Friday, August 12, 2011

Greg Niemeyer's Social App Lab launches City Sandbox: Q&A Site for Civic Action

After developing, a 2008 Digital Media & Learning Competition winner, Greg Niemeyer went on to co-found Social App Lab, a new initiative at UC Berkeley's Center for Informational Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS). New this summer from Social App Lab, a team of thinkers, doers, and makers launched CitySandbox, a Q&A site for civic action.

Ever wonder what's going on with that empty lot? Or when the new city park is supposed to open? Maybe you've wondered where the closest community garden is located. CitySandbox is designed to leverage the collective power of the Internet to impact local, physical surroundings, and to answer those questions that don't tend to show up in Google search results. According to the website:

At CitySandbox, you ask questions about specific places in your city and discuss them with other residents. You identify priorities, form collective opinions, and take action on goals. You can find out who else in interested in your questions and how the community as a group can address them. Through a system of voting and discussion, all community members can use CitySandbox to weigh in, make their voices heard, and build their reputations as active citizens. As groups form around issues, CitySandbox provides an easy way to communicate with other people interested in the same questions and create events which others can join to take action.

In an interview with Alexndra Chang, Greg describes the unique purpose of CitySandbox:

"CitySandbox attempts to fill the gap by making physical location the central way to navigate questions, setting it apart from other question services. And the embedded Google maps let users see what people are saying about, for example, the park down the street."

CitySandbox is currently in beta, with testing taking place in Berkely -- but it's easy to see how a site like this would be useful to any community that has potholes and citizens who question, and care.

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