2024 Community Accelerator Grant Recipient

We are delighted to announce that Third Place Technologies is once again a proud recipient of a Community Accelerator Grant, funded by The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and awarded by ArtsFund.

This unrestricted grant enhances our work across King County, from the rural arts-oriented makerspace in Skykomish (SkyArtworks) to the urban core of Seattle (Passable Arts)—both key hubs for collaborative exhibitions and large-scale events.

The 2023 Community Accelerator Grant was instrumental in realizing our most ambitious exhibition to date: “Seattle: City of the Future.” Made possible by this generous funding, the exhibit harnessed Seattle’s innovative spirit through the collective visions of local artists, technologists, and civic activists, delving into the city’s future hopes, aspirations, and concerns.

Looking ahead, our forward-thinking initiatives for 2024-2025 will focus on developing renewable creative practices. We are advancing studio and educational projects that feature the local environment, including kinetic and illuminated elements powered by solar, wind, and water resources, such as those showcased at Sky Artworks and our upcoming Electric Sky Art Camp.

🙏 We extend our heartfelt thanks to The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and ArtsFund for their continued support and trust in our mission. For a community-driven organization like ours, the impact of an unrestricted grant cannot be overstated. This kind of support not only empowers us to seize opportunities to forge transformative partnerships but also to create experiences that enrich the public through our unique interdisciplinary approach at the intersection of art and  technology and civic engagement.

Electric Sky 2024 Theme: Sun Wind Water

We’re excited to announce Electric Sky‘s date and theme for 2024! As you know, each year we orient our collaborative installations, workshops, and Saturday night art show around a theme. We are pleased to announce for 2024 our theme is Sun Wind Water — inviting participants to explore the use of renewable energies in their projects.

As we consider a future that is more ecologically resilient with clean energy, we ask artists, designers, and creative technologists to explore projects that are both technological — with sound, movement, and lighting — yet unplugged from a power grid. In other words, how can we integrate renewable energies into our art, using technologies such as solar panels, wind turbines, and water batteries? Or perhaps more directly, how might we leverage the sun, wind, and water as creative mediums that animate our installations?

Art grants are available to $500 for material project support or subsidized tickets, learn more here. The deadline is Friday April 26.

Seattle City of the Future Wrap-up

First of all, let me say, Wow! What a fantastic show, with such great energy, a seamless setup and takedown, open hours spanning 4 weekends, and two super fun parties — all crammed into two months! We estimate between the parties and our regular open hours, around 1800 people saw the show.  

Aside from providing a fun and compelling experience, I believe Seattle: City of the Future was quite successful in furthering Third Place Technologies’ core mission of fostering a collaborative community at the intersection of art, technology, and civic engagement. Emergent themes included greening Seattle, embodying inclusion and diversity, adaptations to new technologies, and holistic system design.

Be sure and see Levi Clark’s 3D model walk-through of the event here, to get a feel for the maze, or these media mentions to learn more:

It really does take a village to throw an event like this, so I want to thank our partners, PublicDisplay.Art (Marty & Erica) and TamarindTree (Tam), without their immense support this event could not have happened. Also, thanks to all our volunteers, the selection committee, the TPT board, the buildup and takedown crew (Brad, Mason, Cece, Amrik, Dan), our supporting organizations, including PoliteSociety for helping with marketing, Jilted Siren for helping with the bar, Totally Legit for all their lighting and event production supplies, TimeWarp for their tables and sign, Levi and his fantastic 3D model, Cam Manny for organizing the opening party bar, and Jeffrey Larson and all his incredible help including poster design and manning the building — and then of course all the ARTISTS who really went over the top to create such wonderful installations!

As you know, a part of our goal was to raise enough money from the door to give back to local artists and local LGBTQ+ youth groups. So, here are our final numbers:

  • Total expenses: $47,598, including artists grants ($17K), buildout and takedown costs ($18K), event production costs such as marketing, insurance, the opening party ($9K) and open hours door and security ($2K).
  • Total revenue: $54,940, including ticket sales from 1270 tickets ($16K), donations ($16K), ArtsFund and 4Culture grants ($12K), a fundraiser ($5K), and our opening party ($6K).
  • Profit: $7342, to be split 50/50 between our artists and a donation to local a LGBTQ+ nonprofit (the Lambert House + $1K directly from the Bling Ball). It feels really great to give back to the community!

Thanks again, Seattle:City of the Future has been a truly fabulous experience!

— Shelly

Shelly Farnham, President

Get your Tickets Now for Seattle City of the Future

We are extremely excited after several months of fundraising, recruiting artists, and setting up the space, we are now selling tickets to our immersive art experience, Seattle City of the Future

We cannot thank everyone enough for all the hard work that has gone into this endeavor! Don’t miss this fantastic Labyrinth of Imaginative Possibilities as artists explore our fears and hopes for the future, open June 3rd to June 25th.

Learn more about our press release here:–City-of-the-Future-Exhibition.html?soid=1130858234228&aid=_6mmqACiYzA

Again, learn more and buy tickets at Seattle City of the Future

Call for Artists & Art Groups

CALL FOR ARTIST IS CLOSED! Learn everything about the show and buy tickets at:

Seattle: City of the Future

Artist? Technologist? Civic Activist? Interdisciplinary Art Group? We invite you to apply to participate in an immersive art experience exploring our aspirations and fears for the future of Seattle.

Key Dates

Art show: June 3 to June 25, 2023
Submission deadline: Friday, March 24 (with project grants up to $1000)
Opening party: June 3
Closing benefit & Gay Pride party: June 24


The Teal Building
619 E Pine St, Seattle WA 98122
Capitol Hill, Seattle

Seattle: City of the Future; an Art Show at the Teal Building

During the World’s Fair in 1962, Seattle was celebrated as the City of Tomorrow [3], a forward-thinking town with cutting edge innovation and technology. Sixty years laters, Third Place Technologies is pleased to partner with the Tamarind Tree Family and to host an immersive art experience that revisits this concept from todays vantage point.

We invite local artists, technologists, civic activists and interdisciplinary art groups to explore some of the universal questions on the minds of today’s residents and bring them to life in the form of 3D installations and immersive art concepts:

What does an innovative city of the future look like now? What should an aspirational city of the future look like? What do we envision for the city of the future? What do we most fear it becoming?

For this art show, we seek projects in the form of visual art, experiential installation art, new media, sound installations, light art, digital or technological installations, concept art, graffiti or urban art, and so forth. Imagine a labyrinth of art installations over two floors of the Teal Building, where your project could occupy up to a 10×10 space, transform a wall, or provide a multi-sensory experience.

What will your piece of this futuristic labyrinth look like?

We will also consider performing groups (theatrical, music, performance art) for shows on the second floor stage.

Since a key goal is to support local artists, each selected project will a) receive grants up to $1000 based on the scale of the project, b) receive a percent of the ticket sales* and c) be featured in the June Issue of PublicDisplay.ART.

Projects will be selected to participate based on creativity and/or technological innovation. In addition, we seek installations that explore social aspirations and fears – that is, addressing how we as a society achieve our desire for an all-inclusive community, with dignity and opportunities to thrive for all our citizens.

