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Voice for the Voiceless, a Table Talk Lunch Series at Kay

On Thursday January 28th, American University's Kay Spiritual Life Center' sponsored a panel, Tweets & Blogs: Social Media as a Voice for the Voiceless. (CSM cosponsored.) The speakers included:.

Emily Jacobi is the Co-Founder and Director of Digital Democracy, a New York-based nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering civic engagement through digital technologies.

David Johnson is a Professor of Journalism at American University and teaches courses in digital journalism, interactive storytelling and convergence media.

Matt Wood is the Associate Director of the Media Access Project, non-profit law firm and advocacy organization.

Emily Jacobi from Digital Democracy began the talk with a Powerpoint reviewing her current work in Burma, Moldova and Haiti.You can watch it on Slideshare here

Of particular note is Digital Democracy's work with the Ushahidi platform. We've covered Ushahidi on various occasions. However for those of you unfamiliar, Ushahidi is a participatory platform created by group of Kenyan activists in 2007 that offers citizens the chance to map trouble areas within conflict or natural disaster zones. Digital Democracy has used this platform in both Burma and now in Haiti.

David Johnson, Professor at AU, introduced himself as a anthro-technologist, the place where culture and technology interact. He briefly talked about his work with Twitter Vote Report (see our analysis on that here) and then also began to talk about his volunteer work for Haiti. Along with thousands of other techies, David has been meeting online to develop special apps to support aid workers. For example, one recent development has been an English/ Patois translator app.

David also addressed the issue of meritocracy and credibility within the sphere of social media and citizen journalism. As the use of social media grows, the need for legitimacy measurement tools increases as well.

Matt Wood from Media Access Project talked in depth about the policy making sphere. Matt explained that previously contentious issues revolved around the publics right to receive information (he cited the 1969 supreme court Red Lion case) This battle has shifted now to the publics' right to create information. Media Access Project supports policies to make democracy and freedom of speech more affordable.