OTI at the 2013 Allied Media Conference

The Open Technology Institute at New America Foundation has participated in the Allied Media Conference each year since 2009, deepening our involvement each time. This year’s Allied Media Conference (AMC) – the 15th annual, held June 20-23, 2013, in Detroit, Michigan – was no exception. OTI:

  • Was a Leadership Level sponsor of the conference.
  • Sent eleven of our own staff to the conference and helped send fourteen additional participants from our partner organizations.
  • Presented seven workshops and panels at the conference and attended many more as participants.
  • Set up MagicNet, a Commotion network covering the entire conference area.
  • Released Tidepools beta (mobile-friendly) and set up a Tidepools instance aggregating conference schedule information and documentation.
  • Helped organize and run the DiscoTech (Discovering Technology) Lab practice space, including two help desks that we staffed.
  • Convened a caucus of 30 people interested in community wireless networks.
  • Had an information table for people to learn more about OTI.

To understand why this annual gathering has come to merit such a range of contributions, we compiled this detailed review of our work over the four days of the AMC. We reviewed the sessions we participated in, including the description text and who we connected with as co-presenters. We analyzed data from Twitter related to our presence at the AMC, where Twitter has been a major source of conference documentation. And we gathered our own reflections on the conference experience through informal staff discussions.

Overall, we found that the AMC was an opportunity for OTI to:

  • Premiere new experimental versions of our software projects.
  • Advance techniques for participation in wireless network deployments across skill levels.
  • Connect OTI community partners to each other.
  • Engage broad networks in big-think discussions of technology.
  • Find new partners and potentially new staff members.
  • Enhance OTI’s Twitter presence and network.

We have divided our assessment into six sections based on the major areas of OTI interaction with the AMC:

  • Sessions, Caucus and Help Desks
  • Making Connections
  • DiscoTech
  • MagicNet
  • Tidepools
  • AMC impact on OTI

Key themes for OTI at AMC 2013, based on the descriptions of OTI activities, aggregated to show frequency of terms across activities.

Sessions, Caucus and Help Desks

OTI staff helped to plan and present seven sessions, coordinate one caucus, and run two help desks, in collaboration with twenty five partners from fourteen organizations. More than 350 conference attendees participated in, and attendees sent almost 500 tweets about, OTI activities -- some of which are documented in this Storify: sfy.co/sATC

Visualizations of tweets about OTI activities at the conference can be found in the appendix, and further illustrate the impact of OTI’s work on the digital conversations, as well as the networks that discussed OTI activities including those that OTI should seek out for connection.

These numbers begin to reveal the impact that OTI made at the AMC. A major theme was not only sharing what OTI does but how -- sharing evaluation data and methodologies, presenting training outcomes and curriculum, discussing problems of structural power imbalances in technology and media and how to address them. The word cloud below, an aggregation of OTI session and activity descriptions for the conference, shows the words most often used by staff in the descriptions -- most are key words for OTI’s work overall: 

Unsurprisingly, “technology” and “community” were two of the most common themes across these descriptions. OTI’s unique approach to community technology elicited praise at the conference, both in sessions and workshops as well as in less structured moments. Presenters and participants left the “Reclaiming the Tech” workshop, for example, effusive about the conversations and wanting more discussion of race, gender, technology and power. “That was one of the least contentious and more productive sessions about racism, diversity in tech that I have ever participated in,” observed Nat Meysenberg, OTI Technologist, reflecting much of the sentiment expressed in the session and via Twitter. Like most of OTI’s interventions at the conference, the emphasis was not only on analysis, but also on concrete examples -- in this case, conversation about racism and sexism in technology and how to change the power dynamics. Such approaches resonated among  users at AMC -- the word cloud below comes from aggregation of tweet contents, including retweets, containing #AMC2013 and OTI activity hashtags (AMC2013 removed from analysis, since it was the common denominator):

While there is a lot of overlap between this set of words and the activity description word cloud earlier, community is conspicuous in its absence here. There may be many explanations for this, but the largest words are hashtags from two activities that centered community and technology: #POCTechies from “Reclaiming the Tech” session and #Discotech from the DiscoTech practice space. This is also reflected in the visualization (at the end of this report) “OTI interactions at AMC 2013” where those two activities are the largest.

