The Great Urban Hack

The Event:

In November 2010, over 100 journalists and developers came together for The Great Urban Hack SF: a weekend of programming, reporting and design around San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood.

The event was a collaborative effort of Gray Area Foundation for the Arts, Eyebeam Art + Technology Center (NYC), Hacks/Hackers, Kicker Studio, and Stamen Design. It was sponsored by Knight News Challenge, a media innovation contest funded and run by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. In addition to the San Francisco event at GAFFTA, another Great Urban Hack event took place simultaneously at Eyebeam in New York.

An earlier project in 2009 between GAFFTA and Stamen provided an ideal launching point for The Great Urban Hack. The two organizations had teamed together to create Tenderloin Dynamic, a project whose interactive creations and printed pieces allowed visitors to explore the Tenderloin through a series of different maps and mappings.

For The Great Urban Hack SF, participants were challenged to find new ways to present issues and challenges facing this central San Francisco neighborhood. Each participant’s mission was to design, report on, code and create projects to help San Franciscans get information they need while strengthening a sense of community. How might we find stories in data, and convey them to neighborhood residents and others? The projects were open to themes around news, politics, government information, arts, culture or education — inspiring a variety of journalism and technology projects to help residents connect to each other or the city.

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The Showcase

That December, 8 of the 15 resulting projects were celebrated with the public in The Great Urban Hack Showcase. The Showcase served as a part of The ARTery Project, an initiative funded by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) aimed at revitalizing the Central Market commercial corridor into a nationally-celebrated cultural destination.

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San Francisco Showcased Projects

Neighborizer

Location: San Francisco
GAFFTA Hack Page
Brief Summary: Lets neighbors talk to others in their building, get local discounts and receive news about their block.
Members: Suzanne Yada, Luke Smith, Mark Percival, Leo Postovoit

TenderLearn

Location: San Francisco
Website
GAFFTA Hack Page
Brief Summary: Enable community members to learn from each other and find classes in the neighborhood via text, web flier and in person.
Members: Indhira Rojas, Matt Canton, Rahmin Sarabi, Carl Tashian, Arthur Grau, Shuhei Kagawa, Aurelio Tinio, Sam Ward, Lee Hepner

TenderVille

Location: San Francisco
Website
GAFFTA Hack Page
Brief Summary: TenderVille is a game designed to build support for a grocery in the Tenderloin. Players make choices about what type of grocery or food delivery they would like to run, and in the end learn about the impact of pending legislation and the long-term benefits possible for the lives of residents.
Members: Vijay Karunamurthy

Tendermaps

Location: San Francisco
Website
GAFFTA Hack Page
Brief Summary: Tendermaps is an experiment in informal, community-based cartography. We encourage people to define their neighborhood in their own terms by creating hand-drawn maps.
Members: Zain Memon, Sha Hwang, Jen Phillips, Mike Tahani, John Weiss, Alan Rorie, Dave Baggeroer

We All Need

Location: San Francisco
Website
GAFFTA Hack Page
Brief Summary: The Tenderloin’s notorious reputation leads outsiders to underestimate how much they have in common with TL residents.
Members: Joey Baker, Jeff Easter, Abe Epton, Mary Franck, Matthew Gerring, Sarah Hirsch, Jim Hovell, Jake Levitas, Wendy Norris, Zac Witte

New York City Showcased Projects

Who’s My Landlord

Location: New York City
Website
Brief Summary: This project was inspired by Elizabeth Dwoskin’s article of the same name in the Village Voice, in which she describes New Yorkers as playing a “board game” to figure out who owns a given piece of property. The members of this team set out to actually make that task easier, online.
The result is an interface, built on MediaWiki, that mines information from the city and state, and allows residents to add their own knowledge to the database.

Roachmap

Location: New York City
Website
Summary: There’s no way to track roach infestations everywhere in New York City, but Roachmap takes a swat at the problem by mapping reports of roaches from the city’s restaurant inspection data. (Eew.)

Street Pac-Man

Location: New York City
Website
Summary: “Real people, playing real Pac-Man, on real sidewalks,” is how the creators describe this game.
Here’s how it works (or will work): Sign in with your GPS-enabled phone and you’re Pac-Man. The dots you munch are lined up on the streets and avenues of Manhattan, and you need to run — literally — down those routes to “eat” them. But watch out for ghosts — other players trying to get you. Spot them by looking at your phone, which shows your location and those of the ghosts nearby.
The team said the civic purpose is exercise and community. And fun. It’s not quite done, but you can sign up to find out when it is. Wakka-wakka.