YPP Network Description

The MacArthur Research Network on Youth and Participatory Politics (YPP) formed out of recognition that youth are critical to the future of democracy and that the digital age is introducing technological changes that are impacting how youth develop into informed, engaged, and effective actors.

  • An Open Letter From Civic Hackers to Puerto Rico & USVI in the Wake of Hurricane Maria

    by willowbl00

    I am working with a group of civic developers committed to supporting Hurricane victims for relief & recovery who have helped with the software development and data analysis of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma primarily in Texas and Florida. In the wake of Hurricane Maria, we want to help Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the same way. Devastation has already occurred in Puerto Rico and the USVI, and we’re here to help in the response and recovery pending from Maria.
    But, we won’t jump in without your permission. These places have a long history of imperialism, and we refuse to add tech colonialism on top of that.
    Here’s how we might be able to help:
    Sometimes emergency services are overloaded fielding calls and deploying assistance. Remote grassroots groups help take in additional requests through social media and apps like Zello and then help to dispatch local people who are offering to perform rescue services (like the Cajun Navy in Houston after Hurricane Harvey).
    Shelter updates
    As people seek shelter while communication infrastructure remains spotty, having a way to text or call to findt the nearest shelter accepting people becomes useful. We can remotely keep track of what shelters are open and accepting people by calling them and scraping websites, along with extra information such as if they accept pets and if they check identification.
    Needs matching
    As people settle into shelters or return to their homes, they start needing things like first aid supplies and building materials. Shelter managers or community leaders seek ways to pair those offering material support with those in need of the support. We help with the technology and data related to taking and fulfilling these requests, although we don’t fulfill the requests directly ourselves.
    If you are interested in this, please let us know by emailing me (bl00 at mit) or finding us on Twitter at @irmaresponse or @sketchcityhou.
    Here are other groups lending aid already (maintained by someone else).If you’re looking to jump in an an existing task, Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team already has a tasker active for helping to map the area for responders and coordination.

  • How Would You Design Crypto Backdoor Regulation? Ed Felten at CITP

    by natematias

    Law enforcement sometimes argue that they need backdoors to encryption in order to carry out their mission, while cryptographers like Bruce Schneier describe the public cybersecurity risk from backdoors and say that the "technology just doesn't work that way."
    I'm here at the Princeton University Center for Information Tech Policy, liveblogging the first public lunch of the semester, where Ed Felten shares work in progress to find a way through this argument. Ed is the director of CITP and a professor of computer science and public affairs at Princeton University. He served at the White House as the Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer from June 2015 to January 2017. Ed was also the first chief technologist for the Federal Trade Commission from January 2011 until September 2012.

    Ed starts out by pointing out that his talk is work in progress, that he's thinking about the U.S. policy context. His goal is to explore the encryption policy issue in relation to the details, understand the tradeoffs, and imagine effective policies– something he says is rare in debates over encryption backdoors.
    Five Equities For Thinking about Encryption Backdoor Policies
    People who debate encryption backdoors are often thinking about five "equities," says Ed. Focus on public safety concerns the ability of law enforcement and intelligence community to protect the public from harm. Cybersecurity is the ability of law-abiding people to protect their systems. Personal privacy is the ability of users to control the data about them. Civil liberties and free expression concern the ability of people to exercise their rights and speak freely. Economic competitiveness is the ability of US companies to compete in international and domestic markets. Across all of these, we care about these things over time, not just immediately.
    Ed notes that policy debates often come to loggerheads because people weight these equities differently. For example, people often contrast public safety with cybersecurity without considering other factors. They also come to loggerheads when people start with these equities without asking in detail what regulation can and cannot do. 
    Understanding Policy Pipielines
    When we think about policies, Ed encourages us to think about a three-part pipeline. Policymakers start by thinking about regulation, hope that the regulation creates changes in design and user behavior, and then ask the impact of those changes and behaviors on the equities that matter. In this conversation, Ed is working from an assumption of basic trust in the US rule of law, as well as realism about technology, economics, and policy.
    The Nobody But Us Principle (NOBUS)In the past, signals intelligence agencies have tended to have two goals: to undermine the security of adversaries' technologies while strengthening the security of our own technologies. Lately, there's been a problem, which is that US adversaries tend to use the same technologies: strengthening or weakening adversaries' security also affects our own security.
    The usual doctrine in these situations is to assume that it's better to strengthen encryption, in hopes that one's own country benefits from that strength. But there's an exception: perhaps one could look for methods of access that the US can carry out but adversaries cannot; these methods are NOBUS (nobody but us). For example, zero-day exploits are an example of something that intelligence agencies might think of as NOBUS. Of course, as Ed points out, the NOBUS principle raises important questions about who the "us" are in any policy idea.
    NOBUS Test in Crypto Policy
    Based on the NOBUS principle, Ed proposes a principle that any mandated means of access to encrypted data must be NOBUS with high probability. Several rules fail this test, such as banning all encryption, or requiring that encryption be disabled by default.
    Why Do People Need Crypto?
    Ed offers some basics on cryptography, pointing out that cryptography is used to protect three things. It protects confidentiality, so unauthorized party can't learn message contents. Crypto protects integrity, so unauthorized parties can't forge or modify messages without detection. It also protects identity, protecting people from impersonation. Ed describes two main scenarios for uses of crypto: storage and communications.
    In storage situations, device keys and passcodes are combined to create a storage key that can be used to encrypt and decrypt data from a computer or a phone. Once the key is no longer being used, the information is removed and the device is safe.