The Organizers 

Third Place Technologies is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that provides spaces and events to foster interdisciplinary collaboration, community, and life-long learning for artists, creative technologists, and civic activists.

Tam Nguyen and the Tamarind Tree Family are the new owners of the “Teal Building” on 619 E Pine St.  The iconic Teal Building was formerly a hotspot of Capitol Hill nightlife and this Spring we have a unique opportunity to activate the building with an art show that reflects upon Seattle as a city of the future. Learn more at

PublicDiplay.Art is a quarterly arts publication published by OneReel, a 501c3 organization with 50 years of experience serving local artists and audiences. See

Eligibility Criteria

  1. Projects should focus on the City of the Future theme – exploring our aspirations and fears for the future of Seattle.
  2. Work should be original and new, ideally created in the past two years. 
  3. The individual or group’s point of contact must be 18 years of age or older.

Selection Criteria

Our selection committee includes Shelly Farnham (Artist & President of Third Place Technologies), Tam Nguyen (owner of the Teal Building), Genevieve Tremblay (Third Place Technologies Board Member), Jeffrey Larson (Third Place Technologies Board Member), Leslie Bain (Framework Cultural Placemaking), and Marty Griswold ( Projects will be selected to participate based not only on creativity or technological innovation, but also on its implications for social innovation – addressing how we as a society achieve our desire for an all-inclusive community, with dignity and opportunities to thrive for all. Special consideration will be given to artists and art groups based in Capitol Hill, Seattle, and LGBTQ+ or racially diverse art groups.


Submission deadline: Friday, March 24
Notifications of acceptance: Friday March 31
Install art maze infrastructure: May 1 – May 13
Install art over two weeks: May 14 – May 27
Opening party: June 3rd
Show dates: June 3rd to June 25 (open approx 20 hours each week)
Gay Pride & closing party: June 24
Final takedown: June 26 to June 30 

Eligibility Criteria

  1. Submitted work should speak to the theme, City of the Future.
  2. Work should be original and new, ideally created in the past two years.
  3. You must be 18 years of age or older.

Exhibition Details

The exhibition will run for one month, June 3 to June 26, with an opening party on June 3rd. The show will be open Thurs – Sun, 2pm to 7pm, and during special events (TBD). At the end of the show, we will have a Gay Pride and closing party. Selected artists and art groups will receive curatorial direction, communications/PR support, and access to other production resources (through Third Place Technologies and our partner art group Totally Legit, with their Passable makerspace on Capitol Hill, Seattle). Where appropriate we may encourage collaboration with other groups. Artists are responsible for the delivery, installation and deinstallation of their work. Once installed, Third Place Technologies’ insurance will cover the value of the work in the case of damage or theft during the exhibition. Exhibiting artists are welcome (but not required) to sell their work, and no commission will be collected. Audiences will pay a ticket fee to participate in the experience during regular visiting hours, and ticket profits will be split between artist groups and local nonprofit organizations that support youth programming.*

How to Submit

Send an email to by Friday, March 24, 2023 at midnight PT, with the subject title “[your name] — Submission for City of the Future”.  

Please include the following in your email:

  1. Contact information 

               Full Name:
  Phone number:

        Phone number:


  1. About you and/or your art group (up to 6 sentences). Please provide a brief description of your background and your current style of work. Be sure to note if you are based out of Seattle or Capitol Hill, Seattle. For team projects please also describe your team members, including any information that would speak to our desire for diverse participation.
  2. About your prior work. Please either
        a) provide a link to an online portfolio illustrating prior work, and/or
        b) attach up to six images of prior work; images should be similar in style to what you hope to include in the show
  3. Proposed project (up to 8 sentences). Please provide a description of the project you hope to include in our show. Include a) the dimensions of this project; b) how it will be experienced, e.g. as a floor installation, a wall piece, or a performance on the stage; and c) how it is thematic. We have a whole building to fill, so are open to whatever direction you might want to take.  A visual concept image is recommended but not required.  
  4. Project Budget. Please provide an estimate of the costs to implement this project at the Teal Building, which you hope will be covered at least in part by our grants of $200 to $1000 per project. Project costs may include cost of materials and artist time. 

Contact Info and Links

Email: shelly @ thirdplacetechnologies . com (remove spaces)
Submission email:
Questions: email or text Shelly at (206) 226-3586

*Ticket sale profits will be split 50/50 between participating artists (apportioned according to the size of their project/project grant) and our chosen local non-profit groups (Lambert House and GayCity).

Bling Ball Wrap Up

It takes a village to raise a fundraiser. At Third Place Technologies, our mission is to build community through collaboration — helping diverse, creative people connect and make things fabulous. Events such as the Bling Ball are great exemplars of what a creative community can accomplish together! We cannot thank enough the over 50 people (art & decoration, bar, DJs, sound, lighting, performers, door) who helped pull this event together in a relatively short amount of time, and the ~150 people who bought tickets to enjoy our special New Years’ evening in the Teal Building.

We are happy to report through event sales and donations, not only did we cover the costs of getting the space in good shape for our Teal Building Art Place Project — including our upcoming City of the Future art show — we raised more than $2000 to donate to two local programs that support programming for local LGBTQ+ youth (Lambert House and

Thanks again so much for those you showing your support, and see you soon at the next event!  If you are interested in getting involved at the more organizational level, drop a message to shelly <at> thirdplacetechnologies [dot] com.

The Bling Ball

Pleas join us at The Bling Ball

The New Years Eve gala of 2022! Come dressed as your best bling self, and dance the night away at a benefit to support the local arts and LGBTQ+ communities in Capitol Hill, Seattle.

The Teal Building, 619 E Pine St, Seattle WA 98122

Sat, Dec 31, 2022, 9pm – 2am, $50 general admission presale, $75 at the door

Purchase tickets at:

Two dance floors with DJs:

Black Velveteen, Derek Pavone, Geo Xeal, Joey Webb, LGSP, Trinitron

Performances & NYE countdown hosted by ALEKSA MANILA with performances by:


Finger snacks provided by the Tamarind Tree, with champagne at midnight.

This fundraiser supports local arts and LGBTQ+ programming for 2023 in the Teal Building at 619 E Pine St, the old R Place in Capitol Hill. Brought to you by Third Place Technologies (501c3) & the Tamarind Tree family. Learn more about this project at: Teal Building Art Place.

Teal Building Art Place

We at Third Place Technologies are excited to partner with Tam Nguyen and the Tamarind Tree Family, the new owners of the “Teal Building” on 619 E Pine St, to help activate the space with arts programming through the summer of 2023 to benefit the local arts and LGBTQ+ communities in Capitol Hill, Seattle. We are kicking off this effort with a fundraising NYE party, The Bling Ball.



R Place was a long-running Capitol Hill LGBTQ+ bar in an iconic teal building at 619 E Pine St., with several floors providing a venue for dance and theatrical performance. As a hotspot of Capitol Hill nightlife and a staple of the gay community for 35 years, loyal fans were very sad to see it shut down during the pandemic in 2021 – and then close permanently upon the death of the building’s owner [1].

