Articles by

Kristen Wile

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    Above: Susan Crawford, co-director, Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Harvard University, during Knight Foundation's Media Learning Seminar 2015. Photo by Patrick Farrell.  At the reception before Susan Crawford’s talk at Queens University of Charlotte on Thursday evening, the center table with platters of fruit, cheese, and vegetables attracted few guests. Attendees were already busy talking about the topic of the evening. The guests were buzzing about the digital divide, age and technology gaps, and the anticipation of Google Fiber, which is expected to begin service in Charlotte in 2017. It was clear Crawford was going to have an interested audience already well versed on Internet access. Crawford, a professor at Harvard Law and co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, has written several books on the subject of connectivity. Her new book, “The Responsive City,” co-authored with Stephen Goldsmith, a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School, highlights case studies and practical ways that the digital age allows more meaningful connections between people and government. She recounted lessons learned while serving in the Obama administration, including a discussion with a senior official about shifting financial aid from those who can’t afford telephones to those without Internet. He responded, “But phones are two-way.” The conversation made her realize how little people understand the need for access to fast Internet.
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    Photo: Charlotte market by Kirsten Wile. When 7th Street Public Market first opened in Charlotte, N.C., in 2012, people questioned the likelihood of its success. Today, it’s a popular destination for quality coffee, fresh cheeses and local goods, and the tables clustered in the middle of the market’s stalls and restaurants are frequently packed. So it was a fitting location for some of the city’s most inspired residents to come together and discuss how to make Charlotte better. Some of the attendees came to gathering of like-minded advocates for the city on Wednesday evening with questions they were hoping to gain new perspectives on. Others looked to expand their networks over pizza and beer. But each person had a common mission. “I feel like anybody who’s lived somewhere long enough will have ideas about, ‘Oh, man, they really need to do this, that, right there,’ ” said Varian Shrum, a planning and neighborhood consultant with Charlotte Center City Partners. “At a certain point, you realize, ‘Who is ‘they’?” So Shrum became “they.” She wrote a 100-word proposal and became one of 25 K880 Emerging City Champions, a group of civic innovators recently selected from eight Knight communities. With the title, she won Knight Foundation support through the champions program administered by 8 80 Cities, a nonprofit that believes if a city can be a welcoming home for everyone from ages 8 to 80 it will work for any resident.