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NAME:
Alan Shaw
WHAT HE DOES:
Creates ways for communities to organize online
LATEST TRIUMPH:
Wiring a New Jersey housing project

With the Internet making the world smaller and smaller, it makes sense, says Alan Shaw, that neighborhoods shrink as well. “If technology can make it easy to communicate with people in China, why not with the person next door?”

In 1993, as a graduate student at MIT’s Media Lab, Shaw created a computer bulletin board system called the Multi-User Sessions in Community (MUSIC). With an $8,000 Wood Foundation grant, he moved Apple computers and high-speed modems into a dozen homes in his working-class Boston neighborhood of Dorchester and hooked them up to MUSIC. Within weeks, residents–some of whom had never met before–logged onto the system and organized a food co-op, a newsletter, and crime watches.

Dorchester is just the first stop. A school board used Shaw’s MUSIC plan to help outfit a housing project in Newark, N.J., with home computers, launching an online community of more than 70 people. Lynette Tucker, a 29-year-old mother of two, says, “Before, if I saw a person from the neighborhood walking on the street, carrying grocery bags, if they weren’t a family member I might just see them and keep on going. Now people will stop and help.”

More MUSIC is planned for a lower-class Chicago neighborhood, and for a statewide program reaching into rural Mississippi. “It’s exposing people to technology,” Shaw says, “and giving them a voice they might otherwise not have.”

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REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

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