    Encrypted communications are more complicated. Here is a typical situation: In a handshake phase, two people use long-term identity keys to confirm who they are and receive a session key. During the data transfer phase, the session key is used to encrypt and decrypt messages between them. They might change the session key from time to time, and when they are done with the key, they delete it. Once they have deleted a session key, an adversary will be unable to decrypt anything that was said during that session key. Systems like TLS for secure browsing and the Signal protocol fit within this framework.
    Trends in the Uses of Crypto
    When law enforcement make statements about how they're losing access to communications, they're making a claim about trends. We are seeing a move toward more encryption in storage and on devices, says Ed. To understand the actual impact on security, Ed argues, we should ask instead: who can recover the data? If only the user can recover the data, then law enforcement/intelligence (LE/IC) may lose access. But if the service provider can recover, then LE/IC can get access from the provider. To think through this, Ed asks us to imagine email services. Messages might be encrypted, but law enforcement can often still get companies to give the data to law enforcement.
    Ed predicts that in situations where most users want data recovery as a feature, or where the nature of the service requires the provider to have access, the provider will have access, and law enforcement will be able to access it. This includes most email and file storage. Otherwise, users will have exclusive control, in areas such as private messages and ephemeral data.
    Designing a Regulatory Requirement for Crypto Backdoors
    Any regulatory requirement needs to work through a series of trade-offs, issues that have no relation to the technical questions, says Ed. He outlines a series of decisions that need to be made when designing a regulation on crypto backdoors.
    The first question to ask is: should we regulate storage only, or storage and comunications? Communications are harder because keys change frequently and LE/IC can't assume access to the device. Storage regulations typically assume that LE/IC has access to the device, so this is an important question. Storage-only approaches are simpler, so regulation writers should consider whether they should stretch for communications or not. In today's conversation, Ed focuses on storage for simplicity.
    The next decision is to ask which services are covered by the regulation. There are many kinds of products that use crypto, and regulators need to decide how much to cover. The broader the range, the more complicated the regulation is, and the greater the burden becomes across the equities. But simple regulations can put many of LE/IC requests beyond their reach. Ed urges us to stop thinking about the iphone, a vertically-integrated system run by a single company. Think instead about an android phone, which involves many different companies from many countries in one device: chip makers, device manufacturers, OS distributors, open source contributors, crypto library distributors, mobile carriers, retailers, and app developers. All of them put technology on the phone, and you have to decide which ones in this supply chain are covered by the regulation.
    When deciding who to cover in the regulation, you also need to ask what they're able to do. Chip makers can't control the operating systems. Manufacturers are often foreign. App developers are small teams or individual contractors.
    The next decision is to ask how robust encryption backdoors must be. If users attempt to prevent access, how strongly must the system resist? Ed outlines several options. The first option is not to resist user attempts. Another option is to make disabling the backdoor at least as hard as jailbreaking the device. A stronger option would be to require users to conduct non-trivial modifications to hardware to secure. If you require this, you will make it much less likely that adversaries and would-be targets would evade the public safety investigation, but it also probably requires hardware modifications. Legacy systems would be unable to comply, and depending on who you require to comply, they might not be able to comply; you couldn't ask Google to require hardware backdoors on android phones, whose hardware they don't control.
    Next, regulators need to decide how to treat legacy products. Do you allow legacy systems? Do you ban them? If so, how can people tell if their system has a backdoor to comply with the ban, and do you want them to know?
    Another decision is to work out what to do with travelers. If someone travels to the U.S. and brings a device that is compliant with their own country's rules but not US policies, what do you do? Do you allow it, so long as the visit is time-limited? Do you prohibit it, detecting and taking away the device? Do you try to reconfigure the device at the border? Manually? Automatically? How would these requirements violate trade agreements?
    All of these decisions, says Ed, are decisions you need to make even before discussing the technical details. Next, he talks through the most common technical proposal, key escrow, to show how regulators could reason through these policies.
    Technical Example: Key Escrow
    Under the key escrow approach, storage systems are required to keep a copy of the storage key, encrypting it so that a ``recovery key'' is needed to recover it. The storage system creates and stores an escrow package. Recovering takes a three-stage process: extract the escrow package from the device, decrypt the escrow package to get the storage key, and use the storage key to decrypt the data.
    If you use key escrow, you have to decide if you're going to require physical access. On option is to require that physical access is necessary, you could allow remote access to the escrow package, or you could leave it to the market. Requiring physical access limits the worst case from the leak of keys; even if the recovery key is compromised, users could protect themselves through physical control. In the US, law enforcement have said that they envision using key escrow systems only in cases of physical access and court orders. Relying on a requirement for physical access depends on a technical ability to do so, something that is theoretical so far and may be difficult to force hardware supply chains to comply with.
    Next Ed shows us a matrix of four policy approaches:
    The device must include a physical access port for law enforcement
    The company must hold and provide the escrow package and give it to law enforcement if requested
    The company must provide the storage key directly when requested from law enforcement
    The company must provide the data
    Lower on the list, the company does the work and has more design latitude about how to respond. But the bottom two policy approaches have a NOBUS problem, since they expose users to third party access. Requiring companies to provide the data and to store the key probably fails the NOBUS test as well. In the top two options, law enforcement needs knowledge about many devices, probably managed through industry standard.
    Maybe there are more options. Ed talks about a number of other possibilities, including working on who holds the recovery keys. Giving all keys to the US government could harm competitiveness and be blocked by other governments. Giving keys to other countries fails the NOBUS test because it gives other governments a competitive advantage.
    Another option is to split the keys, giving the keys to multiple parties and requiring them all to participate. Imagine for example that one key is held by the company and one by the FBI. This approach has some advantages. The approach is NOBUS if any one of the key holders is NOBUS, since any key holder can withhold participation. This approach is also more resilient against compromise of recovery keys. Disadvantages are that any key holder can block recovery, availability is harder to ensure, and every key holder learns which devices were accessed.
    Another split-key model requires that some subset of all keys be used (K-of-N keys) to access the data. The advantages of the system are that the approach is NOBUS if at least N-K+1 of the key holders are NOBUS. It's more resilient against compromise than a single key. Among disadvantages, any N-K+1 key holders can block recovery, K key holders learn which devices were accessed, and the system is much less resilient against compromise than a simple split key.
    Where Does This Leave Us?
    Ed wraps up by arguing that we can have a policy discussion beyond the impasse people in security policy have reached. He suggests that we think about the entire regulation pipeline, from regulation to response to impact. Next, regulators need to think about the full range of products, how they are designed, how they are used, and the impact on equities. The NOBUS test does help regulators narrow down choices. Yet each of the decisions has tradeoffs with pros and cons. Overall, Ed hopes that his talk shows how regulation debates should engage with details and unpack how to think about the policy by working through specific proposals.
    Finally, Ed encourages us to take the final step that his talk leaves out: thinking through the impact of policy ideas on the equities in play and how to weigh them.
    mobile devicesnetworkstechnology solutions