Tweets and comments from participants showed that attendees were adopting shared language and analysis, and that OTI was adding new ideas and frameworks to the conversations at the conference. “It's not just about starting projects. They have to be based on sustainability. Do they leave a footprint?" tweeted journalist Jamilah King about the Digital Stewards session (with 10 retweets and 8 favorites). “Economic, racial and social justice issues are deeply intertwined about public discussion of privacy and surveillance,” tweeted @Maureen_70 from the session "Technology, Organizing and Surveillance." At least 215 people, representing 23% of  users who mentioned #AMC2013, sent at least 514 tweets (13% of all #AMC2013 tweets) about OTI activities at the conference -- see the  Visualizations Appedix. OTI was the 8th most prolific tweeter at the conference.

Brief information about OTI sessions, caucus and help desks at AMC 2013:

  • Strategic Thinking: Learning from Nature
  • Presenter: Joshua Breitbart (OTI)
  • Session documentation hashtag: #NatStrat
  • Key participant takeaway: “Strategic Thinking:Lessons from Nature just blew my mind. Amazing workshop by @joshdotfm #NATSTRAT #AMC2013” -- @playfrisly
  • Using Everyday Research to Get Data
  • Presenters: Georgia Bullen (OTI), Gregory Donovan (Public Science Project), Sarah Williams (MIT Center for Civic Media)
  • Session documentation hashtag: #LivedData
  • Key participant takeaway: “Your browsing history is almost as unique as your fingerprint #amc2013 #liveddata” -- @EdwardLPlatt tweet with 29 retweets, 6 favorites
  • Technology, Organizing, and Surveillance
  • Planners/Presenters: Emi Kane (INCITE),  Seeta Peña Gangadharan (OTI), Nat Meysenburg (OTI) combined with Protecting Human Rights Online and Offline planned/presented by: Shawna Finnegan (Association for Progressive Communications), Jordan McCarthy (OTI), Emi Kane (INCITE), Alfredo Lopez, (May First/People Link), Mallory Knodel, (Association for Progressive Communications, May First/People Link), and Becky Hurwitz (MIT Center for Civic Media)
  • Session documentation hashtag: #AMCPrivSec
  • Key participant takeaway: “By the end people were using terms like infrastructure activism and talking about getting into privacy and surveillance organizing and education for the long haul.” -- Seeta Peña Gangadharan (OTI Senior Research Fellow)
  • Digital Stewards: A New Training Model
  • Planners/Presenters: Georgia Bullen (OTI), Darby Hickey (OTI), Andy Gunn (OTI), Greta Byrum (OTI), Joshua Breitbart (OTI), Diana Nucera (AMP), Detroit Digital Stewards from Morningside (AMP/OTI), Tony Schloss (RHI), Red Hook Digital Stewards (RHI/OTI)
  • Session documentation hashtag: #DigiStew
  • Key participant takeaway: “It was hammered over and over that it’s community first and then network. Inspiring to see Digital Stewards’ work.” -- Megan Bui (OTI GNOME Intern)
  • Making + Measuring: Multimedia Trainings
  • Presenters: Kistine Carolan (OTI), Bryan Mercer (Media Mobilizing Project), Ammerah Saidi (AMP/Detroit Future Schools), Jessica Crowell (Rutgers University)
  • Session documentation hashtag: #Measuring
  • Key participant takeaway: “After months of working on the Philadelphia BTOP report, it was a good chance to get findings out, and I was excited about that. The workshop planning process with co-presenters Ammerah Saidi from Detroit Future Schools, Bryan Mercer from Media Mobilizing Project and Jessica Powell from Rutgers went really well.” -- Kistine Carolan (OTI Field Analyst)
  • Reclaiming the Tech
  • Planners/Presenters: Georgia Bullen (OTI), Darby Hickey (OTI), Nat Meysenburg (OTI), Alfredo López (MayFirst/PeopleLink), Tomás Aguilar (Progressive Technology Project), Stephanie Alarcon (Hacktory/GNOME intern with OTI), Rita Mendez (Florida Immigration Coalition)
  • Session documentation hashtag: #ReTech participants also used the hashtag #POCtechies
  • Key participant takeaway: ““Diversity in tech is so much more than getting white women to = white men in tech" @neville_park A thousand times yes! #POCtechies #amc2013” – @LizHenry  tweet with 23 retweets and 10 favorites -- a response to @neville_park tweeting from the session, which sparked a conversation about gender, race, and exclusion in technology.
  • Build a Timecapsule for the Apocalypse
  • Presenter: Joshua Breitbart (OTI), Christine Schweidler (RAD, Research Justice Collective, ReAl SJ), Sasha Costanza-Chock (MIT Center for Civic Media, RAD)
  • Session documentation hashtag: #Apocalypse
  • Key participant takeaway: “I want to live inside of the framework for that workshop!” -- Nina Bianchi (Work Department). Participants generated a list of desired tech skills and information needs for apocalyptic scenarios that could form the basis for a track or more in-depth discussion of media for disaster preparedness at next year’s AMC.
  • Community Wireless Networks Caucus
  • Presenters: Andy Gunn (OTI), Georgia Bullen (OTI)
  • Session documentation hashtag: #CommWifi
  • Key participant takeaway: “Lots of people we had never seen before that were interested in talking about networks -- a good starting point for talking about what to do next year.” -- Andy Gunn, (OTI Field Engineer)
  • Data Viz Wiz Kids - D3 & Gephi
  • Presenters: Georgia Bullen (OTI), Kat Harman (Data Driven Detroit), Christine Schweidler (RAD)
  • Session documentation hashtag: #DiscoTech
  • Key participant takeaway: OTI staff observed that the majority of participants were women, not only in these sessions but in the DiscoTech at large – showing an important lesson about how to frame “tech” not as “tech” but via other goals and processes, a point discussed in Reclaim the Tech as well.
  • Tech Help Desk Divas
  • Presenters: Brian Duggan (OTI), Nat Meysenburg (OTI), Alfredo López (MayFirst/PeopleLink), Tomás Aguilar (Progressive Technology Project), Stephanie Alarcon (Hacktory/GNOME intern with OTI), Rita Mendez (Florida Immigration Coalition), Diana Nucera (AMP), Detroit Digital Stewards from Morningside (AMP/OTI), Tony Schloss (RHI), Red Hook Digital Stewards (RHI/OTI)
  • Session documentation hashtag: #DiscoTech
  • Key participant takeaway: “The help desk felt like ‘home base’ for me and for Digital Stewards as well.” -Dan Staples (OTI Associate Technologist)