The iconically teal building was originally built in 1917 for Great Western Motors. Victor W. Voorhees was the architect. [2]

In 2022, the building was purchased by local business owner Tam Nguyen, who is exploring opening a Vietnamese restaurant and lounge, similar to his first restaurant, the Tamarind Tree located a mile south in Little Saigon, Seattle. Finalizing plans to transform a building  – from initial architectural drawings to securing final permits – can take up to a year in Seattle, so Tam Nguyen is working with local artist groups and non-profit organizations to temporarily activate the space. Like many neighborhoods, Capitol Hill has experienced a recent loss in the vitality of its local arts community – including its strong LGBTQ+ presence –  due to the covid pandemic and sky-rocketing housing prices. To help mitigate this trend, we plan to leverage the building to support local arts and LGBTQ+ groups for approximately ten months, from the fall of 2022 through summer of 2023.

Main Floor: Bar, Greeting Area, and Stair to Mezzanine

Mezzanine: Northeast Space, South Space, and View from Mezzanine

Second Floor: Bar, Stage with DJ Booth, and Open Floor for Dance or Stage Seating

The Teal Building – An Art Place

Our plan is to activate the space in two phases: the first phase focuses on leveraging the building as is, and the second on transforming the building into a larger scale arts experience. Through both phases Tam Nguyen is donating the use of the building rent free, requiring partnering organizations to cover only operating costs, including insurance and utilities.

Phase I: November, 2022 – January 2023

Local art and community groups will be invited to consider the use of the Teal Building for events, leveraging the dance floor, theater, and bar areas for arts fundraisers, theatrical performances, and other social gatherings.  Local, Capitol Hill arts and LGBTQ+ groups will be prioritized. We are kicking off this phase with an arts fundraiser called The Bling Ball. Money raised will go to subsequent programming in the space, with a percent going to local non profit groups (such as The Lambert House and GayCity) to support youth arts programming.

Phase II: February, 2023 – June, 2023 (PROPOSAL)

City of the Future — A Larger Scale Arts Experience

During the world’s fair in 1962 Seattle was celebrated as the City of Tomorrow [3], a forward-thinking town with cutting edge innovation and technology. 60 years laters, we will invite local artists and art groups to help us transform the space into a maze of immersive, experiential installations exploring the questionwhat does an innovative Seattle look like now, and what should a city of the future look like. For this proposed art show, works will be selected to participate based not only on creative or technological innovations, but also social innovation – how do we achieve our aspiration that we live in an inclusive, creative community, with dignity and opportunities to thrive for all our citizen members. 

The scale and extent of the show will depend on our fundraising efforts (donate via The Bling Ball!). However, we hope to have drinks and food will be served on the ground floor, with a maze of art installations winding through the ground floor, the mezzanine and the second floor, ending on the dance and theatrical spaces on the second floor. Audiences will pay a ticket to participate in the experience. To support our participating art groups, they will receive a stipend to cover installation costs and a share of the door.

Prints from Worlds Fair [3, 4]


A Tale of Two Collaboration Spaces

2022 is our first full year we have had our collaboration spaces up and running, including Sky Artworks and Passable, and we have been very excited to see the impact we have already had on the community development in these spaces, in terms of creativity and collaboration. Sky Artworks has a more traditional gallery and studio feel, which better matches the needs and interests of the local creative community. That said, like any maker space it houses a laser cutter, a 3D printer, and CNC router, in addition to large format printers. Our members have been excited to learn and share their work — it is remarkable the spontaneity that happens when the creative space is married to the exhibition space.

Art Show at Sky Artworks

Passable, in the context of Capitol Hill, Seattle, is much more experimental in flavor, with a heavier emphasis on technologically-infused art and pinball, given the important of pinball to our partnering art group at Passable, Totally Legit. That said, it too has maker equipment, a wood shop, and an exhibition space that is most often opened up for the Capitol Hill Art Walk.

Passable during the Chain Gang Collaborative Art Show

Sky Artworks

We are very excited to announce after several years of searching we have successfully found a home for Sky Artworks in the Town of Skykomish! Sky Artworks was just an idea several years ago, as we dreamt of finding a more permanent home to support all our arts-oriented community activities in the mountains. Through a partnership with the Town of Skykomish we have leased the Maloney Store, a historic landmark building in the business center of Town. Months later, after some remodeling, we are almost ready to open!

As stated on the Sky Artworks website, Sky Artworks is an arts-oriented community center with collaboration and exhibition spaces. Our mission is to promote the creative community in the Upper Sky Valley by providing production, exhibition, educational, marketing, and professional development resources for artists, artisans, and tech creatives.

Electric Sky 2018

We are really excited to be hosting Electric Sky again for 2018.  The event has evolved into more than just a hackathon — it is an arts incubator for people at the intersection of art and technology.  Because of the grants and planning that occur prior to the event, the projects are on a larger scale and more coherent than you find in most hackathons.

This year, the theme is the “Digital Frontier”.  Please check it out at

Spokin Focus Group October 18th

To help us prioritize bugs and features to fix and implement in Spokin we are organizing a focus group for October 18th with the help of Open Seattle.  If you are a member of the civic tech community please consider joining!

Community Tech (Spokin) Focus Group

Tuesday, Oct 18, 2016, 6:00 PM

Impact Hub Seattle
220 2nd Ave South Seattle, WA

10 civic nerds Attending

We need your help! We are seeking 10-12 members of the civic tech community to try out our community tech network — Spokin — and provide feedback. Spokin allows you to connect with your local communities — your neighborhood, city, or nearby interest groups — so you can work together to get things done. We have created a “Civic Tech NW” communit…

Check out this Meetup →


City of Seattle’s Investment in Smart City Technology

We were very excited to get an email from Michael Mattmiller, the City of Seattle’s CTO, outlining aspects of Mayor Murray’s proposed 2017-18 budget presented to the city council.  We thought it was worth quoting in full but wanted in particular to direct your attention to paragraph about a smart, data-driven city:

FROM Michael Mattmiller, Chief Technology Officer | City of Seattle

September 26:

Good afternoon,

Today Mayor Murray presented his proposed 2017-18 Budget to the City Council.

This has been a year of transition for the City’s technology functions and staff. The creation of the Seattle Information Technology Department (Seattle IT) provided an opportunity to create the City’s first unified technology budget and provided clarity into IT spending. Creating this budget is no small feat – it required merging 16 budgets into one, coordinating with finance staff from across departments to clarify and align disparate accounting treatments, and standing up a new financial management tool. While many of the methods remained the same, the 2017-18 Seattle IT budget proposal will represent a clean start for how we manage technology spend.

This first consolidated budget is aligned with five strategic priorities that will help advance Seattle IT’s ability to deliver on its objectives and advance technology across the City.

