SmartChicago is a group formed with the aim of using technology to better the lives of Chicagoans. Among other things, they support centres that help citizens get access to their health records, they promote free broadband access, they work to improve citizens’ technological skills — and they try to make relevant laws easier to understand.
To assist with this last aim, they’ve done a very practical and perhaps surprising thing: they’ve opened an account on the Rap Genius site, a place to go to learn the meaning of a lot of rap lyrics — or poems, or items in the news. You get that enhanced meaning through annotations which are crowd sourced, and that was the hook that brought SmartChicago in:
We use News Genius as the platform for our Annotations program. It has a number of features that make it great for our purposes:
- Rich annotations (links, images, video embeds, etc.) that allow for deeper understanding of specific words and phrases
- Direct, sharable hyperlinks to specific annotations to stimulate discussion
- Open platform that allows anyone to improve the annotations
- There’s a large and growing community of people on the platform, annotating all sorts of text
They’ve got a couple of examples up now:
City of Chicago – RFP for Municipal Code Printing, Sales, Web Hosting, and Editing Supplementation Services: this covers a specific RFP covering the publication of the municipal code. We thought it was a good example to start with because it has all of the boilerplate language and the project also has a technological component
City of Chicago – Sample Contract with City of Chicago: this is a boilerplate contract attached to all RFPs. This is somewhat less annotated – we definitely could use your help!
As I understand it, this use of currently available services, a kind of bricolage, hopes to demonstrate the value of applying technology — readily available, fairly simple technology — to civic matters and, in so doing, to inspire developers to work in that area.
Go have a look. The yellow text is the subject of an annotation, which you can see by double clicking on the text. And if that interests you, get yourself a Rap Genius account and make something clearer with your own annotations.