Stitching together a public in the midst of demographic complexity: The limits and possibility of civic technology.
This talk will be held in English / Bu etkinlik İngilizce’dir.
Cities are places where diversity is taken for granted. By and large in cities we expect the public sphere to be heterogeneous, a mixture of cultures, race, sexual orientations, etc. While each of us may not know how to negotiate this demographic complexity it is a fact of the day to day life of cities. This presentation is based on a simple assertion that reveals a complex problem. The assertion: civic engagement and civic inclusion are not equivalent concepts. Civic engagement often refers to the “public” as if the public is a unified body of people. In truth, cities are made up of people who belong to different publics. Those concerned with civic inclusion ask the question; How do we design engagement technologies so that the complexity of who we are as a public is not hidden but revealed? Herein lies the problem. Various studies have suggested that heterogeneity does not lead to greater engagement. In fact, these studies find that people participate more in civic activities when they live and connect with people who are more like themselves. Moreover, our institutional arrangements, tend to further segregate people not only from each other, (the poor go to welfare offices for housing vouchers the rich to real estate brokers,) but from themselves. The office that supports the poor through the process does not simultaneously assist in your health care, child's education, or your employability.
In short, cities are multi layered segregated societies in which there is a growing hope that civic technology can help stitch together a true “public”. This multimedia presentation demonstrates how the segregation in the midst of growing diversity creates is a defining dilemma for civic inclusion in cities. The stories in the presentation reveal how in different communities varied technologies, processes, and values that are being employed to address the challenge of civic inclusion.
About Ceasar McDowell
Professor of the Practice f Community Development,
MIT | DUSP
President, Interaction Institute for Social Change
When asked what his work is about Ceasar always says, “Voice.” He has a deep and abiding passion for figuring out how people who are systematically marginalized by society have the opportunity to voice their lived experiences to the world. Ceasar believes that until people are able to lift up those experiences, they will be unable to participate as full members of society. Over the past few decades, Ceasar has been involved in many activities to bring this belief to life. As founder of MIT’s Co-Lab (previously named Center for Reflective Community Practice), Ceasar works to develop the critical moments reflection method to help communities build knowledge from their practice or, as he likes to say, “to know what they know.” Through his work at the global civic engagement organization, Engage The Power, he developed The Question Campaign as a method for building democratic communities from the ground up. At MIT, Ceasar teaches on civic and community engagement and the use of social media to enhance both. In addition, he is working to create a model of equitable partnership between universities and communities and to support communities to build their own knowledge base. Ceasar brings his deep commitment to the work of building beloved, just and equitable communities that are able to – as his friend Carl Moore says - ”struggle with the traditions that bind them and the interests that separate them so they can build a future that is an improvement on the past.”
As IISC’s new president, Ceasar is focused on how best to move the organization toward the social change it has been helping others do in the world. Over the next year, he expects you will begin to see IISC using its tools and methods and deep collaborative and network design and building skills to move equity and social change efforts in a few select sectors.