Take a Deep Breath

Mutual aid and social solidarity in a time of social distancing; killing "virality" and much more.


Civic tech in the time of the Great Pandemic: Here’s our Matt Stempeck, who wrote his graduate thesis at MIT’s Center for Civic Media on humanitarian crowdsourcing, explaining for Civicist some of the best ways to use digital engagement technology for remote collaboration.

We Need Social Solidarity, Not Just Social Distancing, writes Eric Klinenberg in a must-read for the New York Times op-ed page.

In that vein, here’s a directory of literally hundreds of COVID mutual aid local groups popping up all across the UK, mostly via Facebook groups, and a backgrounder on what they are and how they work.

Here’s a growing list of COVID-19 mutual aid groups forming all over the United States.

Lucy Diavolo of Teen Vogue explains mutual aid more, here.

MainersTogether.com is a new site set up by the Maine People’s Alliance to enable people there to share needs, offer help, and effectively problem-solve through the crisis.

InvisibleHandsDeliver is a new site started by four “healthy 20-somethings” offering safe, free deliveries to New York City and Jersey City residents who are at greatest risk of catching COVID-19.

QuarantineChat is a new app built by two artists that will randomly match you with another caller from around the world who is also hungry to have a conversation.

Here’s a growing repository of Resources for Online Meetings, Gatherings and Events, curated by the Facilitators for Pandemic Response group.

Shamus Khan, the chair of Columbia University’s sociology department, is crowdsourcing proposals from people aren’t encumbered with children to offer short online course for kids stuck at home as schools close. “Could free up 20 parents for a short period of time. If enough of us child-free folks did it, it could really help out parents,” he tweets.

Vu Le, who writes the weekly NonProfitAF blog, writes this week that this is the “rainy day that funders have been saving up for,” urging them to increase their payout rates and get more money out the door.

Attend: RadCampaign is hosting a Nonprofit Digital Strategy Virtual Summit March 28. Sign up here.

Sister District has asked all of its volunteer leaders to postpone, move to virtual, or cancel in-person events of any size through May 10, and to hold virtual house parties instead.

NYC’s Progressive Hacknight, which has been meeting biweekly for the last few years, is shifting to a virtual meeting model, starting this Wednesday night.

Facing the Infodemic: Here’s a running list of the hoaxes spreading about coronavirus, tallied by Jane Lytvynenko of BuzzFeed News. Taking a deep breath and holding it for 10 seconds is NOT an accurate way to diagnose yourself, for example. Nor is it true that people of color are more likely to be immune from it.

Tech and politics: Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) has proposed a universal-basic-income style way to get help to Americans dealing the economic effects of the Great Pandemic: “Every American adult should immediately receive $1,000 to help ensure families and workers can meet their short-term obligations and increase spending in the economy,” he said Monday. “Congress took similar action during the 2001 and 2008 recessions. While expansions of paid leave, unemployment insurance, and SNAP benefits are crucial, the check will help fill the gaps for Americans that may not quickly navigate different government options.”

About that website that Google is building to get people tested for the virus, much touted by President Trump last week? Actually, Google subsidiary Verily is building a triage site just for the Bay Area, Dieter Bohn reports for The Verge. Ina Fried of Axios runs down the whole mess.

Meanwhile, Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden tried to have a virtual town hall, and just like Hillary Clinton trying to slide her metrocard to ride the subway, things didn’t go well, as Makena Kelly recounts for The Verge.

Privacy, shmivacy: Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence service has begun using digital surveillance, including cellular geolocalization, “to verify the past whereabouts of patients that have tested positive for COVID-19, or to check if they had violated a quarantine order,” Noa Landau, Amos Harel and Josh Breiner report for Ha’Aretz.

Deep thoughts: Kate Losse, whose book about the early days of Facebook, The Boy Kings, is essential reading, writes for Barron’s about a central irony of the moment:

Now, at the end of a decade of virality as a wealth driver, technology’s architects and those who live in the world it structured are experiencing a stark turn: Virality has become primarily literal, and pathological, again. And if, in the roaring tens, we as a population served many times over as human nodes in a number of very profitable technological networks, we’re all now grappling with ourselves as potential nodes for very real disease vectors. We’re thinking about how to arrest our personal roles in the transmission of this disease.

Her larger point: When the dust settles, maybe we’ll have rethought the value of “going viral” and instead put our attention on smaller and more valuable things, like real human interaction.

Not about Coronavirus: Here’s a new paper by Public Agenda’s Quixada Moore-Vissing, Jim Euchner and Will Friedman called “Toward a More Democracy-Friendly Internet” that looks at how AI on social media could help, rather than make things worse.

End times: Alternate-side parking rules in New York City have not been suspended.

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