Civic media is any form of communication that strengthens the social bonds within a community or creates a strong sense of civic engagement among its residents.” — MIT Center for Civic Media

Course Meeting Times

Lecture: 1 session / week, 3 hours / session


This course examines civic media in comparative, transnational and historical perspectives. We will explore various theoretical tools, research approaches, and project design methods. Students will engage with multimedia texts on concepts such as citizen journalism, transmedia activism, media justice, and civic, public, radical, and tactical media. Case studies focus on civic media across platforms (print, radio, broadcast, internet), contexts (from local to global, present-day to historical), and use (dialogic, contentious, hacktivist). As a final project, students develop a paper, case study, or civic media project design. Students taking the graduate version complete additional assignments. Limited to 20 students.

The need for a 21st century freedom discourse is paramount. The Obama campaign proved that the connection of media technology and organizing holds much promise for constructing electoral movements. Now, how can that technology help us construct new spaces for black and other subaltern voice? Which tools and platforms will help collective deliberation and debate, not just aggregate or pass on information? What venues and mechanisms will aid formation of political identities of dispersed and despised groups? How can these groups find opportunities for speech back to the majority?" — Dayna Cunningham

Course Goals

Students who complete Introduction to Civic Media will be able to:

  • Understand key concepts in the field of Civic Media, for example: public sphere; networked counterpublics; citizen journalism; radical media; media justice; hacktivism.
  • Articulate and defend their own definition of the term “Civic Media.”
  • Assess common arguments about the role of digital media technologies in social change.
  • Work with peers on shared projects using collaborative real-time authoring tools.
  • Understand, and explain to others, what’s new and what’s not so new about the ‘new media’ debates.
  • Conceive, develop, and present a final civic media project.

Learning Tools and Activities

In addition to reading and in-class discussion, participants in this course will work together intensively thro ghout the semester to develop a shared practice of real-time collaborative note-taking, writing & editing, and public participation in debates about civic media via the course blog. We’ll also share links via Twitter using the #civicmedia hashtag.

Learning activities include:

  • Engage with class texts and discussions;
  • Lead a class discussion;
  • Take shared notes via etherpad;
  • Transform shared discussion notes into blog posts;
  • Write posts summarizing key positions in civic media debates;
  • Conduct peer review of each others' work, via in-class feedback and the blog;
  • Write a short case study about a civic mapping project;
  • Find an example of a failed civic media project, and write a post about what it was, how and why it failed, and by what criteria it is considered a failure;
  • Create and present a final project proposal midway through the semester;
  • Create and present a final project at the end of the term.


Texts and discussion 20%
Weekly reflections 30%
Discussion facilitation and synthesis 10%
Midterm Project proposal 10%
Final Project and Presentation 30%

A Note about Blogging and Anonymity

All participants in the course are expected to post regular blog entries on a publicly accessible site (the course blog). You may, however, choose to remain anonymous (actually, pseudonymous) by publishing under a pseudonym not easily linkable to your real name.

Required Statement on Plagiarism

Plagiarism - use of another’s intellectual work without acknowledgement - is a serious offense. It is the policy of the CMS Faculty that students who plagiarize will receive an F in the subject, and that the instructor will forward the case to the Committee on Discipline. Full acknowledgement for all information obtained from sources outside the classroom must be clearly stated in all written work submitted. All ideas, arguments, and direct phrasings taken from someone else’s work must be identified and properly footnoted (or linked). Quotations from other sources must be clearly marked as distinct from the student’s own work. For further guidance on the proper forms of attribution, consult the style guides available in the Writing and Communication Center and the MIT Website on Plagiarism.


1 Introduction  
2 The ‘Crisis in Journalism’ and Digital Inequalities First blog post due
3 Dialogic Approaches: From the Public Sphere to Networked Counter publics Second blog post due
4 Contentious Approaches: Power and Conflict, from Hegemony to Media Justice; Project Proposal Workshop

Project proposals due

Project Proposal workshop.

5 Critical Political Economic Approaches: Is it the System or is it Propaganda? Yes. Third blog post due
6 Free Cultural Labor Fourth Blog Post due
7 Civic Maps

Fifth blog post due

Hands On: Local Ground

8 Platforms and Affordances: From Pamphleteers to Peer-to-Peer Case Study due
9 Net Culture, Civic Remix, and Kony 2012

Sixth blog post due

Hands On: #hurricanehacking!

10 From the Barricades to the New Normal, or, From Indymedia to the Age of Citizen Journalism Seventh blog post due
11 Freedom of Information: from the Pentagon papers to Wikileaks and Beyond Eighth blog post due
12 Mobile Civic Media Ninth blog post due
13 Civil Disobedience and Hacktivism, from the Black Bloc to DDOS and Beyond Tenth blog post due
14 Video Activism, Free Software, and Human Rights in the Asia-Pacific Region Eleventh blog post due
15 Final Project IGNITE Talks Final projects due

“There is no guarantee that networked information technology will lead to the improvements in innovation, freedom, and justice that I suggest are possible. That is a choice we face as a society. The way we develop will, in significant measure, depend on choices we make in the next decade or so.” — Yochai Benkler_, The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom_.

Course Info

Learning Resource Types

notes Lecture Notes
assignment_turned_in Written Assignments with Examples