OTI contributed to many sessions as participants, as well:

Key lessons for conference presentations:

  • Improve popular education (participatory, hands-on, drawing on knowledge and experience of the participants) elements of sessions.
  • Consider how to make sessions more welcoming to parents and teens/tweens.
  • Better promote hashtags in all sessions and encourage tweeting.

Community Wireless Networks Caucus at AMC 2013

Making Connections

For the 15th annual Allied Media Conference, the Open Technology Institute sent eleven staff to present sessions, coordinate a caucus, support the DiscoTech practice space, run help desks, set up a Commotion wireless network, and deploy an instance of Tidepools. Working with partners Allied Media Projects and Red Hook Initiative, OTI helped bring nine Digital Stewards from Detroit and five from Brooklyn to the conference – all of them first-time participants in the conference.

OTI interacted directly with over 350 conference participants across the sessions, caucus, and help desks, with the help of 25 collaborators from 14 organizations (including Digital Stewards) who helped to plan or present the activities. Organizational affiliation of collaborators included MIT Center for Civic Media, Allied Media Projects, Red Hook Initiative, MayFirst/PeopleLink, INCITE, Rutgers University, Media Mobilizing Project, and Data Driven Detroit. Significantly, OTI worked with several of these partners on various aspects of the conference, showing a tendency to work deeply with a discrete set of partners rather than broadly with a wide range of collaborators.