  • System and service maturity. Many of Seattle IT’s services have not evolved at the same pace as the technology advances of the past decade, nor are investments being made to automate service delivery or improve service levels. Focusing on service and system maturity will lower ongoing operational costs and improve the customer experience. The proposed budget includes funding to ensure the City maintains an acceptable level of security and can be more proactive in responding to security threats. It also adds resources to improve the City’s identity management and mobility service offerings – key components in maturing our application and infrastructure operations.
  • Smart, data-driven City. Data has the potential to drive innovation and efficiency, improving both our quality of life and economic productivity.  Unlocking the promise of a smart, data-driven city requires a focus on data governance, consistent tools that facilitate cross-department collaboration, and educating the public on how to leverage the City’s resources. In the 2017-2018 proposed budget, projects such as Seattle Police Department’s data analytics platform and the Human Services Department data-to-decisions database will help those departments make data-driven decisions to improve their services. In addition, investments in our civic technology, open data, and business intelligence programs will allow the City to engage the public and collaborate on solutions that improve our quality of life.
  • Digital Equity. Internet access and the skills necessary to be successful online are vitally important to Seattle residents. In 2016 the City put forth specific strategies and actions, developed by our community-led Digital Equity Action Committee, to bridge this digital divide.  The Initiative is one part of the Mayor’s broadband strategy to increase access, affordability, and public-private-community partnerships. The proposed budget includes additional positions to deliver on our digital equity strategies. In addition, the Mayor’s Youth Participatory budget program allocated funds to increase the number of Wi-Fi hotspots available through the Seattle Public Library’s checkout program, increasing the number of homes that will have internet access.
  • Public experience. Technology can greatly improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of government services by facilitating, automating, and streamlining interactions among the public, government employees, service providers, and other stakeholders. The proposed budget includes funding to expand the use of a customer engagement and relationship system and a new grant application system to improve the City’s engagement with the public. The budget also expands the Citywide web team.
  • Optimization. Seattle IT was created to increase the value delivered from the City’s information technology investment. Shared IT functions provide common strategy, structure and key enterprise services across City government.  Through funding in the proposed 2017-18, we will continue to optimizing the department’s structure and change how the City develops and operates applications. We will also continue to invest in enterprise architecture, business relationship management, resource management, and project portfolio management.

In total, the 2017 Proposed Operating Budget for Seattle IT is $203 million with another $42 million in our Capital Improvement Program. Read the Mayor’s budget speech at

I’m proud of our Seattle IT team for all of their achievements in our first six months working together as a new department and excited for what we will achieve through Mayor Murray’s proposed 2017-18 budget. Together we will deliver powerful technology solutions for the City and public we serve.



Michael Mattmiller

Chief Technology Officer | City of Seattle

Director | Seattle Information Technology Department


@SeattleCTO |


Participating in Microsoft’s Hack for Good program

This year we participated in the Microsoft “Hack for Good” subdivision of  their oneweek hackathon, working with several people internal to Microsoft to explore a problem for Spokin.  The Nonprofit Hackathon session was brought to us by Microsoft Philanthropiesthe Garage and 501 Commons, hosted on the Microsoft Campus on May 23rd.

Here was our project blurb:

At Third Place Technologies our mission is to help place-based communities such as neighborhoods effectively collaborate to solve their problems through innovation in community technologies, leveraging new affordances in social media, open data, and tools for collective action.  In urban environments, one of the biggest challenges to developing collaborative relationships is fear of strangers, particularly for those who are different in life stage or demographic variables.  For this project, we seek to develop a match-making tool that helps people connect to neighbors and local places based on common interests that cut across these differences. 

The event organizers provided a fair amount of guidance to help assure project success connecting Microsoft employees to nonprifits.   We had four participants on our project from within Microsoft, and we are very grateful for their contributions!  It was, in a sense, an exploratory research project, and we learned a lot about the potential uses of existing data sources in social media to address this problem space of matching people to places.   Our main challenge was because we could not really participate onsite, the project was largely incubated outside our participation, which presented challenges in knowledge transfer during and afterwards.

Spokin Soft Release Party

This July we hosted a party in the cloud room celebrating the “soft release” of Spokin.   The site is still pretty rough around the edges, but we knew it was time to start engaging users and soliciting feedback as we approach a final release in the fall.


Shelly Farnham, our Executive Director, Demo’d Spokin


Members of our target communities were invited.



An enraptured audience.


Our soft release blurb:

Third Place Technologies invites you to join us to celebrate the soft release of Spokin, our online web site for community-curated networking.  

Networking with a purpose.

Spokin allows you to connect with your local communities — your neighborhood, city, or nearby interest groups — so you can work together to get things done.  For our “soft release”, Spokin community membership will be by invitation only, and we are inviting friends of Third Place Technologies to use Spokin for community engagement activities and provide feedback to us before we release it to the general public this fall.

Try it out at!  Many of its features are open to browsing, but if you want to experience the content creation features you will need be invited into a community group.   Email shelly <at> thirdplacetechnologies dot com for an invitation.

Engaging with Tech Creatives through Electric Sky

We were very happy to help organize and sponsor Electric Sky this June, it has proven to be a great event for engaging with — and fostering the growth of — the community of tech creatives at the intersection of art and technology in the Pacific Northwest.  Here’s the wrap up summary of the event from Recreational Light and Magic, our partner in organizing Electric Sky:

Recreational Light and Magic has been organizing Electric Sky — an art and tech weekend campathon — for the past couple of years in partnership with Third Place Technologies, and with the support of the Town of Skykomish and 4Culture.

The goal of Electric Sky is to foster the community of people collaborating at the intersection of art and technology in the Pacific Northwest.  This year we sought to further this goal by coordinating our efforts around a group installation, the Luminous Garden.

It was a truly fabulous event, and went even better than last year!  We cannot thank everyone enough for all their help.  It is a 100% community-based, volunteer event.  Between helping to organize and set up the event, participating in the creativity lab, and contributing to the Luminous Garden, there was not a single attendee who wasn’t involved in some way.

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Thank You UW Entrepreneurial Law Clinic

We want to express our gratitude to the UW Entrepreneurial Law Clinic for providing a review of our organizing documents and our plans for our intellectual property.  For the most part everything was in order.

The most important heads-up was to be careful when collaborating with volunteers (interns, etc.) who are donating their time in the form of writing code.  We need to clarify in writing the assignment of ownership of intellectual property.  Even if you intend to open source the code, you still need to have it put in writing that the code is yours to open source.

Spokin Visualization at the UW iSchool Capstone Event

This spring we had the opportunity to work with a student group at the UW for an iSchool capstone project.  As a final project before graduation, a team of students created a general purpose network visualization for our Spokin communities using D3.  They wrapped up the project with a poster and demo at the iSchools’ captstone event.

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Thanks Tim, Kevin, Vikram, and Garrett for all your hard work!



Demo’d Spokin at the City of Seattle’s Open Data Policy launch event

Geekwire article

[Source: Geekwire] Seattle Mayor Ed Murray signs an open data executive order on Friday at Impact HUB in downtown Seattle.


As users of the City of Seattle’s open data, we’ve been really excited about the proactive stance the City has been taking toward increasing transparency and engagement with citizens through their Open Data program.   They recently “launched” a new Open Data Policy, formalized by having the Mayor sign the document, and where we were invited to demo Spokin.