  • Mixed Raced, But Not Up For Debate

    by Youth Radio Interns

    Nina Roehl’s Filipina heritage is not immediately recognizable on her skin.
    You wouldn’t know I’m Filipina by looking at me.  Growing up, when people questioned my identity, I started to question it, too.
    My mom is Filipina and my dad is white. I feel strongly tied to my Filipino heritage. I grew up attending big parties with all of my aunts and uncles, eating adobo and lumpia, and listening to stories about growing up on the islands.
    So when a Filipino classmate questioned my identity in front of my friends, I was taken aback. “Nah, she doesn’t count,” he said.
    Despite being confident with who I am, his words stung. In that moment, I started questioning my identity. Wow, I thought, I don’t speak the language. I’ve never been to the Philippines. I picked apart the things that made me less “Filipina.” It hurt.
    When I got home, I told my mom what happened. “Nina,” she said, “he doesn’t know you. He doesn’t have the right to tell you who you are. You know who you and your family are. That’s what matters.”
    She was right. I know being Filipina is about strong cultural roots, not the color of skin. But sometimes, I still need reminding.

  • Positive Transformations: A Key Goal of Education

    by Howard Gardner

    Along with such phrases as “leadership qualities” and “critical and creative thinking,” the term “transformation” is often invoked in discussions of the possible and of the positive effects of higher education. I’ve been known to utter and to type this buzzword as well.
    By definition, most experiences cannot be transformative. The vast majority of our experiences maintain the current form of experience, or tweak it a bit, rather than altering its form radically—the literal meaning of “transform.” Also, and importantly, while there is the very occasional rapid transformation—of larva into butterflies, of flowing water into solid ice—most transformations on earth occur more gradually; nor, underscoring the point, are they visible or otherwise noticeable at the time.
    There’s the considerable challenge of judging whether a transformation has in fact occurred. We run the risk of declaring something as transformational—“I’ll never be the same after this experience/meeting/ trip/encounter”—only to be unable to find the slightest trace of the experience half a year later. In fact, I’m convinced that experiences that most merit the descriptive “transformative” or “transformational” are rarely recognized at the time. Only with the advantage of hindsight—the passage of years or even decades—is one likely to avoid “false positive” or “false negative” judgments.
    As observers, biographers, or historians, we can certainly make judgments about which instances merit the term “transformational”—for example, the Treaty of Westphalia of 1648; philosopher Immanuel Kant’s reading of the works of David Hume; Charles Darwin’s five year voyage on the Beagle; physicist Francis Crick meeting biochemist James D. Watson on the eve of their discovery of the structure of DNA; the first performances and recordings by The Beatles. In reflecting on one’s own life, it may also be possible to identify those experiences that seem to have been transformative.
    In a series of related blogs, I reflect on which encounters and events appear to have been transformational in my own intellectual and scholarly life (I leave for another venue those experiences that may have been transformational in my personal life). The first blog focuses on teachers whose effects have been transformational. Subsequent blogs will cover a variety of transformers—books, travel, classroom experiences, personal encounters—that merit the descriptor transformational. In each case, I suggest some broader principles, ones that apply to my own life and, perhaps, to the lives of others in the scholarly world.
    Before Secondary School
    Of course, the individuals who most influenced me in my early years were family members, neighbors, and close friends—both friends of parents and friends at school (what a three year old told me casually the other day were “my classmates”). To this list, I would add a few school teachers, a few counselors at the two camps which I attended, and two piano teachers—Geri Berg, who started me off as a six or seven year old; and Harold Briggs, a spry man in his nineties (!!), who had studied with both Clara Schumann and Edward McDowell (!!). After a few years, Mr. Briggs told me that I had to decide whether I wanted to pursue piano seriously, which meant travelling to New York City for lessons and practicing three hours a day… at which point, for better or worse, I decided not to. Perhaps this was a potential transformation that I actively declined. (And then, as a young adolescent, I returned to play duets with Geri Berg, with whom I remain in touch today.)
    Also as a boy, I attended religious lessons and services quite regularly and was presumably affected by my teachers and rabbis. But since I have not maintained any religious affiliations for decades, it’s hard to maintain that they had a transformational effect on me.
    I’ve thought a great deal about my classroom teachers (at Wyoming Seminary, a high school near my home in northeastern Pennsylvania, and at Harvard College) and whether they—individually or collectively—had a significant, perhaps transformational effect on me. I’ve concluded that they have; and I believe that I know why.
    High School (1958-1961)
