What do we call it when people in low-income communities ask questions, participate in decisions and hold decision-makers accountable in their ordinary encounters with public and publicly-funded institutions such as their children’s public school, the welfare office, job training program, Medicaid-funded health care service, and public housing?

All those public sites are actually outposts of democracy that exist only because of decisions made further up the democratic decision-making chain. The outposts are already considered as public terrain. They could also become democratic terrain. But that depends on what happens there.

Microdemocracy”, from the Right Question Institute.

The third iteration of the Social Security Card guide I’ve been working on.

Download the full PDF here

Features I introduced:

  • A name!  Get Set #1 is for social security guides. Get Set #2 — when I get there, will be NY state-issued ID.
  • Color wayfinding system
  • Added a chapter for birth certificates
  • Rearranged 35 pages of content so that you can only skip forward in the guide.
  • A “what to expect” section for each stage of the process, which includes expected wait time and cost to get documents.
  • Getting reminders about your personal checklist texted to you.
  • The possibility of scheduled trips, from potential partner organizations or between friends, to application sites.

Features I kept from previous prototypes:

  • A choose your own adventure approach to teaching applicants what they need to bring and do to apply for a social security card
  • Personalized checklists of necessary documents and to-do’s based on your situation.
  • As little jargon as possible in the copy.
  • Pictures
Maybe it would be easier to navigate the dissolving boundaries between public and private spaces if we all had a variety of names with which to signal the aspects of ourselves currently on display. And maybe we should remember that our first glimpse of a person is just one small piece of who they really are.
NYT Op-ed by Stoya, adult film performer and freelance writer.

Mapping out the shortest and longest paths to getting a social security card.

Insights: 

  • For US citizens, the shortest amount of time to get a social security card is 1-2 days. This is if you show up at the office with a current ID to replace your card.
  • The longest amount of time to get a social security card is 3-4 months. This is for US citizens without a current photo ID and an original version of their birth certificate, who have to go through long alternative processes to get a birth certificate and verify their identity through a certified medical record.
  • Some information is necessary for several steps. Lists of free legal services, and examples of valid ID to bring could live as reference pages in a print or interactive guide.
  • It’s quite difficult to tell how long each step takes, whether it involves showing up in person, and how much documents cost, but these are all pieces of information that are very important to an applicant.
  • Showing someone how far along they are during the process and what to expect next is key to improving the current experience.

A brief field trip into the future of identification systems

Top and middle photo: US soldiers in Afghanistan scanning the irises and fingerprints of Afghan civilians. See: neo-colonialism. See also: the white male gaze. See also also: the NOVA article I lifted these photos from, which describes biometrics as: “sufficiently advanced to be almost unremarkable. ”

Bottom photo: India has implemented a national ID system called AadhaarThe prime objective of Aadhaar is to provide Indians with a lifetime digital identity which is verifiable instantly with biometrics, in a paperless way. Each person that is enrolled is assigned a unique 12-digit identifier, called the Aadhaar number, has their biometric information scanned (fingerprints, photo of their face, and iris images) and demographic information recorded. All of this information is digitized, and is stored in a centralized database. At its current rate, 1.25 billion people in India will be enrolled in the Aadhaar system by December 2015, rendering it the largest centralized database of biometric information, ever. Indian newspapers report that the system is not without error — thousands of people have reported receiving IDs with pictures of trees or dogs in place of their own. 

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Lastly, I stumbled onto a 2011 report called the Future of Identity, for the UK Government’s Office for Science, by Nick Bostrom, a professor of philosophy at Oxford. He explores the consequences of identification given advances in neuroscience, genetics, surveillance, and personalized health.

Highlights:

"Identity-less people have no formal identity or rely on identities that are not widely recognized. This group includes illegal immigrants, the homeless, and people with no identity documents. Since access to many social functions requires stating an identity, such people are excluded or are forced to rely on others to provide access (and hence become vulnerable to the demands of these gatekeepers).

Gaining the necessary social identity tokens (a phone number, an address, an email address) often requires demonstrating other identity tokens: bootstrapping a legal and social identity is a major project.” 

"Having a personal identity – being someone, with a past and a future – and having a set of social identities – being someone to other people – is an important part of the human condition. Limitations to this ability are fearsome threats to most people. It can be argued that our fear of death is actually a fear of identity loss. Many people regard as the worst part of Alzheimer’s disease the gradual loss of narrative identity of the sufferer. Loss of reputation has motivated people to murder and suicide. People are willing to undergo major trials – whether participating in Big Brother on TV, study for a Ph.D., or undergo gender reassignment surgery - in order to gain an identity that is meaningful to them. 

Future technology is unlikely to change this over the next 15 years. Even with truly radical future technologies it is unlikely that humans will want to use them if they involve unwanted changes to their identity. Instead, people will be interested in technologies they think will enhance their identities: broaden their social network and burnish their reputations, amplify personality traits they feel are valuable, and allow them to do things they consider to be expressive of their “true selves”.

blackhistoryalbum:

AQUAMAN | MIAMI 1961
[ OUR 1000TH TUMBLR POST ] Cassius Clay (later known as Muhammad Ali) photographed by Flip Schulke during one his “secret” underwater training routines. THE BACKSTORY……The boxer allowed allowed himself to be photograph if Shulke would guarantee that the pictures would appear in LIFE magazine.Decades later Ali confessed that it had all been an elaborate ruse on his part to get featured in the magazine.
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Inspiration for this weekend’s thesis prototyping trough.

blackhistoryalbum:

AQUAMAN | MIAMI 1961

[ OUR 1000TH TUMBLR POST ] Cassius Clay (later known as Muhammad Ali) photographed by Flip Schulke during one his “secret” underwater training routines. THE BACKSTORY……The boxer allowed allowed himself to be photograph if Shulke would guarantee that the pictures would appear in LIFE magazine.Decades later Ali confessed that it had all been an elaborate ruse on his part to get featured in the magazine.

Follow us on Tumblr  Pinterest  Facebook  Twitter

Inspiration for this weekend’s thesis prototyping trough.

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