Eleven of my undergaduate students, all from a program called Leaders for Tomorrow, are in residence on campus as of today. They are being paid, and in return they owe 180 hours of community research over the next six weeks. Each student will complete a project of his or her own–but all their work will generate products (articles, maps, video documentaries, etc.) for the Prince George’s Information Commons website. The goal is to make that site into a serious venue for information and discussion for a community (pop. 850,000) that has no independent and comprehensive news sources of its own. Once we have enough high-quality material on the site, I’m hoping that it will gain critical mass; other community groups will want to participate as well. Of course, I won’t just wait for that to happen. I will actively promote the site as a place for groups to put their work.
My students are still choosing and planning their projects, but they are likely to interview citizens about their recollections of local history; create maps with health data; develop interactive software for the site that will be open-source and available for others to use in their communities; locate all the music venues in the County and sample snatches of music to create an audio map of the musical life of the community; conduct a content-analysis of the Washington Post‘s coverage of the County over time; study the potential for free wireless Internet access; and chart changes in particularly interesting places (among other projects).