ITP2800 – Week 2 – Slides, Whiteboards, Videos and Homework

Here are is the homework, slides, notes, links and videos from the second week of ITP2800 – Social Activism using Mobile Technology.

Homework for Week 2

  • Watch the videos linked to here:
  • Continue reading/finish “Little Brother”
  • Take pictures or video using a camera phone or Flip-style device of something controversial or in a place where you might be seen as a threat to the subject of the video or photo. The goal is to feel/experience the state of using mobile technology under duress. Post videos to a public website and share the link via textmarks ITP2800 or twitter
  • Write a one page proposal for developing a mobile technology solution for a specific cause

The slides begin with a review of a breakdown of the class title “Social Activism using Mobile Technology” that the class went through in week one. Out of that, I came up with some slightly silly, but potentially introspective, alternate titles for the course:

  • People Organizing Portable Robots
  • Social Justice Protest. Invsibiel + Frustrating.
  • Casual Talking Grassroots Gadget (Not Naturally Evolved)
  • Shared Experiences. Mobilized Magic. Organically Evolved.
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Some brainstorming on the service value grid I shared…. the class brought up the idea that synchronous request/response service might provide a different experience than asynchronous messaging application. Larger questions about how and when to make value judgements about mobile services which interrupt, distract and complicate our lives was also brought up.

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Week 1 homework results – students were asked to come up with their own TextMarks keywords and Twitter hashtags to promote a cause, idea or movement.

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The tags/textmarks were: Sgsyn, Desair, IWantData, IWantHealthcare, SavePhillyLibraries, DaveBMiller, Represent, SiOnTheWeb, Mediate, Jeeee, IHeartPV, SecretPublicSpace, Rendezvous, WhatsThatBug, Rainforest, FirstJob, ITP101, GivKwik, PopulationPlanning, NoSmoke

The goal was to consider how to create a memorable tag that is also short. Positive feedback was given on tags that were intriguing, calling the user to take action to find out more. Some of the tags were actually put into use, gaining hundreds of re-tweets in just a few weeks. Another student created posters with mobile barcode images to promote their tag.

The overall topic of this week was “Simplicity is Powerful”, and so we did a whiteboard analysis of the “Flip cam”, cheap video cameras that have proliferated the market, and their usefulness in the service of social activism:

Flip Video Cameras are simple… but powerful.

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– Cheap < $100 in some cases - Durable - Great battery life (electricity is a common foe) - Push-button "fisher price" - double as hard drive storage - Unambiguous about what it is far - Ambiguous in that it might look like a cellphone or iPod - low profile - has a screen for display - has a video output jack - has a tripod connector (gorilla grip clamps work too!) - Can't remove storage (this is a plus and minus) - Easy to carry - quick to use, boot, load, very responsive UI - standard, global usability, globally available - standards based plugs, video (usb, rca 1/8 inch) While it is easy to dream up complex, James Bond-esque technology solutions, often it is the more MacGuyver-esque "off the shelf" approach of combining cheap, easy to use things, that can make a greater impact.

Our first guest speakers for the semester were Mark Belinksy and Emily Jacobi from Digital Democracy. They visited the class through a live Skype video connection, and presented the slides below, discussing their recent visit to Burma (Myanmar) and work in Thailand refugee camps, sharing information on digital communication and social media tools.

Unfortunately, the video capture of the event failed, but you can view clips from a previous event with Mark and Emily – “Subversive Tech and Burma’s Struggle for Democracy”, a talk held in Brooklyn, NY in June 2009, involved a presentation by Digital Democracy on the use of technology inside and along Burma’s borders, footage from the Sept 2007 Saffron Revolution, where mobile phones and the internet allowed protesters to coordinate and publicize the largest protests seen in a generation, and a Q&A with “Stanley”, a Burmese computer programmer and chairperson of the All Burma IT Students Union.

Subversive Tech & Burma’s Struggle for Democracy (Part 2) from Not An Alternative on Vimeo.

That’s it for week 2… see you next time!

ITP2800 – Week 1 – Slides, Whiteboards, Audio

Here are the captured whiteboard brainstorms, audio (first hour only due to technical glitches) and my slides for the week 1 class of ITP2800. All of this content is hosted and available on, with class bookmarks and homework reading assignments posted at Week 1 homework assignments are listed at the end of this post.

These images were created using the smart digital whiteboard in the classroom, which allows me to project powerpoint slides and then mark up on top of them. We collectively deconstructed the title of the course “Social Activism using Mobile Technology” with some great results.
Disclaimer: my penmanship is generally better than this, but this was a rapid fire brainstorm and the smartboard pens take a bit getting used to!

