Recent news from the Center for Civic Media | MIT Center for Civic Media

Recent news from the Center for Civic Media

Civic Media: Growing Awareness and Participation in an environment of Change

As part of his Intro to Civic Media course , Sasha has asked us to answer the question, "What is civic media?" The characteristics of this area are messy, changing, and incredibly important. Changes in media tech and business have put important issues at stake: our awareness and participation in society and the world.

As a new research assistant in the MIT Media Lab Center for Civic Media, I will be working to improve our understanding of civic media and to develop new technologies to make it possible. Up to now, my own interests have been more cosmopolitan, literary, and religious than civic. I came to MIT brimming with the enthusiasm of several years developing new tech startups and education initiatives. In this course, I hope to gain an informed perspective on the ideas and trends behind civic media. As an aware but uninvolved observer, I am eager to write about it for the first time.

Defining Civic Media: A Boring Take

I feel as though it’s easy to want to present a definition of civic media that calls to mind images of change, influence, and nobleness. I hesitate, however, to go beyond a very boring and un-romantic assertion that civic media is any channel (be it vetted or otherwise) that informs an individual about her community—from town to global village—and vice versa. As part of this definition, I outline the following principles:

1. Civic Media need not require action on the part of the consumer

What is Civic Media

Examining examples and definitions from the Civic Media site and blog posts from various thought leaders, I formed the following definition of Civic Media:

Civic Media is any use of a medium that empowers a community to engage within and beyond the people, places, and problems of their community.

This definition connects with what I believe are some key principles of civic media:

The medium of interaction alone is not enough, but it must be coupled with social practices and social design to engage people to participate. One of my pet peeves with the Arab Spring events is how people overemphasize the role of social media in the revolutions -- these technologies certainly facilitated the mobilization of protestors, but the people leveraged the medium for their own purposes.

Week 2 Blog Post

“Civic media” refers to the tools and technologies that facilitate the exchange of information and ideas between people, often in pursuit of common goals. Today, traditional forms of media (print, radio, etc.) have been overpowered by their digital successors: online journalism, blogging, and a vast range of other social networks that allow for two-way interactions with content. Civic media can be seen as crucial to sustaining (and in some contexts developing) civil societies in individual communities, as well as transnationally. In my understanding, the main principles/attributes of civic media are:

1) It’s Relational:

Civic Media is communications technology and what we do with it

My name's Matt, and I've just started as a Master's student here at the Center for Civic Media. If I can sufficiently answer our blog post prompt, "What is Civic Media?", I expect to take part in extracurriculars for the next two years.

Civic media is, as far as I've read, a maddeningly broad concept. I think the problem is that it's often confused with two other important, but not identical, questions:

  • How do we fulfill the promise of democracy?
  • What can we do to save journalism?

Civic media, in some of the reports and blog posts I've read, is being asked to not only carry our democracy from a quite imperfect present to the realization of our most Athenian ideals, but also to salvage a romantically anachronistic industry from its broken business model. Unsurprisingly, civic media has failed so far to accomplish either of these tasks. I shall attempt to define civic media more basically, and along the way, present its actual merits. I'll stew over those other two questions a bit longer.

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