Hi everybody! I'm John Bell, a programmer/artist/teacher from almost-Canada (aka Maine, USA). I've now spent a bit over half of my life as a primarily-online developer, going back to the days of NCSA Mosiac on Unix. These days, though, I tend to look more at systems and knowledge than code or presentation.
That shift in focus has led my thinking into the ideas surrounding the Learning Lab. As I've watched people's minds get hijacked by misinformation–from many different sides–I keep thinking that there must be a way to use technology combat the GIGO problem in democracy. I was one of those that bought into the early-Internet era ideals of freeing people by freeing information. The network may have developed in ways that don't always hold up to those ideals, but I still believe it can help with the right combination of application and community design.
My first real shot at working on this problem (in 2005) was Re:Poste, my submission to the contest. It failed because I couldn't build the community it needed to be effective. I'm hoping the Learning Lab will help me find ways to build apps that have the kind of following necessary to make an impact on the wider world instead of ending up as just another beautiful ghost town, like so many empty online communities. I'm also hoping that some of what I learn can be folded back into the Innovative Communication Design graduate program I'm in the middle of developing so that the goals of the lab can be passed on to more students in the future.