SOCIAL: People, Groups, Communicating/Community, Interaction, Casual Talking, Context+Culture, Hierarchy/Roles/Privileges, Social Justice, Shared Experiences, Socializing, Social Psychology

ACTIVISM: A Cause for ACtion, Change/Revolution, Movement/Moment, Activated, Mobilized, Organizing, Violient/Non-Violent, Action/Reaction, Strong Opinion, Resistance, Non-Passive, Participation, Protest, Direct Action, THE MAN, Leaders/Followers, Crowd Sourcing, Grassroots/Astroturfing

MOBILE: Portable, Gadget, Dispatchable, Anytime/Anywhere, Networked (People), The Network, On the Move, Personal, Social!, Remote Data, Telecommunications, Tele-vision, Tele-operation, Handy, action, Invisible, Magic, Cloud, Action!, Wireless

TECHNOLOGY: Not Nature, Not Naturally Evolved, Human Made, Stronger, Empowering, Security, FRUSTRATING, delicate, tool, unpredictable, elusive, disruptive, mediator, organically evolved, addictive, expensive->cheaper->smaller->faster, dangerous, privately owned vs. open-source, INFO, DATA, Sensors, Tricorder, Innovation, ROBOTS, SKYNET!

Here’s the raw audio of the first hour of class (syllabus review, grading, basic concepts… real exciting stuff!):

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Here are the slides:

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* SMS Mailing List: text ITP2800 to 41411
* Get your own keyword and make it do something
* Create a hashtag on Twitter and see how many mentions you can get
* Find a mobile app (iPhone, Android, Blackberry or other) that you think is a good representation of Social Activism and post a public review of it
* Research a cause to affiliate with

Creative Commons License
Social Activism using Mobile Technology – ITP 2800 – Week 1 by Nathan Freitas is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at

Guardian-approved: Walkie-Talkie App for Android

As part of rolling out the first-phase of The Guardian Project, I will be writing short reviews of existing applications for Android-based mobile phones that share our general goals or desired functionality. The goal of Guardian, in short, is to enable safe and secure communication for activists, organizers and advocates working for good around the world through the mobile phones they carry in their pockets.

The Guardian project has no official relationship with these apps or their creators, but as we work towards developing our own unique software, we want to make sure to shine the spotlight on existing efforts that we admire and which are currently available. We’d also happily collaborate with any of them (or *you* if you are a developer reading this), and have them join our open-source efforts.

The first application is Walkie Talkie Push to Talk, which is a great alternative take on real-time VOIP or standard phone calls. Physical walkie talkie radios and Nextel-style PTT services have long been a valuable tool for many activists, and this application bring that capability to a global scale. Walkie Talkie can be used over GRPS, EDGE, 3G or Wifi networks, as well – whatever is available at the time.

Here’s a short description from the developer:

Walkie Talkie Push to Talk is a mobile application that allows walkie talkie style voice communications. Simply hold down the “Record & Send” button and speak. Messages can be sent to a group of people. Received messages are automatically played. If program is running, incoming messages arrive as soon as 15 seconds. If program is not visible, it polls in the background every 1 minute (to save battery).

The back-end messaging system used by this application is actual POP or IMAP, in other words email! If you utilize a secure IMAP/S connection with the application, then the voice communications are transmitted securely over the wireless network and Internet. If you use a service like Gmail (which offers secure IMAP access), then your access is hidden within the millions of other users accessing Gmail, as well.

Not drawing attention to your network traffic is often as important as securing your data. Also, while Gmail isn’t always the ideal service to use if you wish to retain full control of your data, it is much more difficult for an authority to block than a single proxy or a private server.

A few screenshots below:

Learn more about Walkie Talkie and download it from the Android Market today.

Something Extraordinary is Possible!

My friend Ben Rigby, co-founder of The Extraordinaries project that I am contributing some time to, wrote a great post on TechPresident last week that lays out the premise for a new approach to volunteerism. These ideas are both what inspired The Extraordinaries (“Why is it so hard to get people to volunteer?”) and also drivers for its theories (“Why don’t we have a new approach to volunteering?”).

  • Volunteerism has a problem. Most people don’t do it
  • People have a problem with volunteerism.
  • Volunteerism excludes most of us.
  • We’re trying to woo “Last Mile” volunteers.
  • Volunteerism is modeled for the Industrial Economy.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 74.6% of the U.S. population did not volunteer in 2007. Why? Because we’re too busy. We’re driving to work in bumper to bumper traffic, shuttling kids to after school sports, studying for class, and working at Starbucks to pay for college. We’re a nation with a lot to do. And when asked, we cite “lack of time” as the reason for not volunteering.

Fortunately, Ben’s got some ideas on how to improve the situation:

  • Let’s find new ways to do volunteerism.
  • Perspective shift experiment
  • Support Information Era volunteerism

“In addition, we can start thinking about how we can use these inspired models to inform the field of volunteerism. The private sector is quickly coming up with brilliant new ideas that take advantage of the amateur’s passion for participation. Threadless, Innocentive, iStockPhoto. These are companies that have dominated their niches by relying on loosely structured peer production. These models work. Let’s explore them deeply.”

Make sure to read the post and check out the main site as well for information on you can get contribute or get your organization involved in a new approach to getting people to help you get things done.