Group for Experimental Methods in Humanistic Research
at Columbia University

Rikers Bot

digital storytelling
  • Manan Ahmed
  • Adam Ares
  • Zeinab Aina
  • Thomas Brown III
  • Marjana Chowdhury
  • Andi Dixon
  • Alex Gil
  • Janine Ko
  • Katarzyna Kaczowka
  • Durba Mitra
  • Desmond Patton
  • Cameron Rasmussen
  • Christopher Riederer
  • Morgan Sparkman
  • Elijah Strauss
  • Dennis Yi Tenen
  • Young People at Rikers
updates ↓

12/01/15 From the streets to programming tweets. Prison Education.
11/01/15 How Rikers Inmates and Columbia Students Built A Twitter Bot–With No Internet. Fast Company, Innovation Agents.
11/01/15 Welcome Desmond Patton, Assistant Professor of Social Work at Columbia.
10/01/15 Kim Martineau wrote about the project for the Data Science Institute.

@rikersbot is a coding workshop and an algorithmic storytelling project set in and about Rikers Island correctional facility, New York City’s main prison complex.

In the spring of 2015, the Center for Justice approached the Group for Experimental Methods with an idea of running an “Intro to Python” workshop for the young people incarcerated at Rikers and for Columbia University students interested in digital literacy. Our goal was to set up the encounter in a way that moved past one-way conversation and had effects that would persist beyond event itself.

In teaching programming through digital storytelling, we hoped to encourage a dialog between the youth at Rikers, Columbia faculty and students, and the larger community of the city.

The Rikers Bot project gives all participants a chance to have their voices heard, to learn to code, and to gain real-world experience in writing, editing, and producing a project. Together, we are building a Twitter bot that will tell our story.



What It Takes

Links marked with a dagger are closed pending review.

NYC Resources for released detainees

  • Fortune Society Founded in 1967, The Fortune Society’s vision is to foster a world where all who are incarcerated or formerly incarcerated will thrive as positive, contributing members of society. We do this through a holistic, one-stop model of service provision.
  • Exodus Transitional Community To provide supportive services to formerly incarcerated men and women in order to help them reintegrate into their communities, thereby achieving social and economic well-being and breaking the cycle of recidivism.
  • NYC Tech Talent Pipeline Free training for high tech jobs in NYC. No college degree necessary.

Young People of Rikers

Summer 2015


Fall 2015



CU Faculty Moderators

Instructor Fall 2016