Code Warriors: Nichole Pinkard and her Digital Youth Network lead a quest for digital literacy

By Scoop Jackson

Malcolm Harlan and Akili Lee were never supposed to meet. Their paths were never supposed to cross. Malcolm, a grammar school student at the time, was supposed to be “one of those inner city black kids” who was either going to be someone’s charity case or a kid that too often found himself unnecessarily laying facedown on the concrete with a member of the CPD holding a gun to his head because he fit “their” version of a description, while Akili, a web application developer, was supposed to be on the fast track to being one of Fortune magazine’s “40 Under 40” business minds reshaping the way we digitally communicate and integrate with one another.

But someone—Dr. Nichole Pinkard—had a vision that it was necessary for these two, and others like them, to meet. Continue reading

Government 2.0: How Mayor Emanuel is Using Social Media to Engage Chicagoans

Kevin Hauswirth/Photo: Brooke Collins

By Ella Christoph

Even before he took office, Mayor Rahm Emanuel knew he wanted a social media director—a position Richard M. Daley did not have. Appointed on Emanuel’s inaugural day, Kevin Hauswirth was not hired to earn votes for Emanuel during the election. Hauswirth, formerly an instructor of communications and advertising director for Roosevelt University, was tasked with the job of supplying Emanuel with a constant digital pulse—a live feed, so to speak—on the city. Rather than just tweet updates and YouTube press conferences, Emanuel wanted to hear what voters had to say over the Internet as well.  Continue reading

Crash Mentality: Decoding the Limitations Our Programmers Put On Us

Illustrations: Brett Muller

By Michael Workman

In August I had my fortieth birthday. I spent it alone, online, having short, 140-character or less interactions with people, some of whom I know, some of whom I don’t, in status updates on Facebook. I wasn’t particularly thrilled with the idea of celebrating the moment when I toppled over the hill anyway, and vacillated about how to mark it until it was too late. At midnight on the appointed day, I found myself with no plans whatsoever, drinking in bed with my laptop, just myself and the electronic glow of the screen. It felt good to have at least the option of reaching out to others this way and yet, as the congratulations and well-wishes began to tick down my wall, I found myself wondering, “Is this it?” Have we lost, or are we in danger of losing something that makes us integrally who we are as human beings that this has become the standard mode of our communal interaction? I’ll admit, I was happy to have these people out there, somewhere in the world, conscious of and willing to reach out to me on what I felt was the last, biggest birthday milestone of my life (that is, unless I make it to one hundred, but by then I’ll probably be senile and it won’t matter anyway). Continue reading

411: Wired and Ready

Last August city officials canceled plans for citywide Wi-Fi, but freely available wireless may yet reach Chicago’s neighborhoods. In North Lawndale, international nonprofit One Economy has teamed up with local organizations such as the North Lawndale Community News to bring the benefits of computer technology to the slowly revitalizing West Side neighborhood. Motorola is funding the pilot project, which will bring wireless access and laptops to about 3,500 Lawndalers, including students of Kellman Elementary. “We consider this to be one of the first examples of how a community with urban demographics can create a community wireless network,” says Nicol Turner-Lee, Vice President of Digital Inclusion at One Economy. If the Lawndale Wireless Community Network Project, which officially launches in September, is successful, One Economy hopes to bring the project to other Chicago neighborhoods. Meanwhile, a partner organization, Southside Technology Cooperative, is installing a wireless network in Bronzeville. Before long we may see Chicago’s citywide Wi-Fi rise from the ground up rather than the top down.