A few people in the audience were asking “why is this important”, and here’s the article on Geekwire summarizing the event.

I think however the best summary of why it is important came from Michael Mattmiller’s email invitation to the event, which is excerpted here (I was assured, all of their emails are considered public):

At this week’s State of the City speech, Mayor Ed Murray announced his commitment to open data and his intention to sign an executive order making Seattle “Open by Preference”. I invite you to join us for the signing of the Mayor’s Open Data Executive Order on Friday, February 26th at 9 am at Impact Hub (220 2nd Ave S, Seattle, WA).

The executive order, and the new City Open Data Policy it implements, notes that we will strive to make data collected or generated by the City available to the public through our open data portal, This is a major step forward for our Open Data Program, which today contains more than 440 datasets. Our new Policy is a product of collaboration between the City of Seattle, the Sunlight Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies’ What Works Cities, the University of Washington, and many of you. Highlights from the new policy include:

* Data will be published in a machine-readable format, wherever possible

* Planning for data publication should occur when planning for new projects and programs

* Departments will appoint Open Data Champions who will be accountable for maintaining their department’s data catalog and ensuring that published data is refreshed on a regular basis

* A recognition that stakeholders must be engaged to prioritize datasets for release and ensure that the data best fits intended uses

* Datasets will be reviewed for privacy considerations prior to publishing, and the entire Open Data Program will undergo an annual risk assessment to identify potential data aggregation concerns

The full text of the policy is published to our site at this link.

“Open by preference” is a standard that balances the City’s desire to be as open as possible with our commitments to protecting privacy and security. This is an issue many municipal governments have faced and is often cited as the primary reason not to pursue an open data policy. By proving that it is possible to be open while protecting privacy and security, the City of Seattle is opening a path for other cities, including our neighbors in Bellevue and Tacoma, who have also been working with the Sunlight Foundation through Bloomberg Philanthropies’ national What Works Cities initiative to stand up their own open data policies in the coming year.

As we implement our new policy, we look forward to engaging you and a broad set of stakeholders to prioritize datasets to be made open, better understand use cases, and release data in formats that increase usability.

Please RSVP  to [email removed]  if you are able to join us. Thank you again for your ongoing input, engagement, and support.



Michael Mattmiller
Chief Technology Officer | City of Seattle
Director | Department of Information Technology

The most novel aspect of this policy is the “Open by preference” component, where each department will be in a position to assess the risks associated with publishing their data, and take the necessary steps to mitigate the risk.  Here are the three sections of the policy that speak to this directly:

Section 1: Open by Preference

E. While a preference is towards making all data public, some data elements if released, especially in bulk, could cause privacy harms, put critical infrastructure at risk, or put public safety personnel and initiatives at risk. City departments and offices should use tools provided by the Open Data Program to assess risk as part of determining datasets to be released.

F. The requirements set forth in the policy shall be integrated into the Municipal Information Technology Investment Evaluation (MITIE) process, questionnaire and checklists to help facilitate consistent identification and publishing of datasets as the City plans for the implementation of new technologies and systems.

G. Should the Open Data Program discover that data is being used in ways that violate privacy, puts the public at risk, or contravene the Program’s goals, the City of Seattle and parties acting on its behalf have the right and responsibility to take any action necessary to mitigate these risks.

My hope is some of this open by preference sentiment will percolate down to individual people themselves — that is, as they provide data, they are given the open to share it or not.  I think, if framed appropriately in how their can really help the City and its citizens make smarter decisions, a lot of people would be quite happy to share data that might be considered too sensitive at the departmental level.


Ignite Talk: The Data is In: (Top 5 Ways) How to Improve your Neighborhood Community’s Wellbeing

Ignite Talk at #is29

Ignite Talk at #is29

Our Executive Director Shelly Farnham gave an Ignite talk last week to a sold out house of over 800 people at Town Hall last week.  Below is the video, and a slightly extended version of the talk in text.

The Data Is In:  How to Improve Your Neighborhood Community’s Wellbeing

Greetings everyone!  I’m a social psychologist by training, a research scientist specializing in community technology research and development.  At Third Place Technologies, in the past couple years, we have been exploring how to leverage new technologies to really quantify and improve neighborhood community wellbeing.

Membership in a Vital Community is a Strong Predictor of Happiness

Membership in a Vital Community is a Strong Predictor of Happiness

Predictors of Happiness in Seattle

I’m a big believer in the power of a thriving community to positively affect our quality of life.  Past research has shown that participating in a vital community, characterized by interpersonal trust, social support, and citizen engagement, is one of the strongest predictors of a person’s happiness.

More Urban = Less Connected

Ironically, in larger cities such as Seattle, research also shows that the more urban the environment, the less connected we are.  Even though there are more people per square foot, we have fewer friends within walking distance than those in more suburban or rural neighborhoods.   This is especially true in Seattle – you have all heard of the Seattle “freeze” – it can be really hard to connect here.

Take the Zombie Apocalypse Test

Communities are not only important for happiness, they can make the difference between life and death in crisis situations.  I want you to ask yourself this – I like to call this the Zombie Apocalypse Test – if there were, say, a Zombie Apocalypse, do you know and trust enough people within walking distance that you could successfully band together to not only fight off the Zombie Horde, but also to recreate society as we know it?

Chances are – probably not.

What Can You Do?

So, what can you do?  As a citizen, a community organizer, or a local business, what can you do to improve the wellbeing of your neighborhood community?  As we are building toward our future here in the Pacific Northwest, what can we be doing to assure we are all members of happy, thriving communities of mutual trust and social support, with the strength to withstand any crisis situation?

Third Place Technologies /

Helping you answer this question is a primary goal for us at Third Place Technologies, where our mission is to foster community wellbeing through innovation in technology.  Our main project is, an online civic network designed to help you connect with your local communities, but also, more importantly, to help you better understand what factors impact your neighborhood’s wellbeing and start a dialogue around what you should seek to change.

We are doing this through interactive neighborhood report cards.

The Research

In order to scientifically quantify a neighborhoods wellbeing, we have been performing a lot of research, and analyzing a lot of data.  Lots, and Lots of data, including self-report interviews and questionnaires, social media such as Twitter and Facebook, and open data, such as from the U.S. census or crime reports.  We are weeks away from making Spokin public, at which time I strongly encourage you to check out your neighborhood’s report card, which looks something like this.


Community Wellbeing Report Pages — Metrics on the Left, Map Showing How Your Neighborhood Compares on the Right

Neighborhood Community Well-being Report Pages

Factors that meaningfully impact wellbeing are on the left, and a map visualizing how your neighborhood compares to other neighborhoods is on the right.  Today, for the rest of this talk, I want to share with you our top recommendations for what you can do improve your neighborhood’s wellbeing based on what we’ve learned from our research.

Recommendation #1.  Join the Conversation!

First, a necessary condition of a thriving community is that people know each other and regularly interact.  In most neighborhoods there is already a conversation happening about local issues – in coffee shops, town meetings, or online – and our top recommendation is simply that you find and join this conversation.  It is not enough that you observe this conversation, it’s important that you have a voice and express your opinions.