    Among my teachers in secondary school, there’s no question that the biggest influence came from Edwin J. Roberts, my Latin teacher. I liked Latin and was reasonably proficient at it; but what influenced me was Mr. Roberts’ ability to talk about personalities and events from thousands of years ago and relate them to current events and personalities. When the Russians launched Sputnik, did that alter the balance of powers as happened in the Punic Wars? Did John F. Kennedy aspire to be a Caesar? What would it have been like to live near Pompeii in 79 A.D. when Vesuvius erupted? How did Aeneas’ relationship to his father differ from my own relationship to my father? To my grandfather and my favorite uncle?
    Mr. Roberts also took a personal interest in me. I look forward to occasions when we shared a meal or took a walk across campus. I was pleased when he agreed to write my letter of recommendation for Harvard College. After submitting the requested letter, he said to me, “I told them that they should not admit you because I want you to go to my College (he had been to Wesleyan, Class of 1921). I hoped that he was joking, but I was never quite sure.
    College (1961-1965)
    As a freshman at Harvard College, I was most influenced by Stanley (Stan) Katz, who taught a freshman seminar on “original documents in American history.” This was the first time that I got to know a “professor” face-to-face.—interacting weekly with him and a small group of my classmates. Stan, with whom I have remained friendly until today, let me know gently but firmly that the days of “coasting” through a semester or year were over. When I got back my first paper with the note, “Isn’t this a first draft?”, I realized that I had to think and work much harder. I had to attempt to come up with an original perspective—not just parrot back what he had said in class and or paraphrase what I had read on my own (in pre-Google days, to be sure). And so I proceeded henceforth to read and to think about documents about the Salem Witch Trials with a depth, an inquisitiveness, and an imagination that I had never before exhibited.
    For my “big paper” in the seminar, I decided to carry out research on the attitudes prevalent at Harvard during the famous Sacco and Vanzetti case of the 1920s. I read through old newspapers and other documents and arranged to meet a professor, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Sr., who had been at Harvard during that period. (He was very kind and somewhat helpful.) Except for experiments in chemistry and biology labs, this was my first experience in carrying out actual research, and I both enjoyed it and learned from it. Discovering something which may actually be new—certainly for oneself, and perhaps, just perhaps, for others—is an exciting experience, and one that I’ve cherished over the years.
    Of course, most professors at major colleges and universities write articles and books regularly; it is hard to know in such case whether you are influenced by the personality of the teacher, the books, or some combination thereof (I’ll write about this in subsequent blogs).
    For present purposes, I mention three other teachers at Harvard who influenced me, even though I was unaware of or did not read their works at the time:

    George Wald, who taught my introduction to biology, a course called “Nat. Sci. Five.” Wald made intriguing and understandable the many new findings emerging in genetics and molecular biology—concepts and processes that we could not have known about in high school because they had not yet made their way “into the textbooks.” Wald was a bench top scientist—he eventually won the Nobel Prize, an event that many of his present and past students (including me!) applauded in class a few years later—and was also a spell binding lecturer. When one student challenged him about whether reductionist science was undermining the marvels of religion and nature, Wald said, “I am not here to denigrate God; I just want to glorify molecules”.
    John Finley, classicist and master of one of the undergraduate houses, taught “Hum 2”—a study of classical texts, ranging from the Iliad and the Aeneid to Milton’s Paradise Lost and the plays of Ibsen and O’Neill. Finley had the same gift as Mr. Roberts, my high school Latin teacher. Not only did he explicate and give us insights into sometimes challenging texts (which we read in English); even more so than Mr. Roberts, he drew broader lessons, both from history and from the contemporary scene, which in his case included and sometimes foregrounded Harvard past and Harvard present. One never knew which lines or personalities or scenes Finley would connect and how he would manage to connect them—but they were often illuminating. We saw at work what I would later term “the synthesizing mind.”
    Walter Jackson Bate, professor of English literature and expert on the 18th Bate introduced undergraduates to “the Age of (Samuel) Johnson.” He knew the texts of Johnson’s major writings and could quote them at length. But what drew hundreds of students to his course each year (including me, as an auditor) was our sense that Bate strongly identified with Johnson, felt his pain and anguish, as well as his occasional pleasures and triumphs, and in a sense, became Johnson as he led us through the writer’s tumultuous times, as well as those experienced by his friends.

    Themes and Threads
    As I reflect on these instructors of my high school and college days, I find some common thread: in each case, they took a topic in which I might not have had an intrinsic interest and made it come alive for me (and for scores of others). They did so, not only by immersing me in a world with which I had little familiarity, but also by, in a sense, becoming that world and thereby opening it up to me. There were American history teachers and classical music teachers who did this as well—but because I already had interest in these topics, I think of them as confirming rather than as transforming me.

