Technology & Policy

Social Media in Disaster Preparation, Response, and Recovery

Social Media in Disaster Preparation, Response, and Recovery
TR News July-August 2013: Logistics of Disaster Response

Sarah M. Kaufman
09/27/2013

Social media have become an essential source of information before, during, and after disasters. Social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr—instantaneous, far-reaching, and interactive— have become the convergence point for a range of information sources, dialogues, and dynamic content. A survey conducted by the New York University (NYU) Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management found that during Superstorm Sandy, social media were the second-highest-rated source of information, ranking higher than other popular sources such as television and radio news, news websites, and community groups.

Reimagining Governance in Practice: Benchmarking British Columbia’s Citizen Engagement Efforts

Reimagining Governance in Practice: Benchmarking British Columbia’s Citizen Engagement Efforts
The GovLab, May 2013

Andrew Young, Christina Rogawski, Sabeel Rahman, and Stefaan Verhulst
05/01/2013

Over the last few years, the Government of British Columbia (BC), Canada has initiated a variety of practices and policies aimed at providing more legitimate and effective governance. Leveraging advances in technology, the BC Government has focused on changing how it engages with its citizens with the goal of optimizing the way it seeks input and develops and implements policy. The efforts are part of a broader trend among a wide variety of democratic governments to re-imagine public service and governance.

At the beginning of 2013, BC’s Ministry of Citizens’ Services and Open Government, now the Ministry of Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services, partnered with the GovLab to produce “Reimagining Governance in Practice: Benchmarking British Columbia’s Citizen Engagement Efforts.”  The GovLab’s May 2013 report, made public today, makes clear that BC’s current practices to create a more open government, leverage citizen engagement to inform policy decisions, create new innovations, and provide improved public monitoring­—though in many cases relatively new—are consistently among the strongest examples at either the provincial or national level.

According to Stefaan Verhulst, Chief of Research at the GovLab : “Our benchmarking study found that British Columbia’s various initiatives and experiments to create a more open and participatory governance culture has made it a leader in how to re-imagine governance. Leadership, along with the elimination of imperatives that may limit further experimentation, will be critical moving forward. And perhaps even more important, as with all initiatives to re-imaging governance worldwide, much more evaluation of what works, and why, will be needed to keep strengthening the value proposition behind the new practices and polices and provide proof-of-concept.”

Information for Impact: Liberating Nonprofit Sector Data

Information for Impact: Liberating Nonprofit Sector Data
Aspen Institute (January 2013)

Noveck, Beth Simone and Daniel Goroff
01/01/2013

This report addresses the challenges to obtaining better, more usable data about the nonprofit sector to match the sector’s growing importance. In 2010, there were 1.5 million tax-exempt organizations in the United States with $1.51 trillion in revenues. Through the Form 990 in its several varieties, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) gathers and publishes a large amount of information about tax-exempt organizations. Over time, versions of the Form 990 have evolved that collect information on governance, investments, and other factors not directly related to an organization’s tax calculations or qualifications for tax exemption. Copies of these returns are available one at a time from the filers or from other sources. The IRS creates image files of Form 990 returns and sells compilationsof them to the subscribing public for a fee. Several institutions, particularly GuideStar, the Foundation Center, and the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS) at the Urban Institute, use this IRS data to analyze and present information about individual nonprofits and about the sector as a whole.

Like other important data collected by governments, information contained in the 990s could potentially be far more useful if it were not only public but “open” data. Open data are data that are available to all, free of charge, in a standard format, published without proprietary conditions, and available online as a bulk download rather than only through single-entry lookup. Making the Form 990 data truly open in this sense would not only make it easier to use for the organizations that already process it, but would also make it useful to researchers, advocates, entrepreneurs, technologists, and nonprofits that do not have the resources to use the data in its current form. We argue that open 990 data may increase transparency for nonprofit organizations, making it easier for state and federal authorities to detect fraud, spur innovation in the nonprofit sector and, above all, help us to understand the potential value of the 990 data.

How Social Media Moves New York, Part 2: Recommended Social Media Policy for Transportation Providers

How Social Media Moves New York, Part 2: Recommended Social Media Policy for Transportation Providers
NYU Rudin Center for Transportation, December 2012

Kaufman, Sarah.
12/01/2012

Social media networks allow transportation providers to reach large numbers of people simultaneously and without a fee, essential factors for the millions of commuters and leisure travelers moving through the New York region every day. This report, based on earlier findings (from Part 1), which analyzed local transportation providers’ use of social media, and a seminar on the subject in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, recommends social media policies for transportation providers seeking to inform, engage and motivate their customers.

