Chris Csíkszentmihályi is European Research Area Chair at Madeira Interactive Technology Institute, and is director of the the Rootio Project, a sociotechnical platform for community radio.
Csíkszentmíhályi has been a professor at colleges, universities, and institutes. He cofounded and directed the MIT Center for Future Civic Media (C4), which was dedicated to developing technologies that strengthen communities. He also founded the MIT Media Lab's Computing Culture group, which worked to create unique media technologies for cultural and political applications. He was Distinguished Visiting Professor of Art and Design Research at Parsons the New School for Design, and a European Research Area Chair at Madeira Interactive Technology Institute. Trained as an artist, he has crossed between new technologies, media, and the arts; lecturing, exhibiting installations, and building sociotechnical systems on five continents and one subcontinent. He was a 2005 Rockefeller New Media Fellow, and a 2007-2008 fellow at Harvard's Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and has taught at MIT, the University of California at San Diego, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and at Turku University. He sits on the advisory board of the DATACTIVE ERC project at U. Amsterdam and the Digital Civics and the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Digital Civics at Newcastle University.
The Center for Civic Media works to develop social and technical systems that allow communities to research and reflect on their condition, and to take action in their interests. Under Csíkszentmíhályi's leadership the Center produced significant research and incubated enterprises that are influential and active a decade later, including publiclab.org, sourcemap.com, betweenthebars.org, and RootIO.org. Works ranged from mapping and blogging systems for Gaza, to space-based wikis of unusual features of a community, to work with citizens groups from Zimbabwe to Juarez, New York to Haiti, trying to aid their communities or assert their interests against oppressive, top-down interference. Csíkszentmihályi led the extrAct research project, a large-scale effort to bring software-based tools for collective action to parts of the US that are heavily affected by oil and natural gas drilling.
Csíkszentmihályi’s Computing Culture research group was known for developing political technologies that rebalance power between citizens, corporations, and governments. From Afghan Explorer, a tele-operated robot journalist designed to bypass Pentagon and Taliban press censorship, to txtMob, a mobile phone-based activist system that enabled highly effective protests at the 2004 RNC and DNC, these systems range from working proofs of concept to widely used and distributed tools. The group also worked to develop technologies of empathy, including Cherry Blossoms, an automatic pamphlet distribution system to memorialize civilian war deaths, or OMO, the sympathetic breathing robot. Computing Culture projects won various awards, were featured from CNN Live to the New York Times Magazine's Best of Design, to Wired and Make. Some of its projects were direct antecedents to major contemporary technologies: for example, txtMob directly inspired the Odeo company when it pivoted to become Twitter. Graduates like Limor Fried and Ayah Bdeir are two of the most successful women in tech, running AdaFruit Industries and LittleBits, respectively.
Grounded in his work in civic media, Csíkszentmihályi’s current Rootio project (with Jude Mukundane) works to make community radio networked, interactive, and scalable, but still inexpensive, while maintaining roots in small, linguistically diverse communities. RootIO has been featured in New Scientist, Publico, and New Vision, and is currently serving four communities in Uganda. Under a Horizon2020 action that Csíkszentmihályi is coordinating, RootIO stations will be launched in Romania, Ireland, Portugal, and Cabo Verde.