Columbia will be one of dozens of cities across the nation participating in the first ever National Day of Civic Hacking, June 1-2, 2013. Yes, that’s two days, not one. Most of the events will be occurring Saturday, June 1, and will run the gamut from pure fun to pure coding (“hacking”). There will be classes at Richland Library and a design competition at the Columbia Museum of Art. At IT-oLogy, coders will continue working overnight in a Hackathon. The computer applications they produce will be unveiled Sunday afternoon. Sponsors include: IT-oLogy, Richland Library, Columbia Museum of Art, EdVenture Children’s Museum, City of Columbia, Richland County, Innovista, University of South Carolina,, EngenuitySC, CETi, Columbia Opportunity Resource (COR), Voterheads, and DP Professionals.

Why participate? “Public information” is often the most difficult data to use, although it includes things we want, need, and have a right to know. Learn what what’s available, and how to unlock it. Hang out with others who want to share information to improve our communities.  If you’re up to a challenge, you might actually do something to help in just 24 hours. There will be food, drinks and music. And, to make it another hot weekend in Columbia, we’ll be collaborating with the folks at EdVenture Children’s Museum, which is hosting the Columbia Mini Maker Faire June 1.

Data miners, fact hunters and activists (Richland Library). No technical skills required! Join us for sessions throughout the day. We’ll have beginner classes for Web design, and we’ll show you how to use information that’s already online so you can do things like compare your property taxes or pinpoint hot spots for crimes in your neighborhood.

Designers and dreamers (Columbia Museum of Art). Sessions will be open to all who care about designing the ways people can find and use information.

Makers (EdVenture Children’s Museum). Featuring both established and emerging local “makers,” the Columbia Mini Maker Faire is a family-friendly celebration featuring rockets and robots, DIY science, technology and educational workshops. Maker Faire is an all-ages gathering of tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, science clubs, authors, artists and students. All of these “makers” come to Maker Faire to show and share what they make and what they have learned.

Hackathon for Hackers (IT-oLogy). Immerse yourself for 24 hours in a coding project that can help others in Columbia solve problems or better their lives. You’ll be teaming up with others who design in your language. You can join one of the teams on a project that the organizers have launched, or you can assemble your own team for your own project. Projects envisioned by the organizers tentatively include building better tools for searching the collection at the Columbia Museum of Art.


How “national” is the National Day of Civic Hacking? As of mid-April there were about 80 cities in 32 states participating. Also on board were more than a dozen federal government agencies from the National Archives to the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Why is the event is called a “Day” when you say it spans June 1-2? Good question. We’re not sure, but in Columbia most of the activities occur Saturday, June 1. An overnight Hackathon at IT-oLogy will end 1 p.m. Sunday, when the teams’ results are announced.

What’s the “civic” about? We’re concentrating on information that is available to the public through government agencies to solve problems relevant to our communities.

Why will you be celebrating “hacking” — and should I be concerned? We’re glad you asked that question. Many people think of “hacking” as something bad — from mischief to a crime — done by people who know how to use computers and computer languages. But some believe its origins lie with the broader, and older meaning of hacking as “to chop or chip away at something.” The idea here is that you are trying to figure out how to solve a problem, as in “hacking towards a solution.” Our event is named after that broader definition: We think hacking should be for the good of the community.


A short history of hacking

As late as the 1976 edition of The American Heritage Dictionary, “hack” and “hacking” were specifically mentioned in relation to an occupation as an informal way of saying someone was working “as a hack, especially as a taxicab driver or a writer.” That edition of American Heritage makes no mention of computers in relation to “hack” or “hacking.” But this was already changing. A milestone for the computer-related meaning of the word arrived with 1984’s publication of Steven Levy’s book, “Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution.” Levy said hackers should be guided by these principles:

●             Access to computers—and anything which might teach you something about the way the world   works—should be unlimited and total. Always yield to the Hands-on Imperative
●             All information should be free
●             Mistrust authority—promote decentralization.
●             Hackers should be judged by their hacking, not bogus criteria such as degrees, age, race or position.
●             You can create art and beauty on a computer.
●             Computers can change your life for the better.

This type of definition of “hacking” has less to do with the morality of the activity than it does with the values and culture surrounding hacking.

Here a character called “Motherboard” (or “Mother B.”) rules a world called “cyberspace.” Motherboard is kept working by a technician called “Dr. Marbles.” One day Dr. Marbles creates an assistant called “Hacker,” who turns evil and infects Motherboard’s operating system with a virus. In each episode, Motherboard summons a group of kids to thwart Hacker’s latest attempt to overthrow our wise ruler. While the kids essentially act as “hackers” themselves, the signature line of the show’s best-known character is “That’s THE Hacker to you.”

More information about the South Carolina Day of Civic Hacking can be found at:


Event registrations are at:

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