About the Center for Civic Media | MIT Center for Civic Media

About the Center for Civic Media

Working at the intersection of participatory media and civic engagement, the Center for Civic Media's mission is to design, create, deploy, and assess tools and processes that support and foster civic participation and the flow of information between and within communities.

Based at the MIT Media Lab, the Center for Civic Media works hand in hand with diverse communities to collaboratively create, design, deploy, and assess civic media tools and practices.

We are inventors of new technologies that support and foster civic media and political action, we are a hub for the study of these technologies, and we coordinate community-based design processes locally in the Boston area, across the United States, and around the world.

The Center for Civic Media is made possible by funding from:

  • The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation: $10,255,617 since 2007; download a PDF of our original Knight Foundation proposal
  • The Gates Foundation: $1,100,000 since 2015
  • The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: $1,100,000 since 2015
  • The Ford Foundation: $732,500 since 2013
  • The MacArthur Foundation: $600,000 since 2017
  • The Open Society Foundations: $600,000 since 2013
  • The Bulova-Stetson Foundation: $5,000 in 2012

Defining Civic Media

We use the term civic media, rather than citizen journalism: 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. Civic media goes beyond news gathering and reporting. MIT researchers and students are experimenting with a variety of new civic media techniques, from technologies for protests and civil disobedience to phone-texting systems that allow instant, sophisticated votes on everyday activities. The Center amplifies the development of these technologies for community empowerment, while also serving to generate curricula and open-source frameworks for civic action.

Transforming civic knowledge into civic action is an essential part of democracy. As with investigative journalism, the most delicate and important information can often focus on leaders and institutions that abuse the trust of the communities they serve. By helping to provide people with the necessary skills to process, evaluate, and act upon the knowledge in circulation, civic media ensures the diversity of inputs and mutual respect necessary for democratic deliberation. Some of what emerges here looks like traditional journalism, while some moves in radical new directions.

About the MIT Media Lab

Known around the world as a center for cutting-edge research, the Media Lab develops new technologies that will, sooner rather than later, be a part of our daily lives. A place where the future is lived, not imagined, the Lab blurs traditional boundaries between disciplines, designing technologies that empower people to express themselves and understand the world in new ways. Lab researchers are dedicated to inventing a better future, creating machines and technologies that not only augment human capabilities, but also relate to people on more “human” terms.

Director and Principal Investigator: Ethan Zuckerman
Assistant Director: Lorrie LeJeune
Administrative Assistant: Daniel Minty