    It’s no accident that henceforth, the science to which I was attracted was biology, rather than astronomy, geology, chemistry, or physics. And it’s no accident that when I went to Europe after my graduation, I visited those sites and went to those theatrical productions which were associated with classical times and with England in the period of its glory… for example, hanging out at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, the pub that Samuel Johnson apparently favored.
    Just as these teachers connected me to worlds with which I had no prior connection, these classroom instructors also demonstrated how they were connected to those worlds and how that connection had enriched their lives and their scholarship. Stan Katz was a practicing historian who probed colonial history (his specialty), as well as legal history and the history of education. George Wald was an award-winning biologist specializing in vision who continued running his laboratory until old age and was also a political activist; while “Jack” Bate probed the lives of admired English authors.
    I cannot claim to have become an historian or a biologist or a biographer, but in fact I was able to engage in some original research in each of these areas. I always strive to place issues into historical context, and in 1985, I published The Mind’s New Science, the first history of the cognitive revolution in the sciences. Around 1970, I made a commitment—which lasted for decades—to carry out research in neuroscience. As a student of aphasia and other cortical disorders, I joined with colleagues to demonstrate hitherto underappreciated aspects of linguistic capacities of the right cerebral hemisphere. And in studying creative individuals from the last century, I was able to work with some original documents—notably literary drafts of T. S. Eliot, musical sketches by Igor Stravinsky, and rare films of Martha Graham, the pioneer in modern dance.
    And so, at least in these cases, the opportunities to learn from and interact with outstanding teachers, to observe the original work that they carried out, and to have the thrill of a genuine discovery or two were educationally transformative experiences.
    You are likely to have noted that nearly all the people I mentioned were white men, mostly middle aged—that was, for the most part, the Harvard Faculty in the early 1960s. I regret that I had few women teachers, and few teachers of color or less familiar ethnicities.
    But another set of teachers, whom I began to read as an undergraduate or a young graduate student, had enormous impact on me. Interestingly, most of them were Jewish, and often of European background. And I am pleased to say that the first and most influential of all was a woman, named Susanne K. Langer. More on her in a forthcoming blog.
    My friend and colleague, Rakesh Khurana, Dean of Harvard College, often speaks about three desirable transformations during the college years:

    who you are as a person;
    with whom and how you interact socially; and
    the ways in which you think about and come to know the world.

    These are commendable goals. It’s important to add that sometimes one does not need these transformations; sometimes the transformations can be destructive; and in many cases you won’t know for many years whether these transformations have transpired.

  • The DREAM Deferred: This DACA Recipient Isn’t Sure What The Future Holds

    by Noah Nelson

    This month has been nothing short of a roller coaster for those covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, better known as DACA. On September 5th, President Donald Trump pledged that he would end the Obama-era DACA program — an executive branch program that provided legal protections for undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children — in six months.
    But later last week, a series of announcements seemed to suggest that Trump was backtracking, or at least side-stepping, the most severe parts of a DACA repeal. A dinner with Democratic leaders on September 13th appeared to result in DACA being saved, or at least a deal having been worked out. Further statements may or may not have contradicted that, depending on who you ask. At this point in the still-unfolding story, it is unclear whether the roughly 800,000 immigrants covered under DACA should be readying themselves for deportation. For many of them, this is the only country they know.
    We reached out to one DACA recipient in Austin, Texas, who shared her thoughts on the future of DACA.
    “I feel like I am the child in this really toxic relationship and I’m being pulled from one side to the other…. not because someone really cares about me or my life, but because it’s really just that petty and they want to use me as a power play,” said Mona Rameriez.
    Rameriez recently graduated from the University of Texas.
    “I just finished studying anthropology and Latin American Studies,” she said. “I know that I wanted to be a lawyer but I saw no rush in it until most recently. I have a two and a half-year-old daughter and I wanted to take time off college to spend time with her and to work with my community….
    “But since I heard DACA was being rescinded, I don’t think that my timeline works anymore. I don’t think that my future is something that is stable. I don’t know what my future holds. Anything could happen tomorrow with the way the administration has been flip-flopping on what they want to do with my life, with my future. I don’t know. I am scared. I am angry.”
    The focus of some of her concerns: the President.
    “His tweets on DACA mean nothing without real concrete actions to protect…people who live in fear of deportation, who trusted the government with all of their information,” she said.
    Critics of the current situation note that DACA recipients have handed over data to the government that proves their undocumented status, making it all the easier to have them deported if the program is shut down without a replacement.
    “If Congress and Donald Trump really wanted to do the right thing, they will pass a clean DREAM Act to protect the immigrant youth without throwing the rest of our community under the bus,” Rameriez said.
    Rameriez refers to bi-partisan legislation originally proposed back in 2001, which would have provided a road to citizenship for immigrant youth. DACA itself was a stop-gap compromise put in place by the Obama administration because of the DREAM Act’s inability to pass a divided Congress. Now, with the clock ticking, Dreamers like Rameriez no longer know whether they will be welcome in what they think of as their home country just a few short months from now.

