To recap: I am a fourth year Urban Studies student at the University of Toronto and I am currently taking INI 437, a fourth year internship/ seminar course. During reading week, I, along with 10 of my classmates and the instructor, travelled to New York City for one of our class field trips. From the tour at the Tenement Museum in the Lower East Side to a lecture at the Skyscraper Museum, this ‘learning outside the classroom experience’ has given me a valuable opportunity to learn more about New York City.
The Harlem walking tour was one of the most memorable group activities during my time in New York City. The tour was led by Neal, a native Harlemite who spoke of culture and historical development of Harlem. During the tour, Neal introduced us to one particular teenager on the street, who he calls his nephew. Neal said that teenagers like his nephew in Harlem are equally respectable because many of these teenagers are often misrepresented by the media based on their fashion. Besides the great stories told, I am impressed by Neal’s engagement with his community. Neal emphasized the importance of social media and the pivotal role social media has towards the community and civic participation. For instance, Neal recognizes that Harlem is currently experiencing a period of gentrification and he advocates the use of social media, like Facebook and blogs, among youths to raise concerns over gentrification in order to protect the cultural heritage of Harlem.
I finally realized that the use of social media is a global social phenomenon. From the uprising in Egypt to the use of social media in Harlem, I see a connection to my internship project. In particular, a significant part of my internship involves a long-term project whose goal is to create a way for Framework to visualizes emerging causes and trends that helps Canadians connect to causes they care about. The collection will consist of a series of open interactive maps that can be easily shared with other users. By creating open data, it is easier for Framework to ‘bring people to causes and causes to people’.