This visualization shows the sessions and activities that OTI contributed to as planners, organizers and presenters, as well as the collaborators for that work. The size of the nodes is determined by the number of connections (amount of collaboration to create it), e.g. Georgia Bullen, Field Operations Technologist, was involved in many activities and is therefore the largest planner/organizer node. The Digital Stewards Session is the largest sessions node due to the number of organizers involved in the session.

In post-conference reflections, OTI staff noted many instances of successful networking: strengthening relationships, meeting new people, and introducing people to each other. For example, Technologist Brian Duggan described the importance of meeting Jeff Sturges from Mt. Elliott Makerspace in Detroit. They discussed Sturges’ development of “incredible resources of how he pursues grants, social structures, pathways to engage, mentorship, budgeting,” said Brian, who introduced Sturges to Jeff Putney of Makerspace Urbana. Through discussions about design processes and iteration, Field Analyst Jonathan Baldwin made a strong connection with Kay Braybrooke from Mozilla, who helped to organize many events in the DiscoTech.

All staff mentioned the importance of AMC for strengthening relationships with partners, or between OTI staff and partners who they had not worked with previously. In particular, staff noted the importance of meeting, working with, and getting to know the Digital Stewards from Detroit and Red Hook. “It was great to meet the Detroit Digital Stewards,” said Field Technologist Georgia Bullen, who works with the Red Hook Stewards -- she talked with the Morningside Stewards team about mapping resources. The 2013 AMC was the first meeting of the participants in our Detroit and Red Hook training programs. The Digital Stewards have momentum for more conferences and presentations, including at the upcoming International Summit for Community Wireless Networks, for which OTI is a lead convener.

In addition, OTI Senior Research Fellow Seeta Peña Gangadharan found Becky Hurwitz of the MIT Center for Civic Media, with whom she worked on the "Technology, Surveillance and Organizing" workshop, to be a critical new relationship for OTI’s development of easily understandable and hands-on activities for privacy and surveillance issues. Megan Bui, OTI GNOME intern, noted the flip-side of this value – she felt she missed out on a lot of informal sharing and networking because she stayed offsite, missing out on some of the social events.

DiscoTech

OTI helped organize the DiscoTech “Discovering Technology” Lab, an AMC “practice space” for hands-on learning throughout the conference, with three partner organizations: Allied Media Projects, Work Department, and the MIT Center for Civic Media. Organizing began in November of 2012 and involved many hours of work from each coordinator over the seven months leading up to AMC 2013. Around 500 people participated in the lab at the conference, including those who ran their own mini-workshops; more than 120 tweets mentioned the #DiscoTech hashtag.

Compared to AMC media labs from past years, this year organizers of the DiscoTech made  concerted effort to connect with the hands-on and interactive portions of workshops going on throughout the AMC so the lab was more integrated into other conference sessions. A few conference tracks even had specific "stations" in the lab – Webmaking, Fierce Fashion Futures, and Research Justice. The hands-on stations tied to the tracks allowed conference-goers to continue working on skills, projects, relationships and concepts from the 90-minute sessions.

OTI helped to organize the Research Justice “Data Viz Wiz Kids” station and the “Tech Help Desk Divas” station which included Digital Stewards and members of the People of Color Techie Training Project. There were also self-organized sessions and workshops, a makers party (a highlight mentioned by many OTI staff), and more. A participant in an informal skill-share led by Field Analyst Jonathan Baldwin called his explanation of design tools Node-JS and JSON in relation to data software D3, “the clearest explanation of those tools ever!”

The majority of people who came to the data visualization help desk (Data Viz Wiz Kids) were women, and people of color featured prominently at the tech help desk (Tech Help Desk Divas), providing concrete examples of accessible tech spaces that participants discussed in sessions like “Reclaiming The Tech.”