Face-to-face is Best, but Online Works Too

Face to face interactions are always more impactful, however online interactions are effective as well.  Our research shows that social media can be an effective tool to help compensate for a lack of face-to-face interactions – such as found in more urban environment – but again, only if you are expressing yourself and actively conversing with others.

Recommendation #2.  Hang Out in Third Places

This raises the question, where are you going to find these conversations.  It turns that Third Places are another important feature of thriving communities.  A Third Place is a place outside the home, or outside of work, such as a coffee shop, restaurant, or park, where people can meet serendipitously, and through frequent exposure to each other be transformed from strangers to friends.

Third Places are breeding grounds of community.

Your job is figure out where the locals hang out in your neighborhood, and then go hang out there.

Successful Neighborhoods Have Many Third Places Clustered Together

Successful Neighborhoods Have Many Third Places Clustered Together

CREATE Third Places

A successful neighborhood will have a lot of these Third Places, and we have found, the more they are all clustered together, such as seen here in the University District, the better it is for the neighborhood, because that area itself becomes a Third Place, increasing all that fabulous serendipity on the streets.  If you do not have this pattern of third places in your neighborhood – you need to create one.  Start a local business, a park, or something more temporary, like a street fair or block party.

Recommendation #3. Invest in Your Hyper-local Economy

Not too surprisingly, the economic success of your neighborhood strongly impacts the community.  Our third recommendation is that you invest in the micro economy of your neighborhood. Spend locally, work locally, hire locally.  On a related note, the average education of your residents also meaningfully impacts community wellbeing, so keep your kids in school, and support youth education initiatives.

Extreme Wealth is not Good for your Hood

Interestingly, economic success is not always a good thing.  We found in our research that some of the more extremely wealthy neighborhoods – represented by the darker maroon on the left – are not as high in community wellbeing – represented by the teal on the right – we believe because these neighborhoods don’t tend to have third places, and wealthy families are more isolated and disengaged.    If you are lucky enough to experience a sudden change in fortune, don’t leave for the bigger house out in Medina.   It’s lonely out there.

Recommendation #4. Find your Community Hubs

Most successful neighborhoods have what we call a community hub.  This is a person that everyone trusts, they might have all of your phone numbers, or copies of your keys for when you are out of town.  They probably maintain a mailing list, facebook group, or blog, and perhaps most importantly are the keepers of all the local gossip.

Get to know this person, because he or she is doing a lot of the “work” of forging community connections for you.

Be the Community Hub

If there is no such hub in your neighborhood – become the community hub.   Justin, or @JSeattle in Capitol Hill is a really good role model for this.  He has a great blog, is very present at local events and venues, and really effectively uses Twitter to not only broadcast information, but to really engage in conversation around neighborhood issues.   When we performed a Twitter network analysis, we found he was the center of a highly interactive Twitter network of Capitol Hill denizens.

Recommendation #5.  Celebrate Diversity

Diversity – in age, race, sexual orientation – is a double edged sword.  On the one hand, diversity can greatly improve a group’s creativity and problem-solving through different perspectives and skills.  On the other hand, it can be a source of great tension and distrust.  What makes the difference, is how inclusive a community is.  That is, to what extent does everyone feel like their voice matters?   In your neighborhood are people balkanized – hunkering down into separate groups and not talking to each other?

Or, is there a feeling of inclusiveness?

Signify Inclusivity through Events, Role Models, Art

Signify Inclusivity through Events, Role Models, Art

Signify Inclusivity

It’s important to think about how do you celebrate diversity and signify inclusivity in your neighborhood.  Festivals or parades are very effective, such as the International District’s Dragonfest, or Gay Pride.  Role models are extremely important — in your community’s storytelling, how much do you incorporate people of different backgrounds in your historical accounts?   What role models are celebrated in your local news media, or public art?

Take Pride

I personally love murals as cultural signifiers — large scale murals embedded in neighborhoods, can have a powerful impact people’s sense of community  — increasing that feeling of belonging and voice for some, and for others helping them take pride in their community’s diversity.  I cannot emphasize enough how important this is – in our research we found that distrust and balkanization across racial lines in particular had the most negative impact on a neighborhood community’s wellbeing.

In Sum, Overcome Your Fear of Strangers

In sum, I want to emphasize that your fear of strangers is the biggest threat to your neighborhood community’s wellbeing.  It is as if you already believe you are under attack from a zombie horde out to eat your brains.  I promise you, however, that most people, like you, are human – they care, they mean well, they are not criminals.  The trick, is to connect around what you have in common — and at the least, you can always connect around the fact that you live or work in the same neighborhood.

If you want a sneak preview of, email shelly at

Network visualization in Spokin

Network visualizations are a risky feature to add to community tool.  While they can provide a good overview of a community and its connections, they require some training to interpret, so are often not well received by every day users.

Still — we wanted to explore the option, so were inspired to hunker down and add a network visualization to the Spokin community page — attached is a screenshot showing the 100 most connected entities for the civic tech NW network, using D3.


Announcing our R&D Consulting Division

We are pleased to announce the opening of our consulting division, focused on helping new technologies positively impact people’s lives through user research, social data analytics, prototyping, and knowledge sharing.

As a non-profit research and development organization with the mission of fostering community empowerment and well-being through technology innovation, we engage in all phases of the R&D cycle, including user research, system design, prototyping, deployment, evaluation, and knowledge dissemination.

In addition to developing our own technologies, we want to help other organizations achieve a meaningful, positive impact in the “tech for good”, social enterprise space by offering our consulting services.  Successful projects require a deep understanding of their users and the ecosystem in which technologies are deployed.  However, few technology companies operate on a scale to employ their own full-time researchers.  We invite you to hire us for project-based work to address your research needs.

Learn more about our consulting services and explore recent past projects here, or contact us directly by phone or email.

Introducing Spokin

The CTO of the City of Seattle saw our presentation of our community well-being report pages at the DSSG program, and asked that we demo Spokin and the community well-being report pages to the mayor’s office.  We did this last week, here are the slides introducing Spokin.

We also recently submitted Spokin as a project for the Knight Foundation’s News challenge.  They post it online so others can comment, so please check it out and provide feedback!  Here’s the summary of the project we provided for them. A “Quantified Community” Civic Networking Tool for Fostering Communal Self-awareness, Empowerment, and Well-being

In two sentences:  Spokin is a member-curated civic network with neighborhood community well-being report cards based on open data and social media analytics.  Just as the quantified-self movement emerged from people using personal informatics to promote their own positive health and quality of life behaviors, we leverage social media analytics, open data, and community-curated content to quantify communities, empowering them to promote their own well-being through increased self-awareness and collective efficacy.

Spokin's Community Report Page

Spokin’s Community Report Page


Spokin is an experimental online civic network focused on neighborhoods and cities that incorporates community self-assessment tools with more traditional social networking features to enable dialogue around social issues warranting a collective response.  The most innovative contributions of Spokin include a) community report cards that dynamically assess place-based community well-being using social media analytics and open data, including an overall Community Well-being Index, b) the automatic identification of local community hubs best positioned to facilitate community response, using a Community Hub Index, c) novel design solutions addressing the unique challenges of enacting one’s civic identity in a hyperlocal public sphere, and d) tools for embedding actionable community metrics in real world community places.