The goals of social media in transportation are to inform (alert riders of a situation), motivate (to opt for an alternate route), and engage (amplify the message to their friends and neighbors). To accomplish these goals, transportation providers should be:

- Accessible: Easily discovered through multiple channels and targeted information campaigns

- Informative: Disseminating service information at rush hour and with longer-form discussions on blogs as needed

- Engaging: Responding directly to customers, marketing new services, and building community

- Responsive: Soliciting and internalizing feedback and self-evaluating in a continuous cycle

How Social Media Moves New York: Twitter Use by Transportation Providers in the New York Region

How Social Media Moves New York: Twitter Use by Transportation Providers in the New York Region
October 2012

Kaufman, Sarah M.
10/23/2012

Social media networks are valuable tools for the public outreach needs of transportation providers: they are free, instantaneous, reach large numbers of people simultaneously, and allow for sideline discussions. When transportation providers are trying to notify large numbers of passengers about delays, drivers about construction work, or bus riders about re-routes, they can “blast” messages through social media channels to reach their intended audience immediately (the audience accesses these networks far more frequently than the websites of their local transportation agencies). The goals of social media in transportation are to inform (alert riders of a situation), motivate (to opt for an alternate route), and engage (amplify the message to their friends and neighbors). Ideally, these actions would occur within minutes of an incident.

This report analyzes the use of social media tools by the New York region’s major transportation providers. It is focused on the effectiveness of their Twitter feeds, which were chosen for their immediacy and simplicity in messaging, and provided a common denominator for comparison between the various transportation providers considered, both public and private. Based on this analysis, recommendations are outlined for improving social media outreach. A subsequent report will propose policies and recommendations for enhanced information and engagement with users.

Augmented Reality and Urban Exploration

Augmented Reality and Urban Exploration
July 2012

Kaufman, Sarah M.
07/01/2012

Augmented Reality is beginning to shift the landscape of urban exploration, making the experience ever-more informative, from language translation applications to cultural enrichment tools. It will lead people to be more informed, advertised to, and assisted on every urban excursion, removing the traditional happenstance from urban exploration. It is unclear whether Augmented Reality (AR) will truly enhance experiences, lead to over-saturation of information and advertising, or a combination of the two. This paper will discuss the current and near-future uses of AR for city dwellers and the projected implications of ubiquitous information.

Mobile Communications and Transportation in Metropolitan Regions

Mobile Communications and Transportation in Metropolitan Regions
The Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management. New York University. July 2011.

Moss, Mitchell, Josh Mandell and Carson Qing.
07/01/2011

This study examines the role of mobile communications in urban transportation systems and analyzes American metropolitan regions best positioned to capitalize on the growth of mobile technologies. This paper identifies three critical factors—data accessibility, mobile network strength, and mobile tech user/developer demographics—and uses data from several public resources in an analysis of major Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs). The authors explore trends and public policy implications for furthering the use of mobile communications in the transportation systems of metropolitan regions.

The rankings revealed that metropolitan regions each have areas of strength and weakness. In fact, no MSA ranked in the top five for each category, suggesting that though several cities were very strong (top five) in two categories (San Jose, San Francisco, Washington DC, San Diego), every MSA has substantial room for improvement.

A Complex(ity) Strategy for Breaking the Environmental Logjam (with David R. Johnson), in Breaking the LogJam: An Environmental Law for the 21st Century

A Complex(ity) Strategy for Breaking the Environmental Logjam (with David R. Johnson), in Breaking the LogJam: An Environmental Law for the 21st Century
NYU Environ. L. Rev. (Fall 2008)

Noveck, Beth (selected chapters)
01/01/2008

In this essay, we explore how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) might use technology to improve the agency's level of scientific expertise and to obtain useful information sooner to inform EPA policymaking. By creating a self-reinforcing collaboration between government and networked publics, new web-based tools could help produce change within government and without - namely governmental decisions informed by better data obtained through citizen participation and civic action coordinated with governmental priorities. The agency has the opportunity to help break the logjam of environmental policymaking by developing transparent and participatory mechanisms for expert citizen participation. The key insight is not to throw open the floodgates to undifferentiated public input, but to design group-based processes that enable online communities to collaborate on finding and vetting information for agencies.

