Blog for the course offered at Teachers College, Columbia University during Fall 2005

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Issue Entrepreneurship project

Some of you have expressed the need for more clarity around this assignment. Marion suggested that I provide some examples, which I think is a good (although challenging) idea. You should keep in mind that the point here is not merely to duplicate the example, but to respond to it by framing the assignment in your own terms.

Let's look at Ethan Zuckerman. Granted, using Ethan as an example is perhaps setting the bar a bit too high, but I want to focus on the kind of involvement he represents, not so much the depth of the involvement.

Ethan Zuckerman has a blog, where he states that he is interested in "Africa, international development and hacking the media." As you can see, in his posts he presents research, analysis, reviews, and even a bit of his personal life.

But Ethan is much more than just a blogger. For starters, he is a research fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society (where your classmate Molly works). He also co-founded Global Voices (Steven shared a bookmark about this organization recently). Global Voices, as the name indicates, is an international community of bloggers. Ethan's profile is here.

Ethan also founded Geekcorps, an organization that "promotes economic growth in the developing world by sending highly skilled technology volunteers to teach communities how use innovative and affordable information and communication technologies to solve development problems." Now, I don't expect you to start your own NGO during the course of this seminar (unless you really want to!), but the point is that Ethan has found ways to balance his online and offline activisms. In fact, I bet he makes no distinction between the two (maybe I'll ask him)!

As an example of environments that facilitate this kind of involvement, I encourage you to look at, "where committed people worldwide assist local communities in developing countries shape a brighter future." This is not simply an online discussion board where people from the First World give advice to people from the Third World. As you can see in this example, there are things that people do in their own communities (such as finding donors or preparing proposals) that have a direct impact on distant communities (for a more generic approach, you may want to check out as an example of social software intended to bridge the gap between online collaboration and offline action).

Now, I realize that Ethan's example revolves around a very specific set of issues (mostly revolving around development). I encourage you to get involved in something you feel passionate about, even though the issues might be completely different. In the end, I want to see evidence that you have used social software to attempt to coordinate action and form solidarities at a local and global level. This evidence should be documented in your blog, and accompanied by self-reflection (which gets at the personal level of the assignment).

If this is still too vague, it's probably because there are no precise examples I can point you to that reflect exactly what I am looking for. You are pioneers! But if you still have questions, let's meet to discuss your ideas. I have office hours Tuesdays from 1PM to 3PM, by appointment only.


Blogger Heidi Trotta said...

If it is applicable, I was going to pick a project close to "home" ... "Education for Everyone , Are Colleges Prepared for Students with Disabilities?". In the university where I work, this is a big issue right now. Responsibility for making "reasonable accomodations" is being bounced around like a ping pong ball. Technology says it is the faculty member's responsibility, faculty say it is Technology's, the Disability office says it is Technology ... well, I think you get the idea. Meanwhile, we have 5 blind students on campus that can't access the learning materials in Psychology course that was recently redesigned. No one can even decide what "reasonable accomodations" are. It is a very interesting topic and some universities do a better job at it than others.


10:47 PM

Blogger Ulises said...


I think this would be a very interesting project. Let's keep talking about it.

1:56 PM


Post a Comment

<< Home