Background and motivation:

A key objective of Spokin is to help people engage with others in their local communities by increasing their awareness of issues that might affect their community well-being as they arise.  Historically, government agencies have measured the well-being of neighborhoods in terms such as crime rates, home ownership, and the income of its residents.  As government agencies adopt a policy of transparency through the open data movement, this information is increasingly made available for unrestricted use through data hosting services and public APIs.  Open data sources include census data, crime incident reports, 311 issue reports, new business licenses or construction permit reports, and geo-spatial location information for local organizations.

These newly available data resources present many exciting directions to explore when seeking to increase community self-awareness. However such urban and socio-economic metrics do not provide a complete picture of community well-being.  In recent years there has there has been an effort (as exemplified by Diene et. al., 1995; the Gross National Happiness Project, 2013, and Morton & Edwards, 2012) to develop measures of community well-being that incorporate more subjective evaluations of quality of life and community engagement.  While a few such measures have been developed (Christakopoulou et al., 2001; Rath & Harter, 2010; Wilkinson 2007) and provide compelling insights, they nonetheless tend to focus on aggregating individual assessments of life satisfaction and personal civic engagement rather than evaluations of the community as a whole.

In addition, traditional self-report measures of community well-being are quite resource-intensive to collect, and are not the most appropriate tools for providing updated, time-sensitive assessments based on changing local events.  As such, citizens usually turn to news media as sources of updated information about their communities (Rosential et al., 2011).  At the hyperlocal level, an important source of information is social media, such as blogs, microblogs, and social networking sites.  In particular, social media tools have been used to report various activities including breaking news (Kwak, 2010), including crises like floods (Vieweg et al., 2010), earthquakes (Sakaki et al., 2010), or even during wartime (Monroy-Hernandez, 2012).   As a consequence, online discourse in social media generates persistent data traces, through which we may collect attitudinal data at a more societal scale (De Choudhury et al., 2014; Monroy-Hernandez et al., 2013).

While a valuable source of hyperlocal information, social media is also problematic and often requires algorithmic analysis to be of use.  As we noted in Hu et al. (2013) in motivating the development of Whooly, a neighborhood-based Twitter aggregator:

“social media tends to be noisy, chaotic, and overwhelming, posing challenges to users in seeking and distilling high quality content from the noise.…  People need help leveraging social media as a source of information about their hyperlocal communities. At one extreme are the fast-paced, uncurated social media streams: chaotic and overwhelming. At the other extreme are the traditional, authoritative, news sources: slow and less participatory than social media. (p. 3481)”

Researchers have explored whether messages in prominent public networks around local topics could be analyzed to provide a signal of local well-being.  For example, Schwartz et al. (2013) found small but statistically significant relationships between self-reported individual life satisfaction measures, Twitter affect, and census data.  Cranshaw et al. (2012) found that Foursquare check-ins meaningful corresponded with socially constructed neighborhood regions, which suggests they may be used to assess community activity and cohesion.  This line research is very promising, and we seek to innovate in how social media and open data may be used to dynamically assess community well-being in a way that is actionable for community organizers.

Spokin Quantified Community Report Pages

Our Spokin community report pages algorithmically integrate social media analytics with more traditional metrics from open data sources to provide a rich, actionable picture of a community’s well-being for community organizers and citizens.  See attached image.  The development of our metrics of factors that impact hyperlocal community well-being are informed by social science and validated against “ground truth” self-report measures of neighborhood experts.  Key factors to date include a) social vitality – metrics indicating that community members know each other and regularly interact; b) thriving third places – metrics indicating that there are active community third places outside of the work and the home where community members may regularly interact; c) the presence of an invested population, such as homeowners and families, d) sufficiently high socio-economic status indicating that the community has the resources to resolve issues, e) diversity in perspectives and skills that often leads to creative, innovative group solutions, with the inclusive culture required to benefit from said diversity, and f) low stressors, such as excessive commuting times and unemployment.  People may explore the different community metrics in the report card by clicking on each of them (see left side of image), which then dynamically visualizes the metric across neighborhoods with a D3 map (see right side of image).   The community report cards are shared in the context of Spokin’s member-curated community networks – including a who’s who of people, organizations, projects, and events active in the community, a visualization showing how they are connected, and an aggregated updates stream – to best facilitate the formation of new community connections and dialogue around shared issues.

The need we are trying to address.

Community well-being is one of the most important factors that impacts quality of life (amongst financial, personal relationship, physical, and psychological wellbeing). However, few individuals are educated to understand what impacts well-being at the communal or societal level, or how to take collective steps toward improving communal well-being. Spokin will provide tools for increasing the collective intelligence and empowerment of community organizers and everyday citizens.

What progress have you made so far?

Spokin builds on several years of prior R&D projects examining the use of social media for increasing awareness of dynamic hyperlocal, neighborhood issues. We started prototyping Spokin in the spring of 2015 and hope to have our “MVP” by early spring 2016. During the summer of 2015, we were selected for the eScience Institute (UW) Data Science for Social Good summer incubator program, where we worked with an interdisciplinary group of data scientists to develop a prototype of the report pages.

What would be a successful outcome for your project?

Successful outcomes would include adoption rates (active users per day) comparable to other civic socio-technical tools in our target metropolitan areas, partnerships with several leading city or NGO agencies seeking ongoing well-being metrics in their areas, the active use of our APIs to integrate our Community Well-being Index into other web sites, and the use of our open-sourced analytics code to facilitate research and development with sibling agencies or web sites.

Spokin is in “closed alpha” but if you want to see a demo to learn more, send me an email at shelly at thirdplacetechnologies dot com.

Electric Sky: An Experimental One Day “Campathon” Fostering Art & Tech

One of our target creative communities for our technology interventions and community engagement activities is the art and tech community in the Pacific Northwest.  As such, we helped host “Electric Sky” this summer, as a way to bring together people at the intersection of art and tech.

3D printer workshop at Electric Sky

3D printer workshop at Electric Sky

Shunpike was very interested in what we did, and asked us to present lessons learned at one of their hivemind events, themed “cross-pollination“.  Here are the slides of that presentation.

You can learn more about Electric Sky here.

The primary goal of this art and tech weekend campathon was to foster the community of innovators at the intersection of art and technology in the Pacific Northwest who use emerging technologies to open up new domains of creative expression.   This event is for artists, technologists, designers, scientists, hackers, makers, and other hybrid creatives who recognize that some of the most inspiring innovations emerge from collaborating across traditional disciplinary boundaries.  Through the immersive experience of an artist retreat, structured much like a weekend hackathon, we sought to create an environment where members of this community may find each other, develop trust, collaborate, be inspired, and innovate.


