Aditi Mehta's blog | MIT Center for Civic Media

A Case Study of An Innovative Campaign Against Domestic Violence

"If I have to leave my apartment and go to a shelter, will my kids be able to go to the same school?"

"If I am undocumented, can I report my wife for verbal and physical abuse? She told me if I call the police they will arrest me because I am living in the country Illegally."

"Why are there not enough resources to help people in trouble?"

The above questions were all submitted as part of the 21 Days of Questions, 365 Days of Action domestic violence campaign.  

21 Days Cambridge: The Question Review Panel

Member of the question review panel reviewing the submissions.
Question Review Panel reading and discussing submissions for Domestic Violence Campaign.

Question Campaign: A Case Study

In my last post, I decided that for my final Civic Media project, I would write a case study about the 21 Days Question Campaign on Domestic Violence recently launched by the City of Cambridge. The purpose of this case-study is two-fold: 1) to demonstrate how a question campaign can effectively engage diverse community members around a single cause and 2) to understand why this sort of campaign is especially useful in creating public awareness around and fighting domestic violence.

Below is an outline the case study will follow:

Final Project Revisited: 21 Days Cambridge

I have decided to change my final project topic once more. While I am excited by both the history of civic media in Boston's Chinatown and James Rojas' participatory planning workshops, I am now going to focus my final project around the 21 Days Question Campaign Against Domestic Violence in Cambridge.  The City of Cambridge approached the organization Engage the Power (EtP) to help design a campaign against domestic violence.  EtP helps communities set political agendas by designing "question campaigns."  Engage the Power believes in the power of the question to hold decision-makers accountable, as well as to help facilitate knowledge exchange and collective action.  The organization was founded by MIT DUSP Professor Ceasar McDowell.  

Theory of Social Change



Last class, my group designed two “theory of social change” diagrams. One diagram demonstrated the process an individual goes through when trying to improve or modify his or her environment. It assumed that the sociopolitical surroundings of that individual allowed for a simple and accessible democratic process and that local politicians and stakeholders act in the interest of the individual. In that process, the individual first assesses the surroundings and decides what about status quo needs to change. Next, the individual takes this concern or idea to a local politician, and engages others in the community around the issue, encouraging them to also reach out to local politicians. Together all stakeholders form a strategy and take action.


Summary of Week 5: The Political Economy of Communications

We began class on October 3rd by reviewing ideas for our final projects. Throughout the week, students blogged about their proposals. Project topics range from Hip Hop Culture in Civic Media to Supermarket Pastoralism to the Ethics of Activist DDOS Actions. Sasha encouraged us to really push ourselves to think deeply about the intersection between our subject areas, participatory media-making, and civic action. This, in essence, is at the heart of civic media.

Civic Media in Chinatown: Then and Now

For the past three years, I have been tracking Boston Chinatown's movement to locate a branch of the Boston Public Library in their neighborhood. In order to understand the meaning and function of this needed public space in an immigrant enclave, I not only interviewed various community members and stakeholders, but also consulted several forms of media that discussed the Chinatown Library. This material took the form of newspaper articles from well-known sources, local television coverage, radio archives, community group newsletters, posters, Chinatown newspapers and pamphlets, as well as Chinatown and other Boston resident blog posts. While I was tracking the history of the branch library and the grassroots movement to regain one in Chinatown, I did not really pay attention to the history and evolution of civic media in Chinatown.

Reflection: A Model of Digital Inclusion

Last class, we formed small groups to create a model of digital inclusion. My group tried to create a tool that would help us assess if and to what extent a community was digitally inclusive. The hope was that by creating such a tool, the components of a model to digital inclusion would naturally emerge. Ultimately, the tool would help us evaluate if residents of that place had access to Internet, hardware and software, educational resources, as well as digital ways to engage with the local government and learn about civic happenings (i.e. iphone apps, Internet sites, etc). We did not complete the tool, but tried to create an index or ranking system that would measure indicators or levels of digital inclusion. For example, the tool should measure the following:

Civic Media and Urban Planning

My name is Aditi Mehta and I am a first-year doctoral student in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning here at MIT. I actually received my Master in City Planning as well from MIT in 2010, where I learned how to design solutions for neighborhoods around issues such as affordable housing and economic development via mapping, policy research, and financial/data analyses. In my work, I saw that sometimes such solutions created unexpected social challenges. I am now pursuing a PhD because I want to understand how to evaluate the impact of planning interventions on the social fabric of neighborhoods and evaluate if and how public participation processes and civic engagement affect outcomes.

Department of Play Asks: Can Technology Improve the Lives of Youth?

On August 10th and 11th, 2010, the Department of Play (DoP) hosted its first Summer Institute, a workshop for practitioners and researchers, all with one thing in common: a commitment to improving the lives of youth through technology. The purpose of the Summer Institute was to bring together people from across the globe that were pursuing similar work, but had not necessarily connected with one another yet. Attendees were asked to rethink the role of technology in youth participation, social inclusion and local civic engagement, and in the process form meaningful partnerships for future projects.