Peer to Patent: Collective Intelligence and Intellectual Property Reform

Peer to Patent: Collective Intelligence and Intellectual Property Reform
20 Harv. J. L. Tech. 123 

Noveck, Beth
01/01/2006

The patent system is broken. The Constitution intended for patents to foster innovation and the promotion of progress in the useful arts. Instead, the Patent Office creates uncertainty and monopoly. Underpaid and overwhelmed examiners struggle under the burden of 350,000 applications per year and a mounting backlog of 600,000. Increasingly patents are approved for unmerited inventions. What if we could make it easier to ensure that only the most worthwhile inventions got twenty years of monopoly rights? What if we could offer a
way to protect the inventor’s investment while still safeguarding the marketplace of ideas from bad inventions? What if we could make informed decisions about scientifically complex
problems before the fact, rather than trying to reform the system ex post? What if we could harness collective intelligence to replace bureaucracy?
This Article argues that we should reform the patent system by re-designing the institution of patent examination. Our existing legal mechanisms for awarding the patent monopoly are
constructed around the outdated assumption that only expert bureaucrats can produce dispassionate decisions in the public interest. Building upon what we have learned from online and off-line systems of collaboration, we can now use the tools available to combine the
wisdom of expert scientific communities of practice with the legal determinations of a trained Patent Office staff.

The patent system is broken. The Constitution intended for patents to foster innovation and
the promotion of progress in the useful arts. Instead, the Patent Office creates uncertainty
and monopoly. Underpaid and overwhelmed examiners struggle under the burden of
350,000 applications per year and a mounting backlog of 600,000. Increasingly patents are
approved for unmerited inventions. What if we could make it easier to ensure that only the
most worthwhile inventions got twenty years of monopoly rights? What if we could offer a
way to protect the inventor’s investment while still safeguarding the marketplace of ideas
from bad inventions? What if we could make informed decisions about scientifically complex
problems before the fact, rather than trying to reform the system ex post? What if we could
harness collective intelligence to replace bureaucracy?
This Article argues that we should reform the patent system by re-designing the institution
of patent examination. Our existing legal mechanisms for awarding the patent monopoly are
constructed around the outdated assumption that only expert bureaucrats can produce
dispassionate decisions in the public interest. Building upon what we have learned from online and off-line systems of collaboration, we can now use the tools available to combine the
wisdom of expert scientific communities of practice with the legal determinations of a
trained Patent Office staff.

Trademark Law and the Social Construction of Trust: Creating the Legal Framework for On-Line Identity

Trademark Law and the Social Construction of Trust: Creating the Legal Framework for On-Line Identity
83 Wash. U. L. Q. 1733

Noveck, Beth
01/01/2006

The intellectual property system has fostered many debates, including recent ones, regarding how the system affects access to knowledge. Yet, before one can access, one must preserve. Two interconnected problems posed by the growth of online creation illustrate the predicament. First, unlike analog creations, important digital creations such as e-mails and word-processed documents are mediated and controlled by second parties. Thus, although these creations are core intellectual property, they are not treated as such. Service providers and software makers terminate or deny access to people’s digital property all the time. In addition, when one dies, some service providers refuse to grant heirs access to this property. The uneven and unclear management of these creations means that society will lose access to perhaps the greatest chronicling of human experience ever. Accordingly, this Article investigates and sets forth the theoretical foundations to explain why and how society should preserve this property. In so doing the Article finds that a second problem, which can be understood as one of control, arises.

This Article is the first in a series of works aimed at investigating the nature and extent of control one may have or exert over a work. As such, this Article begins the project by examining the normative theories behind creators’, heirs’, and society’s interests in the works. All three groups have interests in preservation, but the basis for the claims differs. In addition, an examination of the theoretical basis for these claims shows that the nature of the attention economy in conjunction with labor- and persona-based property theories support the position that in life a creator has strong claims for control over her intangible creations. Yet, the Article finds that historical and literary theory combined with recent economic theory as advanced by Professors Brett Frischmann and Mark Lemley regarding spillovers—positive externalities generated by access to ideas and information—reveals two points. First, these views support the need for better preservation of digital intellectual property insofar as it is infrastructure and has the potential for spillover effects. Second, although the creator may be best placed to manage and exert control of the works at issue, once the creator dies, literary, historical, and economic theory show that the claims for control diminish if not vanish. The explication and implications of this second point are explored elsewhere. This Article lays the groundwork for seeing that creators may need and have powerful claims for access and control over their works but that these same claims are necessarily limited by an understanding of the nature of creation and creative systems. The dividing line falls between life and death. The life and death distinction that this Article offers seeks to balance creators’ interests in control over a work and society’s interests in fostering later expressions and creations of new works. This Article examines the life side of the line.

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