  • Digital Democracy: Participatory Mapping & Tool-building in the Amazon

    by erhardt

    This is a liveblog of a talk by Emily Jacobi (@emjacobi) at the MIT Center for Civic Media, written by Erhardt Graeff, Rahul Bhargava, and Alexis Hope. All errors are our own.
    Digital Democracy (DD) works in solidarity with groups around the world to empower marginalized communities to use technology to defend their rights. This means that they are different from other groups because they are not trying to pursue their own agenda through their work. Their mission is driven by the agenda of their partners.
    DD was founded almost 10 years after being inspired by research they were doing in Burma. Emily noticed a correlation between internet access and political engagement. She had a realization that new technology was being leveraged to make new kinds of engagement possible, but that it also creates new risks and challenges. They started by doing workshops and trainings that were requested by local partners

    Some of DD's earliest work was with women in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Women in the camps were self-organizing to respond to violence. The organization learned a lot about what it means to be engaged in a long-term partnership, and about not coming in with preconceived notions of a solution.
    They developed an SMS project that failed, but it led to a call center there that made positive impact. Emilie Reiser (from Civic Media) worked with this community on that project and the work informed a lot of what DD does now.
    Their approach involves two interlinked components: (1) direct engagement with local partners and (2) building open-source tools that come from the lived experiences of their partners.
    The core values underlying all their work are:

    Self-determination & Autonomy



    Social & Environmental Justice

    These values are not just about the inherent injustices faced by the indigenous people they work with, but goes to the core of how people are included in design processes and decision making about their futures. Their accessibility work includes topics such as language, usability, support for offline work, and more.
    Currently DD is working on longer-term projects in Ecuador and Guyana.
    Guyana Case Study
    See https://www.digital-democracy.org/ourwork/guyana/
    Wapichana people were guaranteed full-autonomy before independence, but have had to fight for over 5 decades to try to win this independence.  DD has been working for the past 5 years on mapping projects there.
    They've created a hyper-detailed map of their area. This includes everything from where they gather eggs, where rare birds are, churches, homesteads.
    They right now only have rights to where the villages are. The map helps them document their use of other lands to then try and gain rights to them. The mountains around them have lots of illegal gold mining, which is creating environmental risks that affect them.

    Part of the mapping work has involved helping people use drones to take imagery of illegal gold mining. They’ve taken the images to the government, and the government has responded by stopping the illegal mining activities.  In addition, they have been able to use this imagery internally to drive community discussions about why these issues matter to their survival.
    They have also been in talks with the government to determine whether they can have their full land rights recognized.
    Ecuador Case Study
    See http://www.digital-democracy.org/blog/update-from-the-ecuadorian-amazon/
    In Wuorani territory of eastern Ecuador they are working with native people's in a national forest. DD has been asked to accompany the Wuorani people to map their entire territory. This involves 12 current communities with the plan to bring in 10 more over the next year.
    The process starts with paper maps (accessible to all). Some communities will separate men and women for different workshops to ensure that everyone has a voice during the session by minimizing the gender dynamics.

    The hand-drawn maps beautifully illustrate their connection and knowledge of the land.  The process lets them take the information in their heads and share it with government officials making decisions about things like mining rights. Then they go out and collect GPS points they record in paper booklets (for now). They also do media making to capture narratives from across the territory. This project has helped bridge the gap between young people (who are often driven to move to the city for work) and elders, who have a deep knowledge of the area.

    They have "Technicos" that get trained are elected by the community.  They take these walks to take GPS points to produce a formal map based on the collaborative hand-drawn one.
    See http://www.digital-democracy.org/blog/mapeo-preview/
    One big gap they find is that in offline environments there are very few tools that work.  The ones that do are very complex to learn (ie. ArcGIS). DD wanted a tool that would remove them from the equation, letting communities manage their own information.
    A key goal of Mapeo is that all data and visualizations can be locally-owned and managed, the software is easy-to-use, works offline, and is collaborative. They've built on top of ID Editor, which is used with OpenStreetMaps (OSM). OSM has been helpful in creating maps of places that do not have them—for example, companies hadn’t mapped Haiti before the earthquake because there wasn’t commercial value in it, and OSM allowed people to build new maps.
    They've changed ID Editor to be culturally appropriate for the Wuorani people. This includes more appropriate defaults, and picking iconography to represent things like nesting grounds, villages, etc. The Wuorani people have also used Mapeo to identify not just specific locations, but also larger areas. For example, designating an area where they won’t hunt again for a while. It’s been useful in helping address self-governance questions.
    Once they've captured the GPS points, they print out a draft and have the community check and edit it in physical form.  Once those edits are done they print out big versions of the map.  They are designing and developing an interactive map that will also integrate stories and blogs about certain areas.

    Seikopai digital participative mapping from Digital Democracy on Vimeo.

    My family is from Guyana — I can’t believe you’re working there. Why did you choose Guyana?

    DD got a Knight News grant to work on what has become Mapeo. DD connected to the Guyana groups after they heard about DD's previous work in Peru. Then they were invited in to collaborate.

    I worked in an area on the coast and we were doing a tree inventory. This tool could be great for mapping the trees and how they use them.

    The desktop version of Mapeo works well, but they are working on a mobile version that will work better for ongoing work.

    Is there a fear that the information could be used by the wrong people?

    DD has forked off of OSM, so everything is internal. The community can decide what is released to the world and when. Open data is important when discussing players in power. For small actors, opening data creates opportunities for exploitation. DD tries to help their partners are agency over that and navigate it.

    How long does this take?

    Sometimes groups really need to make a map. Other times the mapping is a way to build community awareness. With the Wuorani the first few villages took a long time, but now DD just provides tech support and bug fixing.

    Do you have materials about how to be the sidekick and support well?

    Right now neither side of DD's work is ready to easily share. The idea is to have guides and manuals. The idea of being a "sidekick rather than a superhero" is a great way to say it. DD tries to fight the superhero narrative.

    How do start to talk with our funders about this type of process - maybe building partnerships for 3 years before tools are designed built.

    Can we do this as a coalition somehow.  Mapeo was funded by the Knight News Challenge, which they've managed to stretch for a long time. DD's partners work with international groups to find funding to support roll-out. We now have a tool that is worthy of investment but a few years ago I would have been lying to make the pitch that we have a project that is ready to go.

