Community Engagement

By Krithi Chandrakasan, Sharlene Chiu, and Willie Zhu

The Go Boston 2030 initiative reached out to members of the community to gather their questions about the urban transportation system of tomorrow. While responders were typically curious about congestion and flying cars, the most memorable piece of information from the dataset was a comment about the Go Boston 2030 initiative itself. “Resident #engagement at its best, in my hometown!” a local Bostonian told the surveyors. 

We decided to create an interactive game that tells the story of a fictional city mayor trying to increase the level of engagement with their constituents. This game is targeted toward people who want to play a role in Boston’s governmental system and are uncertain about what sort of changes to make in urban transportation.

In the game, the player moves around a map of Boston and meets with residents of different neighborhoods. These residents ask you, the mayor, questions about transportation, and the game keeps track of the category to which the question belongs. At the end, the player can take a look at the types of issues they received to think about the next steps in transportation.

Our goal is that after speaking with the different community members, the player has learned how someone, particularly a governmental figure, can lend an ear to others to better understand people’s concerns and visions for their city.

Sharlene’s Sunday Data Log

Activity Captured in Digital Form
February 12, 2017

  • Meal Swipes – Captured every time I swipe my card into a dining hall
  • Physical Activity – Fitbit captures heartbeat, number of steps, etc. throughout the day
  • Emails – Apple Mail on my desktop syncs with the mobile Outlook app to keep track of which emails I’ve read and sent
  • iPhone App Usage – Records percentage of battery usage each mobile app takes up
  • Facebook Messages – Website and Messenger app tracks which messages I’ve sent and read
  • Card Access – Captured every time I tap my MIT ID into a room or building
  • Internet – Browsing history saved on browser or to Google account
  • Logins – Captured every time I login to a website
  • Google Drive – Tracks new uploads and changes to files
  • Dropbox – Tracks new uploads and changes to files. Desktop version syncs with online version
  • TripAdvisor – Website probably tracks which location webpages have been visited
  • Credit Card – Captured every time I purchase something using a credit card
  • Find My Friends – App tracks GPS location

The Political Compass

Last semester, I studied voter advice applications. More specifically, I dug into the methodologies used by these applications to recommend political candidates based on the users’ political stances. Most applications provided a ranked list of recommended candidates at the completion of the questionnaires, but a website called The Political Compass took a more passive approach.

The Political Compass represents one’s political ideology through coordinates on a two-dimensional scale, with one axis representing the social spectrum and the other representing the economic spectrum.

This two-dimensional scale represents the different combinations and degrees of political ideology.

After taking their questionnaire, I can see where I’m placed on their ideological scale, as well as where candidates and world leaders are placed. I notice my coordinate position is close to those of certain candidates, which means The Political Compass concluded that those candidates and I share similar ideologies.

After completing the questionnaire, users are placed on the scale to determine their political ideology.
This is how “The Political Compass” places 2016 U.S. Presidential Candidates on their scale.

This implicit conclusion sends the message that I ought to view those candidates more favorably, and that people on similar positions on the scale are similar in ideology. I can imagine this process elicits varying reactions from users—I’d personally feel a bit upset if my coordinate position was close to Hitler’s. Not to mention, these results present a metric for candidate-to-candidate and candidate-to-user comparisons, which can either confirm or contrast one’s preexisting opinions about the political arena.

Applying the liberal/conservative spectrum to the economic/social axes seems to overly simplify the meaning of ideology, but people do seem to view political stances through binary lenses. Including other factors or dimensions would hopefully signal a shift away from a polarizing approach to politics.