The Tech Help Desk provided space for interaction between the two groups of Digital Stewards (largely people of color; young people from Red Hook and a wide range of ages from Detroit) and between them and the trainees from the People of Color Techie Training Program. Rita Mendez, from the latter, said she and others from the training program were looking forward to planning and participating in the tech help desk for next year’s conference. Nijel Taylor Johnson, one of the Digital Stewards from Red Hook, said, “It was a new adventure, a new culture -- a lot of people who didn’t judge you and were willing to learn about you as you were willing to learn about them.” (For more reflections on the Red Hook Digital Stewards’ experiences, see their “AMC Conference 2013 recap.”)

Key lessons for DiscoTech help desks:

  • Better publicize workshops and skill-shares at the help desks – volunteers pointed out the needs of folks around the conference who did not seek the tech help desk, and that t-shirts might have increased visibility and a more immediately available group of volunteers among conference attendees could have increased volunteer engagement and utilization.
  • Improve coordination of Stewards helping at the desks, regardless of experience or knowledge level (perhaps incorporating an explicit mentoring system) and make sure there will always be people on hand to help attendees with most issues.
  • Increase pre-planned activities to better engage those at the help desk, so they are not bored when no one is there with a question.
  • Schedule in advance an all-group orientation for the help desks including clarification of roles and who has made what commitments.
  • Coordinate messaging among help desks and with AMC organizers. There were multiple help desks throughout the conference for different types of help.

MagicNet

OTI staff and Digital Stewards set up the AMC MagicNet to provide Internet access and local networking at the conference. This was our largest Commotion Developers Release 1 field trial to date and it successfully engaged people of various skill levels, distributed Internet access to conference attendees, and promoted locally relevant content, including a custom instance of Tidepools.

The Commotion deployment at AMC helped further three key goals of the project:

  • Quality assurance: the team identified a major bug with the software, found a workaround, and resolved the problem in the office before leaving for Detroit.
  • Functionality: high speeds, quality meshing between nodes, hundreds of simultaneous users and ease of use demonstrated Commotion’s progress towards becoming a dependable communications tool.
  • Documentation and dissemination: Working with the Digital Stewards to deploy Commotion helped the team identify areas for improvement in documentation and user interface, critical components for making the software usable in different contexts independent of OTI support.

After initial troubleshooting, “the network performed fantastic, with great speeds and connectivity, even between buildings,” according to Associate Technologist Dan Staples. The twelve nodes of the network supported hundreds of simultaneous users. “It was excellent to have all the Stewards in the mix together during the installs,” said Field Analyst Preston Rhea.

For additional information, see, “The 2013 Allied Media Conference MagicNet, powered by Digital Stewards and Commotion.”

Key lessons for future MagicNet deployments:

  • It was useful to interact with Digital Stewards as they went through the Commotion QuickStart to flash routers to see what worked about the interface and what was confusing.
  • Doing a pre-conference test run in the office with OTI staff on how to include Digital Stewards in flashing routers produced outcomes such as identifying issues to resolve ahead of time. “Test run is always a good idea, not a waste of time.” -- Preston Rhea, Field Analyst.
  • The deployment pattern at the AMC mirrored the pattern in Dharamshala earlier in June, suggesting a new model of the stages of a typical Commotion deployment:
  • Install the nodes and the network starts out great with everyone’s participation.
  • Hit a problem that seems insurmountable (a bug, dysfunctional equipment), causing frustration.
  • After time and effort and with key intervention of technical support, find a resolution or workaround for the problem.
  • Ultimately, achieve excellent network performance, even beyond expectation.

Staff noted the importance of both describing/outlining this to newer folks such as the Stewards to forego frustration and develop more ways of engaging people of various skills in high-level troubleshooting.

  • Priority for next AMC: Set up diagnostics and forms to capture metrics on network use and qualitative user feedback for Commotion to include:
  • number of simultaneous users and devices used
  • user distribution across access points
  • number of users of local applications
  • qualitative feedback
  • Prepare documentation tools for documenting each MagicNet device: status, performance, location, etc.
  • Recruit even more people to participate in the MagicNet and in wireless networking generally.
  • Plan how to inform conference attendees about MagicNet as a resource.
  • Promote use of hashtags for MagicNet and Commotion.