    Is the tool ready for implementation in other places—for instance there is a need for mapping biodiversity in Mexico?

    If you know how to use GitHub, then yes! But we do not have a lot of the supportive resources put in place that a lot of people need to implement it. It's also important to note that the tool is oriented toward a community working on it together rather than an individual. Also, it is important to note that the Wuorani people's map icons are those people's intellectual property but they are working on generic rainforest icons that anyone can use on their own maps.

    Is there any effort to adapt Mapeo to coastal communities?

    We are fortunate that their is a lot of the Amazon and lot of people working on that effort. But I think it's possible to adapt to those geographies.

    Would you be interested in bringing in additional drone mapping and machine learning processing to expand the mapping efforts?

    One of the most valuable aspects of the current mapping process is the human element where everyone has a chance to have a voice in the process. There are some cases where a more rapid response might be warranted to address a specific need, but there is a lot of value in the slower process.

    Some people think about mapping in terms of the switch from oral traditions to written or visual, and so how do you think about what is lost through the process?

    The Wuorani was first contacted by Baptist missionaries a few decades ago, which led to disease and social problems. And for them mapping represented something that was imposed on them, telling them where their territory was and what they could or couldn't do with it. Maps have been used to disempower people for centuries. The Mapeo process offers them an opportunity to claim some of this power back.


  • Confronting Class Across The Fast Food Counter

    by Teresa Chin

    Emiliano Villa, 18 (Latino) – Oakland, Calif.
    Fast-food worker
    The sad truth is, I’ve given up my summer and my social life, for a paycheck. In order to pay my way through college starting this fall, I work long hours at a local fast-food restaurant, where a closing shift often means getting home at 3:30 in the morning.
    It’s always awkward when kids I know come in as customers. There was a time when a whole car full of my classmates pulled up to the drive-through while I was working. They were laughing and blasting music, until they got to my window and recognized me. There was an exchange of awkward “How-are-yous.” But the underlying context was clear: Instead of being out having a good time on a Saturday night, I was at work, serving them.
    Even in a place as diverse as Oakland, race seems to be a factor in who has to work and who doesn’t. I’ve noticed that my black and Latino friends are the ones who seem to work the most during the summers. Each person in my friend group works at a different fast food restaurant, so we have all the bases covered. We’re teenage representatives for our burger, taco, and pizza joints. My friends and I look to each other for support in our jobs. We complain to each other about our annoying bosses and bad customer experiences. We relate to each other when we feel sleepy in summer school from a long shift the night before.
    My friends and I work so that we can afford small luxuries, like our phones or our clothes.
    We get a glimpse of the kind of summer our non-working peers enjoy — hanging out, having fun — at least according to their Snapchat stories. I think that’s the ultimate privilege: not some sort of fancy unpaid internship or job hookup through your parents, but the freedom to spend your last summer before college doing nothing. In the fall, many of those kids will be off to school out-of-state, leaving the rest of us here.
    I try to think of my summer job as an investment. I work hard so that in four years I can have a college degree to my name and a path carved out for myself. And sometimes when I’m stressed, the job becomes a kind of meditation. The sizzling grill, the bubbling of the fryers, my co-workers calling out orders. The constant barrage of sound allows me to block out my worries, at least for the moment.

    Emiliano Villa is a writer for Youth Radio in Oakland, California. His essay appeared as part of a Youth Radio collaboration with the New York Times’ Race/Related.

  • What It’s Like To Be A Teen Farmworker

    by Teresa Chin

    Maria, 16 (Latina) – Merced, Calif. 
    (Maria requested that her full name not be used. Her family was granted political asylum in the U.S., after fleeing Mexico, but they still fear being targeted by the cartels.)
    Seasonal farmworker
    This summer I’ve gone back and forth between taking college classes and doing short stints as a farmworker here in California’s Central Valley. My first time working in the fields was last summer with my mom. I had been asking her for money to buy school supplies, and we both knew it was a way for me to have a little pocket money and also help out.
    Around my hometown Merced, I know other kids who work in the fields during the summer, so there’s no stigma attached to it. Still, getting ready to go work out there for the first time last year, I was nervous. I knew it would be a heavy job. It’s hot and very physical work. I asked my mom what I was in for, and she told me I’d know what it was like once I did it. And she was right — it’s something you have to experience to understand.
    We wake up really early — 5 a.m. — which is hard for me since I’m used to sleeping in. I put on lots of layers — a long-sleeved sweater, a hat, boots, and a handkerchief. It gets hot, but we need to wear it all in order to protect ourselves from sunburn later in the day. We have to bring our own food and water. In the mornings, mom packs lunch for both us (usually sandwiches and beans) and then we head out together.
    The shifts start around 7 a.m. and go until 4 or 5 p.m. Last year, I was too young to pick anything, but there are lots of other jobs to do out there, like clear sticks and brush to make it easier for workers to move. At one point, my job was to get rid of pests; I think they were gophers. I used a shovel to throw poison into their holes and cover the opening with a mound of dirt. I felt weird because I like animals and I don’t like the idea of killing them. I did it because it was part of the job.
    My friends who regularly work in the field do it because they want to earn money and they don’t like school. But I work because I love school. It’s a way to make my education possible. I earn money for books and supplies. Going to school is first on my mind. My mom thinks about it, too. She says she works in the fields year-round to make it possible for my siblings and me to do something better.
    Working in the fields for the first time was hard. I was exhausted at the end of the day. But at the same time, I enjoyed it. I like the sounds of the fields, hearing people speaking Spanish and the radio blasting ranchera tunes. It sounds like my childhood. I find it comforting. Being out there, I feel more connected to my community. And I’ve recently started getting involved in politics to advocate for immigrant and farmworker rights.
    Even though I could get a job doing other things, I like being out in the fields with my mom. I feel like I understand her better now that I know what she goes through every day.

