Author Archives: dcruz112

An Individualistic Passport

Sofia and I spent most of our time butting against the fact that passports are intrinsically designed to avoid individualism. Their purpose is basically singular: to allow people (usually government agents) to quickly read information that they can trust is in fact true. That information is personal, perhaps even sensitive, but must be standardized so that passport readers can do their jobs. In fact, passports’ users may in fact be the governments who issue passports and the agencies who must use them to permit people to travel. I make a distinction in this post between passport users (agents) and passport holders (travelers).

To create an individualistic passport, we found we could hide the conformity. Conformity would be necessary for passport users to quickly find information, so we proposed placing an RFID in passports which could transmit this basic information to a screen which agents would read. Despite RFIDs also being (often) anti-individualistic technology, it is invisible to most passport users and would allow for some changes to the passport which could make it more individualistic. However, we recognized that RFIDs are not particularly secure, which can undercut the ability to verify the information it transmits. We are less concerned with the technical implementation, but a secure transmission which would be invisible to passport holders would be our ideal.

As for the individualism, we explored ways to design for creativity. We wanted to be able to design three parts: the cover, the page containing personal info, the photo (which would be included on the aforementioned page), and the part with stamps.

Cover We initially wanted a cover which could represent multiple nationalities at a time to accommodate those who hold multiple passports. Those designs ended up being too conformed and decided such information could be transmitted electronically. Instead, we wanted that part to be totally free-form. I drew the eagle from the Mexican flag on mine.

Personal Info This page would be less functional but should still exist (though only for the photo ). We decided it should work like an introductory slide for a class. It should have parameters for what information should be included, but you can decide on its layout. Additionally, passports could allow you to have personal statements (mine is a bit boring).

Photo Again, this seems it should be approved by some government office to verify that the photo can represent you to passport users. However, it seems that the photo should be easier to update. Some of that would be bureaucratic changes, but our passport had easily replaceable pages (represented here by a napkin). That would also allow you to drastically change your appearance and allow your photo to be up-to-date.

Stamps Stamps could be crowd sourced online and approved by each government. When you arrived at the airport, you could choose from a number of steps, including ones you’d submitted.

Digital Literacy Curriculum

Overview

I helped write and test a curriculum on digital literacy. It was aimed at 7th-10th graders and incorporated a variety of pedagogies. We collaborated with educators, after-school programs, and educational non-profits to refine the curriculum.

Critique

I worked on this project as a researcher alongside academics specializing in education and technology. While we may have had the knowledge necessary to create the curricular materials, none of us had significant teaching experience for the target age group. We relied on our collaborators heavily to put us in front of students, but even then, we were relying on research and our own process of engaging with students to bring us insights. While we theoretically had experts as collaborators, they were less involved in the project than we were.

The curriculum was created from the desire of adults to protect young people. The resource was for teachers who would have a hard time finding the language to discuss these issues, to find clear examples to illustrate certain issues or activities that could relate to different subjects. However, it was unclear whether students believed they needed digital literacy training. A lot of students questioned basic premises about technology use and ideas of privacy. Additionally, students from different socioeconomic backgrounds had vastly different responses to each part of the curriculum. It became difficult to provide teachers proper preparation in the lesson plans on how to respond to all common responses. In order to address this, many new modules needed to be created and tested

There was also a question as to how such a curriculum would be implemented in a different school or extracurricular settings at scale. Additionally, writing and testing took a long time. The technology students used and the ways they used it could possibly have changed in the year it took to complete a solid draft. Luckily, the curriculum was as product-agnostic as possible and tried to focus on issues that have perpetuated through schools over the past decade. However, there was not a process in place to deal with new issues as they emerged. The shortfall is that the product was more important than the process and as soon as the project came to a halt, the product would become out of date.

Meet David

Hey y’all!

My name is David Cruz. I’m a sometimes tech cynic from Austin, TX. I’m currently an admin in the Personal Robots Group at the Media Lab, but have previously worked as a Research Assistant at the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard and as a co-founder of a startup. Before that, I studied Computer Science at Yale.

In regards to this class, I have varying interest/experience in:

  • Online harassment (particularly among youth or directed at women)
  • Open data as a tool for corporate/government accountability
  • Internet privacy
  • Ethical development of Artificial Intelligence
  • Regulation of tech companies (captive markets, monopolies, etc.)
  • Racial bias in tech culture and tech products
  • Algorithmic fairness
  • Unethical or unauthorized use of data by corporations or government (e.g. census data in WWII, DACA recission)
  • Tech and policing (particularly body cams + other sensors)
  • Education technology (e.g., tech-assisted learning, student privacy, digital literacy)

If you’ve worked in/are interested in any of these topics, come talk to me project ideas! Or if you have something else you’re passionate about, I’m really excited to hear about it.

You can follow me on Twitter @_dmcruz, where I (re)tweet things about tech, government, Texas, movies, anime, and basketball. You can also reach me at dcruz112@gmail.com.