Tidepools

OTI introduced a new, mobile-friendly version of Tidepools (Beta 0.3) at the conference, featuring a re-hauled interface and code base. The Tidepools instance helped attendees navigate and document the conference with ease, providing a mobile-friendly session browser, geolocation mapping of conference sessions, and aggregating feeds.

A number of users responded favorably to Tidepools and “voted up” the Tidepools link on AMPTalk, the online conference bulletin board. Sasha Costanza-Chock of the MIT Center for Civic Media commented, “Great interface you designed,” and discussed how to integrate it with other mobile data collection and storytelling tools. He also suggested that the conference might want to consider incorporating features from Tidepools’ interface with the conference session browser.

For additional information, see “Tidepools is Mobile Ready!

Key lessons for future Tidepools instances:

  • Set up diagnostics and forms to capture metrics on network use and qualitative user feedback to include:
  • number of simultaneous users, number of users of local apps, qualitative feedback
  • resolve server issues for Tidepools ahead of time (Apache and Node-JS do not play well together)
  • Include “Save this to your desktop/phone” as an app in Tidepools so users don’t have to retype the web address.
  • Plan how to inform conference attendees about Tidepools as a resource.
  • Promote use of hashtag for Tidepools and make better use of @TidepoolsOTI Twitter handle.

AMC impact on OTI

Overall, the AMC had a significant impact on OTI, both as an organization and as a collection of individuals, though this impact has proven harder for us to document. Rolling out Commotion DR 1.1 and Tidepools mobile beta in tandem at the conference suggests we find it a supportive and worthwhile environment for taking risks.

Many OTI staff went to sessions organized by their colleagues, and we can see through our Tweets how our tech projects connect to our privacy work and our Digital Stewards program, helping us cohere across technology, policy and field operations. This is the organizational side of the AMP network principle that says, “We encourage people to engage with their whole selves, not just with one part of their identity.” Staff also noted the value of the healing practice space at the AMC.

As indicated by the prominence of the #POCtechies hashtag in our Twitter presence and the positive experiences in the DiscoTech lab noted above, the AMC is a time for us to think critically about our field. OTI Technologist Brian Duggan reflected on the frustration of not being able to show a more diverse history of computers in the course of geeking out about Unix and related topics with people of color techies at the conference, but also a clear sense that the future of tech need not look like that version of past.

With OTI Director of Field Operations Josh Breitbart’s presentation of “Strategic Thinking: Lessons from Nature” and multiple staff members’ participation in “Forecasting the Future of Leadership,” the 2013 AMC was an opportunity for OTI to expand our own ideas about how to “support movements and engage in generative moments,” as Field Analyst Preston Rhea described it.

OTI also pushed forward with new recruitment materials for the AMC and other first steps towards an expanded outreach strategy as part of a strong desire to further strengthen our connection to the AMC community. This came in part after OTI hired two people to the tech team in the past year who we first connected with through the 2012 AMC.

Key lessons to enhance impact of the AMC on OTI:

  • Improve data capture in this area, perhaps with standardized post-conference questionnaire.
  • Sustain OTI participation in discussions of race and gender in the technology field.
  • Further develop recruitment strategy, including noting how candidates hear about OTI.

 

Conclusions

Overall, OTI’s participation in the AMC reflects nearly the full gamut of OTI’s work, focused on our tech projects, our wireless network training program, privacy and surveillance issues, data visualization techniques, and issues of race and gender in technology.

We found that the AMC was an opportunity for OTI to:

  • Premiere new experimental versions of our software projects.
  • Advance techniques for participation in wireless network deployments across skill levels.
  • Connect OTI community partners to each other.
  • Engage broad networks in big-think discussions of technology.
  • Find new partners and potentially new staff members.
  • Enhance OTI’s Twitter presence and network.