    Maria is a part of We’Ced in Merced, California and a correspondent for Youth Radio. Her essay appeared as part of a Youth Radio collaboration with the New York Times’ Race/Related.

  • Love For Appalachia, Longing For More Opportunity

    by Teresa Chin

    Lauren Rose, 19 (White) – McRoberts, KY
    Shaved ice stand employee, intern at media non-profit
    In my hometown, McRoberts, Kentucky, there aren’t a lot of options for summer jobs. In fact, there aren’t a lot of businesses, period. Most people drive 30 minutes away just to get their groceries. I live in the remnants of an old Appalachian coal town, which is predominantly white. Since many residents have moved to seek better economic opportunities elsewhere, the area feels isolated.
    It’s pretty typical for kids here to work. I started at a shaved-ice stand when I turned 15, so I could begin saving up for a car and clothes and normal teenage stuff.  Now at 19, I’m still at the same job and I usually have a second one. I do this because I want to have the freedom not to rely on my parents. There are a handful of young people around here who are better off. Maybe their parents can afford to give them $20 once in awhile — but most people are in the same boat, working hard and living comfortably enough.
    Right now my second job is a paid internship at a youth media organization in Whitesburg, Kentucky. I’m making a film about my community and black lung, a disease that affects miners. This is the first time I’ve ever had a job where I’ve been paid to be creative.
    My job at the shaved-ice stand has nothing to do with creativity. On a typical day, I make more than 300 shaved ice cones. There’s a machine we use to break down the ice. We adjust the blades and it transforms the ice block into a big pile of snow. I’m a perfectionist about the final product, and I’m often assigned to train new employees. But the truth is, after four years I hate working here. I just don’t have that many other options. Between my two jobs, I work seven days a week. It’s very draining. I’ve been sick a lot this summer, and I think it’s because I’m stressed all the time.  
    It’s not just teenagers like me who have to work jobs like this to make ends meet. Since the mine layoffs, a lot of people are having to switch careers and take on service or retail jobs to help their families. I worked with a single mom at the shaved-ice stand. She was there up to six days a week, just to provide for her daughter. The pay wasn’t much, hardly anything in comparison to her ex-husband’s old mining job. I thought her hard work was admirable. It wore her down, but it meant her daughter had everything she needed.
    Thinking about a future here, everyone my age is faced with the same predicament: should we stay or should we go? I want to contribute to this place. This is where my family is from. It’s where I have my network. I love how even if you don’t know someone here, you still smile at them on the street. In big cities, it’s like they have no sense of community at all.  But the reality is that jobs are hard to come by in Appalachia, and chances are slim that I can stay here and be successful at the same time.

    Lauren Rose is a part of The Appalachian Media Institute in Whitesburg, Kentucky and a correspondent for Youth Radio. Additional production support by Willa Johnson.
    Lauren’s essay appeared as part of a Youth Radio collaboration with the New York Times’ Race/Related.

  • Interning While Black: Battling Imposter Syndrome

    by Teresa Chin

    Tahir Juba, 19 (Black) – Baltimore, MD
    Tech company intern
    This summer, I’ve been interning at a tech company that makes mobile apps.
    Even before I started my internship, I anticipated the racial dynamic. I rarely see African-Americans in professional STEM environments. Being young, black and Muslim, it’s a little intimidating working in a place without many people of color.
    Besides race, the main thing that made me nervous about starting my tech internship was the skill differences between the other workers and me. I haven’t done much with coding or web development before coming into a big company like this.  I took one robotics class in high school, and it felt pretty basic. While other people here are computer science majors, I’m mostly self-taught. I watch YouTube instructional videos and check out online learning sites to sharpen my web and coding skills.
    But sometimes, I still feel like I really shouldn’t be here.
    So I come up with ways to cope. I learned about code-switching in my African-American Literature class, and I try to implement that at work. I use a more professional, standard vocabulary so that I won’t stand out even more, based on the way that I speak. I say, “Good morning,” to people instead of “What’s up?” I never use slang. I ditch my jeans and graphic t-shirts for a button-up shirt and khakis. I dress business-casual even though other interns do not. It helps me feel like I belong.
    But I feel lucky. My company has done a lot to make me feel comfortable in this setting, where I could otherwise feel like an outsider. Everyone is very nice and helpful here. They’re open to taking on interns like me who don’t have a lot of experience, and they encourage me to learn on the job. I know a few of the other interns are black. Not that I’ve met them in person, but I’ve seen them in the intern group photo. So I know they exist. That’s comforting.
    My long-term goal is to do something in robotics and engineering. I think that robotics could make the world a lot better, especially when it comes to the environment, using solar and clean energy. I know that means I’ll continue to deal with “imposter syndrome.” But I’m hopeful that as more minority people like me go into the tech industry, the more natural it will feel to see people in these jobs who talk the way we talk, joke the way we joke, and dress the way we dress.
    Until then, I’ll try to convince myself — and everyone else — that I really do belong here.

    Tahir Juba is a part of Wide Angle Youth Media in Baltimore, Maryland and a correspondent for  Youth Radio. His essay appeared as part of a Youth Radio collaboration with the New York Times’ Race/Related.