Home > Uncategorized > Nathan and his Open Ideals » NYU ITP H79.2800.1 Fall 2009

Nathan and his Open Ideals » NYU ITP H79.2800.1 Fall 2009

NYU ITP H79.2800.1 Fall 2009

Social Activism using Mobile Technology

Adjunct Professor: Nathan Freitas

Tuesdays 6:30pm to 9:00pm (Class Public Google Calendar)

Fall 2009


Weekly Log

We all know how mobile phones and ubiquitous computing have changed communication and networking in our personal lives, but do you understand the affect they have had on political and social justice movements around the world? More importantly, do you know how this has been done, so that you can apply these techniques when your own moment to raise your voice comes? While Obama Vice-Presidential SMS announcement was a milestone for politics in the U.S., activists and organizations around the world have been using mobile, portable communications technology for years to get their message out, organize their communities, safely communicate under authoritarian eyes and save lives in times of crisis. Through studying historic, global uses of mobile technology and then teaching you how to use and apply these techniques, this course will give you the power 2B THE CHNG U WNT 2 C.

This course will study and apply the use of SMS capture and broadcast systems (FrontlineSMS/RapidSMS), mobile crisis & event reporting tools (Ushahidi, VoteReport), Bluetooth broadcast systems, pirate Wifi mesh nodes, helmet-cam mobile phones and wearable UMPC/NetBook video broadcast systems. The course will also study about security and privacy of mobile phones and the possibility for open-source telephony. While the focus will be on the cutting edge, we’ll also review the historic importance of police scanners, HAM radio, walkie talkie radios and other “old school” tools that have played important roles in the civil rights movement, the environmental movement and more.

Actual organizations, causes and activists will be invited to speak to the class (both in-person and via Skype from around the world) to offer their stories and observations. Opportunities to work on projects with these movements will be presented to students. Some experience programming mobile devices (J2ME, iPhone, Android) will be useful, but not necessary. Experience in setting up at least one web server/application or blog system preferred. Having a cause you work or identify with or at least something you care about will be very important.

Important Resources:

Syllabus (this page): http://openideals.com/itp2800

Mailing List: TND

SMS Mailing List: text ITP2800 to 41411

Homework Wiki: TBD

Books / Ongoing Resources:


Office Hours: TBD


  • 20% Assignments
  • 25% Class Participation / Attendance
  • 25% Midterm
  • 30% Final Project

** IMPORTANT: Every student will pick an active cause for which to orient/contextualize their work throughout the semester around. A portion of the grade on the Final Project and Midterm will be determined by feedback from the organization representing the cause.

(75% or less is a failing grade. See ITP Pass/Fail rules for more info.)


Mandatory, unexcused absences will effect your final grade. If you are going to be absent, please let me know ahead of time if you can.


Excessive lateness will effect your grade. Don’t be late.

Tech in Class:

Laptop use is prohibited while other students are presenting or during discussion. While I am lecturing you may use them for note taking or class related work. In other words, respect your fellow students and don’t check your email/tweets/streams.

As this is a class focus on the use of mobile technology, use of mobile devices during class to take notes, document speakers and so on will be highly encouraged. However, the same rules apply – don’t check your texts or call your buddies.

Wearable computing devices, especially really nerdy ones or invisible/stealthy ones are allowed 100% of the time.

Class Format: This class is a combination of a survey and workshop. Students will be lectured on the history and usage of specific mobile technologies in social activism. Each week will also feature one or more guest expert speakers (either live or remote via video/audio link) to provide real world, first-hand accounts of the application in the field for specific causes. Each student will pick a cause of their own to affiliate with for the entire semester. Homework, papers, midterms and final projects will all be within context of and applicable to this cause.

Weekly Rundown:

Week 1 – September 8

Topics: Introductions, Syllabus, Review / Discuss Causes

Handout: http://openideals.com/2009/09/09/itp2800-week-1/


  • Signup for the mailing system (terrestrial and mobile)
  • SMS Mailing List: text ITP2800 to 41411
  • Get your own Textmarks.com keyword and make it do something
  • Create a hashtag on Twitter and see how many mentions you can get
  • Find a mobile app (iPhone, Android, Blackberry or other) that you think is a good representation of Social Activism and post a public review of it
  • Research and pick a cause to affiliate with


Week 2 – September 15

Updated 9/14: Live from Thailand (and recently in Burma): Digital Democracy

Homework info and links: http://openideals.com/2009/09/17/itp2800-week2/

Postponed: In the beginning: Morse Code and the Telegraph, WWII, Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS), Radio, GPS

Week 3 – September 22 The Power of 160 Characters: Txtmob, Tsunami, Twitter

Homework info and links: http://openideals.com/2009/09/25/itp2800-week3/

Week 4 – September 29 Mobile Campaigns from Text to Video: Texting, Ringtones and Camera Phones
Tonyo Cruz – http://txtpower.org – Mobileactivist, writer and journalist Philippines – Since 2001, Tonyo has helped convene TXTPower, the leading mobile activist group in the Philippines and helped initiate its many high profile campaigns.

Ben Stein – MobileCommons – http://www.mobilecommons.com
Mobile Commons’ customers are some of the leading cause-related organizations in the world. They use our web-based application to create mobile programs based around text messaging, voice calls, and web-based interactive components. With those tools, they raise money, build their lists, add interactivity to live events, get more support from the web, and make it easier for their ideas to spread.

Week 5 – October 6 China and Tibet: On the Front Lines of Mobile Technology

Week 6 – October 13 Covering a Crisis:  TwitterVoteReport, SwiftRiver, Ushahidi, AliveInAfghanistan

Week 7 – October 20 Review and Midterm Workshop

Week 8 – October 27 Show Midterms

Week 9 – November 3 The New Pirates: VOIP Pirate Radio and Jailbroken Rooted Fon Pwnage

Week 10 – November 10 – TBD

Week 11 – November 17 Building an Open-Source Alternative Mobile System and Subverting App Stores for Good

Week 12 – November 24 Final Project Proposals

Week 13 – December 1 Final Project Workshop

Week 14 – December 8 Final Projects Showtime

Very intriguing class just completed. Quite useful resources

Posted via web from Ted’s Nothing but Net Explorations

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