beth Kolko on how communications technology takes on different meanings in resource-constrained environments. I'm going to force myself to live-blog this one.


Evaluating China's Green Dam software

The news that China will begin requiring all computers sold in the country to include Internet filtering software has sparked waves of commentary on topics ranging from legal challenges to human rights issues to concerns about security and effectiveness. Also, a post on African porn.

The software, known as Green Dam Youth Escort, ostensibly protects children from harmful information online by filtering out sites that contain prohibited keywords. It will be mandatory on every computer sold in China after July 1, 2009.

The OpenNet Initiative, where I'm working as part of my internship for Harvard's Berkman Center, worked this week to evaluate the functionality of Green Dam. In "China's Green Dam: The Implications of Government Control Encroaching on the Home PC," we review the functional elements of this new software and explore the possible effects of its implementation on a national scale. We conclude that Green Dam is deeply flawed and poses critical security concerns for users.

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China censors light-colored naked photos; darker skin gets through filter

The latest news in the world of Internet censorship is about China's Green Dam software, which ostensibly protects Chinese children by filtering out pornographic Web sites.

China has recently announced that all PCs sold in the country must come with the software, beginning on July 1, 2009. Critics say Green Dam will be used to crack down on Internet users, making it even more difficult to access uncensored information from China.

In addition to blocking sites that include keywords such as "pornography" and, somewhat less justifiably, "touch" and "play," the software also filters out images that have a high percentage of "skin colored" pixels. Oiwan Lam at Global Voices rounded up Chinese reactions to the software; among them was this gem:

How much flesh color does it take to make something “pornography”? I went on the Internet to check out some animal photos. A lovely little naked pig was sent onto the black list. Pitiful little pig! I was curious, so I looked up some photos of naked African women. Oh, they were not censored!

So apparently, it's morally reprehensible to look up animals or, say, kids playing soccer, but African porn is totally okay!

For the latest news on Green Dam, check out the #greendam hashtag on Twitter.

Crossposted on the OpenNet Initiative blog.

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Beyond Objectivity: Global Voices and the Future of Journalism

Yesterday afternoon I attended Lokman Tsui's talk on Beyond Objectivity: Global Voices and the Future of Journalism at the Berkman Center, where I'm interning for the summer.

I met Lokman last July in Budapest for the 2008 Global Voices Summit, and in February I had the great fortune to spend a week with him and 10 other Global Voices team members in Miami for We Media.

Lokman's writing his dissertation on how the Internet is driving institutional changes of journalism in a globalized world. His talk yesterday covered the research he's been doing on Global Voices, a project that aggregates and translates blogs and other citizen media from around the world.

"We really cannot measure the new with standards we designed for the old."

Lokman argued that we need a new conceptual toolkit to explain what Global Voices is doing. Instead of approaching Global Voices through the lens of professional, alternative or even public journalism (for a more thorough description of these types, see Corinna di Gennaro's recap of the talk), Lokman proposes a fourth approach: evaluating Global Voices as a tool for communicative democracy, whose purpose is conversation and whose form is hospitality, rather than sheer objectivity.

"He is Ethan Zuckerman. I'm...Lokman."

Hospitality is important, Lokman explained, because power differentials exist. No matter how far we've come in terms of shifting the power of the (exclusively printing) press into the hands of bloggers, the reality is that some people — or groups of people, or countries — have a distinct power advantage over others. But hospitality can subvert this power inequality and help ensure that inclusive discussion takes place.

Lokman used the example of visiting the home of Ethan Zuckerman, one of the founders of Global Voices. As a relative newcomer to the organization, Lokman admitted to feeling intimidated, but Ethan — as all good hosts do — switched up the power structure by treating Lokman as a guest and serving him.

Hospitality is also important because it negates the need for neutral third spaces — meeting Ethan in a coffee shop, for example — where differences between people are bracketed out and ignored. Furthermore, hospitality places important conditions on inclusion — if a guest behaves badly, the host has every right to throw him or her out. This solves the problem of "how tolerant is too tolerant" and allows discussion to remain productive.

I've been privileged to be a member of the Global Voices community for just over two years, and in that time I have been amazed by the hospitality that exists among its members. In addition to traveling to each other's countries and staying at each other's houses — a more traditional view of hospitality — GV-ers exhibit respect, understanding, and appreciation for differences every day on our authors' listserve and in our writing, even when it comes to sensitive issues like gay rights and politics in Gaza.

Lokman admitted that the idea of hospitality as a barometer for journalism may be a little "kumbaya" for some people. Hospitality is easy among friends who have common goals and interests, but it's more important — and more dangerous — among strangers. Lokman closed is talk by expressing the hope that, by emphasizing hospitality in journalism, we can raise the normative stakes.

I definitely fall into the warm fuzzy, kumbaya camp when it comes to Global Voices, as I am ceaselessly amazed by the work GV-ers do to amplify marginalized or otherwise buried voices for a global audience. After talking to several of my fellow Berkman interns today, though, I have a couple of questions:
  • What's the next step?
    For this shift to take place, the way people — mainstream/traditional media practitioners, citizen journalists and media audiences — think of media needs to shift radically. Citizen journalists seem to be leading this shift, but I worry that not enough people are following. What can we do to nudge this process along?

  • How do we measure success?
    Ethan expressed concerns that Global Voices, despite its accomplishments, is not an unqualified success — it's not widely read enough, for one thing, nor is it widely respected outside of a particular citizen-journalism-happy community. But how do we know when we've reached our goal? This question is tied pretty closely to the next:

  • What does it look like?
    Obviously, mainstream media is undergoing serious changes right now. But once things shake out, will a shift towards hospitality result in the New York Times incorporating more Global Voices-stye aggregation? Will Global Voices become so widely read that it ends up replacing more traditional online news sources?

I apologize if these questions are too basic (or if Lokman answered them, and I missed what he said), but I think they're a decent starting place. If you have any thoughts, hit up the comments below.

If you missed the talk, you can watch or listen at Berkman Interactive.

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Getting Lost in Boston (Alternative Title: Why I Need an iPhone)

I'm spending the summer in Cambridge, interning for the Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Today I went to the office for the first time, met the 30-something other interns and started putting faces with names.

That was all good, and I'm excited about starting more concrete projects with the OpenNet Initiative and the Internet & Democracy Project tomorrow.

But then I tried to walk home.

(Note: I am terrible with directions. Sometimes things work out, and I end up finding a metro station that can get me back home (see: St. Petersburg, New York). Other times, I end up fending off the persistent attentions of a motorcycle taxi driver named Edward.)

The walk from my apartment to Berkman is simple:

Apartment to Berkman: the easy way

But in the interest of exploring the area, I decided to hit up Porter Square (the closest metro stop) on the way home:

Berkman to apartment: exploring

I made it to Porter Square, but then I failed. Miserably:

#fail, or: How I got home

Conway Playground is when I finally stopped and called someone for directions.

Until now, I've been vehemently opposed to getting an iPhone: they're pretty, yes, but something about the clunky, wifi-devoid simplicity of my basic Samsung (or, may it rest in peace, my beloved Nokia 3310) appeals to me: I'm not constantly tied to my e-mail, it's not expensive to replace, and it does — or at least did, until today — everything I need it to do.

But now that I live in a city that's not laid out in a beautifully designed grid (barring Broadway and everything below 14th Street), I'm reconsidering. Internet: I think I want an iPhone.

(Related: Ethan Zuckerman's ode to the retro mobile phone, including the Nokia 1100 (which I use when I'm in Uganda) and its "integrated sewer avoidance system.")

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