Wrapping Up Our Community Wellbeing Report Pages Prototype at DSSG

Community Wellbeing Report Page

Community Wellbeing Report Page Prototype

During the summer of 2015, we were selected to participate in the University of Washington’s eScience Institute Data Science for Social Good summer incubator program, where we worked with an interdisciplinary group of graduate student fellows and faculty research scientists to develop an initial prototype of our proposed community well-being report pages.

Here are the wrap up presentation slides, presented on the final day of the event.

Our code is up on github at

The prototype is in “closed alpha” for now, but email me (Shelly) at shelly at thirdplacetechnologies dot com if you wan to check it out.

Special Thanks:

It was a very intense summer, and I can’t thank our student fellows enough for all their hard work. It was a lot of data to pull together in a meaningful way in a short amount of time, and it was immensely valuable to have such an interdisciplinary team focusing on the problem — Ryan Burns’ perspective as a Geography expert, Jenny Ho’s experience with economics analysis, Jordan Bates’s background in computer science and applied math, Yue Zhou’s patience wrangling together and analyzing King County crime data, and our high school students’ (Avery Glassand Jennifer Nino) adventurous spirits in getting feedback from neighborhood residents and processing Facebook data. I also want to thank our DSSG staff mentor Bernease Herman for all her help in mentoring the students in working through their individual problems, and the DSSG crew’s hard work (especially Sarah and Micaela) in providing such a fabulous program connecting data science students with organizations like ours.


Building on our recent prior work examining the use of social media and open data analytics to support hyperlocal community awareness and civic engagement around local issues, we are creating a new experimental third place system – Spokin — to incorporate community self-assessment metrics with identity management tools and situated communication channels that encourage citizen response. The primary goal of Spokin is to enable community organizers and everyday citizens to leverage new affordances in social media, open data, and situated communication channels for ongoing situated community self-awareness around issues affecting their well-being, and immediate, intelligent, collective issue response. A key focus of this work expected to have both intellectual merit and broader impact, is the development of a dynamic Community Well-being Index and a Community Hubs Index, based on data analytics integrating social media and open data. Given the importance of being able to engage with community messages in situ, another longer-term objective of this line of work is to explore new opportunities for citizens to interact with the neighborhood content through mobile and embedded devices.

Summary of our summer project:

For this project we integrated several social media and open data sources to develop predictors of community well-being in King County neighborhoods and cities, including neighborhood Twitter activity and content analysis, activity in Facebook groups and pages, Yelp activity, crime statistics, and census data. We then used machine learning and hierarchical regression analysis techniques to develop a measurement model, using existing survey data from the Happiness Initiative (Musikanski, 2013) as our ground truth dependent variable, which includes a self-report community well-being measure aggregated to the level of King County zip codes. Based on these findings we then developed summary measures of social vitality, thriving third places, population investment, socio-economic status, diversity, and stress (based on weighted, linear combinations of statistically significant features), out of which we further created an overall Community Well-being Index.

Our preliminary results were promising, with our overall Community Well-being Index (based entirely on social media and open data) correlating with the Happiness Initiative self-reported community well-being measure at r = .65, p < .000, N = 167. However we encountered complex interaction effects that warrant further analysis with a larger sample size. For example, we found that while racial diversity overall negatively correlated with community well-being, for minorities in inclusive neighborhoods community well-being was especially high. While provocative, we need more statistical power to have confidence in these findings. Further, the Happiness Initiative survey data was collected online, which raises sampling concerns, and aggregates only to the zip code level. An important next step is to develop a valid ground truth community well-being data set at the neighborhood level to further develop our models.

You may also find a summary of the project on the DSSG blog.

Fostering Innovation Communities Paper Presented at ISEA2015

More than a year ago, to help foster the growing community of artists/technologists in the Pacific Northwest, we organized a workshop bringing together key stakeholders in the region, as a collaboration between Microsoft Research, Cornish College of the Arts, and the Genius Foundation. The workshop was structured as a focus group including a brief questionnaire to generate feedback for how to best support this community.  pr_arttechworkshop

In August 2015, we presented a paper summarizing the lessons learned from the workshop at the International Symposium of Electronic Arts 2015.  Perhaps one of the most interesting challenges we discussed during this session, is the difficulty in helping interdisciplinary communities collaborate, particularly given their different professional constraints.

See paper (Cornish), paper (ISEA2015) or slides.
Farnham S., Brice, J., Tremblay, G., & Pinto da Silva, A.  (2015).  Fostering a Community of Innovation at the Intersection of Art and Technology in the Pacific Northwest.  ISEA 2015.

First Day at the Data Science for Social Good Incubator

Today is the first day of the DSSG Incubator.   I gave a short presentation, including overview of Third Place and recent work informing this project, and got to meet all the students, and start planning the next ten weeks.  It’s going to be an exciting project, in part because of the other exciting projects that will be sitting in the same room, analyzing data to help solve homelessness, transportation, and accessibility…

Here are the slides for my overview, on dropbox.


Participting in the Data Science for Social Good Incubator Program

We’ve been selected to participate in the Data Science for Social Good summer incubator program!  It’s a really great opportunity for us to work with smart graduate students and faculty at the UW eScience Institute, while sitting side by side with three other selected projects leveraging data science for social good in urban environments.


Here’s the project description:

Assessing Community Well-being through Open Data and Social Media

With this project we will be creating neighborhood community report pages in the context of a hyperlocal, crowd-sourced community network. Our direct, “socially good” objective is to help neighborhood communities better understand the factors that impact community well-being, and how they as a neighborhood compare with other neighborhoods on these factors, to help them set the agenda for what to prioritize in promoting their well-being. A key aspect of this project is to explore novel ways to leverage diverse social media and open data sources to dynamically assess community-level well-being, in order to a) enable early identification of emerging social issues warranting a collective response, and to b) automatically identify and recommend the local community hubs best positioned to coordinate a community response. While the tools are intended to be general purpose, through the summer we will be targeting two more underserved neighborhoods in King County (the International District and the Central District). Specific project activities include:

1) Collecting and processing diverse hyperlocal social media (e.g., Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare) and open data sources (e.g., Census data, Crime data, building permits, map data) to develop community well-being measures, which may include sentiment/content analysis, social network analysis, geo-spatial analysis of hyperlocal business activity, and social media activity metrics;

2) Algorithmically integrating these metrics to develop a summary measurement model of overall “community well-being” and individual/local business “community hubbiness”;

3) Representing these metrics to end users (neighborhood community members) in neighborhood report pages, which may include overview visualizations that represent neighborhood well-being across neighborhoods; and

4) Throughout the process, actively work with one or two underserved neighborhoods (International District, Central District) to engage in community participatory design.

This works builds on prior work while our lead investigator Shelly Farnham was as Microsoft Research, exploring the use of social media to help hyperlocal communities stay informed. Related references: Facilitating Information Seeking For Hyperlocal Communities Using Social Media. Yuheng Hu, Shelly Farnham, Andrés Monroy-Hernández. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI) 2013

Neighborhood Community Well-being and Social Media, Shelly Farnham, Michal Lahav, Emma Spiro, and Andres Monroy-Hernandez. A recent, as yet unpublished paper exploring the relationship between social media usage and hyperlocal community well-being.