Science and Technology Innovation Program
Rapidly evolving information and communication technologies, including social media and mobile phones, coupled with new methodologies like crowdsourcing, have placed the collective “wisdom of the crowd” and power of mass collaboration into the hands of average citizens and organizations. STIP’s Commons Lab seeks to advance research and independent policy analysis of these emerging technologies, with an emphasis on their social, legal, and ethical implications. The initiative does not advocate for or against specific technological platforms, rather works to ensure that these technologies are developed and used in a way that maximizes benefits while reducing risks and unintended consequences. Our work often focuses on novel governance options at the “edges” where the crowd and social media operate –between formal and informal organizations and proprietary and open-source models of data ownership and access. For more information, please see: http://www.CommonsLab.wilsoncenter.org.
Issues in this Series
Individuals and organizations using social media and crowdsourcing need two key sets of information: a systematic assessment of the vulnerabilities in these technologies and a comprehensive set of best practices describing how to address these vulnerabilities. This report identifies certain vulnerabilities and provides a guideline to develop best practices necessary to address a growing number of incidents ranging from innocent mistakes to targeted attacks that have claimed lives and cost millions of dollars.
When a natural disaster occurs, government agencies, humanitarian organizations, private companies, volunteers, and others collect information about missing persons to aid the search effort. Often this processing of information about missing persons exacerbates the complexities and uncertainties of privacy rules. This report offers a roadmap to the legal and policy issues surrounding privacy and missing persons following natural disasters.
Social media is responsible for much positive change in the world. But these new tools can be used by bad actors to foment strife and undermine stability, as seen during violent incidents in the Assam state of northeast India in July 2012. Cybersecurity efforts must take into account the growing potential for cyber-attack using social media, where hoax messages are incorporated into a stream of otherwise legitimate messages, and understand how quickly mobile apps and text services can disseminate false information.
For IT to become sustainable, the federal government must enable change in three areas: (a) embracing agile development, modular contracting, and opensource software; (b) encouraging small business participation; and (c) shifting the federal IT culture through education and experimentation. The adoption of these reforms is vital. The current state of federal IT undermines good work because of its inefficiency and waste.
Imagine, for a moment, a world that is rapidly changing along three dimensions: Structure: a shift from hierarchies to networks; Ownership: transitions from proprietary to open-source models; and Exchange: a movement from classic markets and commodities to a gift or contribution economy. For public policymakers, this emerging zone creates opportunities to craft next generation policy, leadership, and management strategies that can work on the edge of change.
A whitepaper on the policy and technology behind the National Broadband Map, an open-source geographic information systems application allowing users to access detailed statistics on internet connectivity. This project demonstrates the value of transparency, collaboration, and cooperation in government projects.
Major emergencies and crises can overwhelm local resources. In the last several years, self-organized digital volunteers have begun leveraging the power of social media and “crowd-mapping” for collaborative crisis response. Rather than mobilizing a physical response, these digital volunteer groups have responded virtually by creating software applications, monitoring social networks, aggregating data, and creating “crowdsourced” maps to assist both survivors and the formal response community. These virtual responses can subject digital volunteers to tort liability. This report evaluates the precise contours of potential liability for digital volunteers.
By harnessing the collective power of citizens and engaging communities in their own response and recovery, social media have the power to revolutionize emergency management. Yet, many challenges—including guidelines for use by response agencies, demonstration of value, and characterization of reliability—must be addressed if the potential of social media is to be fully realized in emergency response and relief efforts in the United States.
Today, people are increasingly able to create and share written and recorded media via the Internet. This phenomenon, now evident in the explosion of blogs and online social networks, is often called Web 2.0, or the new media. It has created compelling new avenues for public discourse, creative expression, and electronic commerce.
This white paper describes the technological state of the art and examines the potential for using distributed sensing systems to improve the management of critical water resources. The paper also outlines recommendations for further research to advance the development and use of these systems by environmental resource managers. The white paper was prepared by scientists and engineers at the Center for Embedded Networked Sensing (CENS) at UCLA for the Wilson Center's Foresight and Governance Project with support from the Environmental Protection Agency's Offices of Water and Research & Development, with assistance from the Office of Air & Radiation.
Launched in July 2012, FLOAT Beijing—a community art project that utilizes citizen science—offers a simple, innovative, and non-confrontational approach to air quality monitoring: kites. Pioneered by two U.S. graduate students, the project tracks air pollutants using air sensor modules attached to kites.