Civic Journalism at Pioneer Works

The Civic Journalism program is an opportunity for young adults in Red Hook to envision and realize community-driven projects using technology, design, media, and the many other tools available to them through the unique networks and resources of Pioneer Works.

The program is a collaboration between Pioneer Works and the Red Hook Initiative, which is a local community based organization that supports Red Hook youth with educational and enrichment opportunities. RHI’s Digital Stewards is a one-year tech and media training program for young adults designed to introduce participants to a wide variety of digital media tools and prepare them for jobs in the field. For three months during this time, the Stewards come to Pioneer Works to create their own community-based multimedia and tech projects that combine storytelling with new forms of technology.

The goals of the Civic Journalism program are for the stewards to develop advanced skills in tech and media, stretch themselves creatively and intellectually, engage with their local community, and prepare for jobs in the tech and media fields.

Our projects have included: The Red Hook Regatta, a radio controlled 3D printed boat race on the Brooklyn waterfront; Hook Files, an oral history website and radio show about Red Hook; and the upcoming weekend event Hack Red Hook: The Invention Intervention, in which we will design, build and install useful and interactive gadgets throughout the neighborhood.

Red Hook Regatta

Red Hook has a long history as a shipping port, and for this project we wanted to connect the neighborhood’s waterfront culture with new media and high tech skills such as 3D modeling and printing, electronics, and physical design.

In order to produce this event, digital stewards Laurenzo Reid and Jesus Martinez mastered 3D modeling software and 3D printing technologies, researched the history of shipping in Red Hook, created a project website, designed the race, and reached out to the community. They were joined by Naheem Morris, John Reid and Marlaina Eaddy for the final hurdle, which was modeling, fabricating, and programming watertight, 3D-printed radio-controlled boats to compete in the race.

After getting extensive coverage by the New York Times, BRIC TV, and DNAinfo, among other outlets, on September 20, 2015 over 400 people gathered to watch as six radio-controlled 3D printed boats competed against each other to deliver cargo to the pier.

The 2016 Red Hook Regatta picks up where this one left off, with redesigned boats and challenges, bigger prizes, more teams, and increased opportunities for local boaters to get involved. To get updates about this year's race email us at redhookregatta@gmail.com.

Hook Files

Hook Files is an oral history radio show and website that explores the neighborhood through multiple voices and points of view.

To create Hook Files, media producers Marlaina Eaddy, John Reid, and Naheem Morris interviewed over a dozen people in Red Hook about their experiences and stories in this community. We spoke with business owners, community activists, lifelong residents, and people who travel to the neighborhood for work. We organized these interviews into three episodes that each explore a topic through the words and experiences of many people. The topics we chose were crime, Hurricane Sandy, and the “front and the back” of Red Hook -- three issues which deeply affect this community.

We also partnered with the Brooklyn Public Library to make some of these stories available through the “Our Streets, Our Stories” project. And we worked closely with Clocktower Radio, who are an institutional partner here at Pioneer Works. Our Hook Files exhibit opened at our February 2016 Second Sundays event and included selections from the Kentler Gallery Red Hook archives, a listening station containing the Hook Files episodes, and video documentation of a popular Red Hook basketball tournament.

You can listen to Hook Files on our website, SoundCloud page, or via Clocktower Radio.

Red Hook Hackathon

The second Red Hook Hackathon, Hack Red Hook II: Invention Intervention will bring together designers, engineers, coders, community planners, and inventors to design, create and install useful and interactive objects around the Red Hook neighborhood. It will take place at Pioneer Works over the weekend of June 17-19, 2016.

This year the Digital Stewards are playing important roles as conceptual designers, community connectors, and logistical planners. As part of the preparation of the event they are surveying local residents and organizations to identify community needs, and developing relevant and creative strategies for addressing them. They will also be completing in the event, and bringing their technical skills and knowledge of the community to their hackathon teams.

Community Engagement

A primary goal of the Civic Journalism program is creating media and tech projects that are rooted in the Red Hook community. For our first project, the Red Hook Regatta, this meant celebrating and sharing the neighborhood’s waterfront history and culture. Our oral history project, Hook Files, delved deep into the lives of the people who live and work in the neighborhood. And our most recent project, the Red Hook community hackathon, harnesses skills in technology and design to address some of the issues in the neighborhood.

Our community minded focus has brought us into collaborations with many Red Hook residents, organizations, local artists, and community leaders. Our network includes the the Kentler International Drawing Space, the Red Hook Senior Center, the Waterfront Museum, Portside New York, the Brooklyn Public LIbrary, Clocktower Radio, and many other friends in the neighborhood who support our events.