Creating Technology for Social Change

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.

For my final project, I would like to research all the different forms of civic media in Boston’s Chinatown from 1860 to present-day. Immigrant groups in the United States have always had their own ways of sharing news within and about the community, and the platforms to do so have changed considerably with technological advancement and shifting politics inside and outside the neighborhood.  This project will take the form of a visual report (and may be web-based if I have a lot of video/radio archived to share).  For each community platform and form of civic media I discover, I will discuss the producers and consumers of that material.  Who in Chinatown created the piece and who were or are the audience members?  Additionally, I will use civic media from specific time-periods to discuss what the main issues in the community were at the particular moment.  I will then juxtapose this civic media with “mainstream media” coverage from the same time discussing the same issues.  How are the perspectives different and how are they the same? How does the story change depending on the media platform?  

Lastly, I will provide an overall historical analysis about patterns and trends over time.  Is the purpose of civic media in Chinatown still the same? Are the producers and audience members still the same?  Are the contrasts or lack thereof between stories from Chinatown civic media and mass mainstream media similar throughout history?