The RootIO (roots radio) is a civic media project to develop a loosely-integrated, content-agnostic “solution stack” for peer-oriented radio networks. The project aims to mix communities, telephony, networking, and radio to create new models of community information. RootIO crosses the best parts of community radio, broadcast networks, and peer production into a vertically integrated platform, gluing together existing technologies and creating new ones where necessary.
RootIO grew out of the recognition that despite the wonders of mobile telephony and the Internet, radio is still a vibrant medium, and in many places it is where most people get the bulk of their information. It doesn’t require literacy, a personal device, or much power, it is transmitted free of charge, and it comes built in to many of the phones used around the world.
But radio is a broadcast medium, and hasn’t yet benefited much from the advances in peer networks and production that the Internet has enabled. And small stations benefit the least.
The Uganda Connection
Our initial work is distributed between the US and Uganda. RootIO is not a “development” project! Our approach seeks to be scalable, so that the cheapest stations in the world can participate, but the US & Ugandan authors want to run stations like this in the US (and soon we can!) and around the world. Radio culture in Uganda is rich and vibrant, with a mix of community, commercial, religious, and political stations. Still, most of these stations are regional, and when they do well their goal is usually to grow. We hope to make them proliferate, instead.
- Christopher Csikszentmihályi is a technologist, humanist, designer, and artist. His work is focused around designing information and communications technologies for communities to mitigate the negative aspects of globalism. He cofounded and directed the MIT Center for Future Civic Media, dedicated to developing technologies that strengthen communities. He also founded the MIT Media Lab’s Computing Culture group, which worked to create unique media technologies for sociocultural and political applications.
- Jude Mukundane is a software developer and technology enthusiast. His work mostly involves development of distributed applications communicating over IP networks. He is currently working with Uganda Telecom as Head of VAS and Technology Innovations to devise innovative ways of harnessing telecommunication technologies for service delivery. He worked on the Mobile VRS project with UNICEF for birth and death registration over USSD.
- Elizabeth Gin recently received her MFA from the Media Design Practices / Field program at Art Center College of Design; her thesis developed from re-arranging Internet Cafes and prototyping SMS applications, exploring how the design of technology can begin from the ambitions, priorities, and daily context of Ugandan women. Her work has been supported by Intel Labs’ Interaction and Experience Research Group and UNICEF’s Tech Innovation Unit, and will be presented at the Design Principles and Practices 2014 Conference in Vancouver.
- Josh Levinger is a freelance developer and technology strategist based in Oakland, CA. A graduate of the Center for Civic Media at the MIT Media Lab, he built organizing tools to empower disenfranchised communities to tell their own stories and turn information into action. He was recently the Director of Technology at the Citizen Engagement Lab, where he designed and built web infrastructure for national progressive political nonprofits with a combined membership of over three million activists. He was previously a robotics engineer at Vecna Technologies, and studied aeronautics and astronautics as an undergraduate at MIT. That means that yes, technically, he is a rocket scientist.
Interested in collaborating, partnering, or contributing to The RootIO Project? Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org