Key lessons for OTI and the next AMC:

  • Incorporate structured data collection into an evaluation plan as we would for non-conference projects of equivalent scale.
  • Promote unofficial hashtags for intersectional topics or for quasi-sanctioned projects like the MagicNet.
  • Work with AMP to formalize MagicNet and Tidepools as infrastructure for the conference.
  • Engage People of Color Techie Training Project in the DiscoTech and Tech Help Desk planning for next AMC.
  • Propose a Community Wireless Network Gathering for the Thursday of next year’s AMC, incorporating the MagicNet deployment and bringing a wider range of community wireless innovators to the conference.
  • Work with organizers and participants of the “Technology, Organizing, and Surveillance” and “Protecting Human Rights Online and Offline” sessions to propose a track devoted to privacy, surveillance technology, and organizing.
  • Encourage more sessions for next year’s AMC related to media and tech for disaster preparedness.

 

Visualizations Appendix

All #AMC2013 Conversations: Highlight OTI

This is a visualization of all of the Twitter connections made during AMC. Connections are either retweets, or direct mentions of another user. Each node (circle) represents a user, and is sized according to the number of tweets, mentions, and retweets related to that user. The proximity of one node to another correlates with how tightly connected those users are -- e.g. if they mentioned each other frequently or were mentioned by similar people. Although there are clusters within the network, it's clear that AMC brought together a diverse set of conversations and people, leading to a large, relatively unclustered network, with the exception of a few significant tweeters. The red connections represent ties to sessions/activities that involved OTI either as planners or as presenters. The red nodes are OTI staff members, and the blue nodes are partner organizations -- Red Hook Initiative, Red Hook Wifi and Allied Media Projects.

Tweets about OTI sessions/activities at AMC 2013

This visualization shows all of the conversations and connections related to OTI-organized or -involved sessions and activities at AMC 2013. It is basically just the red highlighted set of nodes and connections from the visualization “All #AMC2013.” Connections are either re-tweets, or direct mentions of another user. Each node represents a user, and is sized according to the number of tweets, mentions, and retweets related to that user. The proximity of the nodes to other nodes, relates to how tightly connected those users are -- e.g. if they mentioned each other frequently or were mentioned by similar people. The clusters here are most closely tied to the session that the users were tweeting about, measured and coded using the #hashtag for that session. These sessions are also noted by the colors on the connections between users. This visualization shows key people who extend the reach of OTI’s work to their networks, e.g. @EdwardLPlatt, @LizHenry, @JamilahKing, @Neville_Park. One challenge with this visualization is that a user who was active in a session but did not mention other users will not appear here, as this shows only mentions and retweets. On the other hand, this highlights the conversations/interactions over tweets that did not mention another user or elicit a re-tweet.

OTI Interactions at AMC 2013, sessions/activities highlighted

This visualization shows users who were tweeting about the sessions/activities which OTI was involved in at AMC 2013. Each node represents either a session/activity or a user, and its size reflects the number of tweets related to that session/activity (for the former) or tweets by that user (for the latter). All of the tweets were categorized by the hashtag (e.g. #poctechies or #discotech), or if the hashtag was not used, the tweets were coded into "oti-general" or the appropriate session based on tweet content and timing. Users who tweeted more about a session are closer to the session nodes, and users who tweeted about multiple sessions appear in the middle, linking them to the various sessions they tweeted about. The node color here represents the type of node -- session/activity node, OTI staff, or other user. This visualization captures users who were engaged with a session or OTI topics generally, even if they didn't mention OTI or any other users.

 

Authors:

Kayshin Chan
Darby Hickey

Joshua Breitbart, a former senior advisor for New America Foundation's Open Technology Institute, coordinated a team of researchers, organizers, graphic designers and technologists to learn how people adopt new technologies and participate in discussions of telecommunications policy.

Georgia Bullen is the technology projects director with New America's Open Technology Institute. Bullen provides data visualization, human-centered design, planning and geospatial analytical support to the OTI team and its community partnerships.