Creating Technology for Social Change


The two partners in the Center for Civic Media — MIT Comparative Media Studies/Writing and the Media Lab — have developed first-of-their-kind undergraduate and graduate level courses in civic media. Full information is available via the MIT Registrar (CMS courses; Media Lab courses).

Current Courses

Future of News and Participatory Media (MAS.700)

Ethan Zuckerman

Studies the news as an engineering challenge in light of recent, rapid, and ongoing changes to the way news is delivered and spread. Considers how we discover what events are taking place in different parts of the world and how we explain the importance of these events to readers or viewers, as well as how readers of a story respond to events. Explores the systems journalists and others have used to report and share the news. Focuses on developing one?s own tools and methods to address these challenges through weekly reporting assignments and a final project in which students build tools for journalists (professional and otherwise) to use. Limited to 24. Course blog.

Intro to Civic Media (CMS.360/860)

Sasha Costanza-Chock

Examines civic media in comparative, transnational and historical perspectives. Introduces various theoretical tools, research approaches, and project design methods. Students engage with multimedia texts on concepts such as citizen journalism, transmedia activism, media justice, and civic, public, radical, and tactical media. Case studies explore 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 case study or project proposal. Students taking the graduate version complete additional assignments. Limited to 20. Course blog.

Networked Social Movements: Media and Mobilization (CMS.361/861)

Sasha Costanza-Chock

Provides an overview of social movement studies as a body of theoretical and empirical work, with an emphasis on understanding the relationship between social movements and the media. Explores multiple methods of social movement investigation, including textual and media analysis, surveys, interviews, focus groups, participant observation, and co-research. Covers recent innovations in social movement theory, as well as new data sources and tools for research and analysis. Includes short papers, a literature review, and a final research project. Students taking graduate version complete additional assignments. Limited to 16. Course blog.

Civic Media: Collaborative Design Studio (CMS.362/862)

Sasha Costanza-Chock and Emilie Reiser

Project-based studio focusing on collaborative design of civic media provides a service-learning opportunity for students interested in working with community organizations. Multidisciplinary teams create civic media projects based on real-world community needs. Covers co-design methods and best practices to include the user community in iterative stages of project ideation, design, implementation, testing, and evaluation. Students taking graduate version complete additional assignments. Limited to 16. Course blog.

Data Storytelling Studio (MAS.784)

Rahul Bhargava

Explores visualization methodologies to conceive and represent systems and data, e.g., financial, media, economic, political, etc. Covers basic methods for research, cleaning, and analysis of datasets. Introduces creative methods of data presentation and storytelling. Considers the emotional, aesthetic, ethical, and practical effects of different presentation methods as well as how to develop metrics for assessing impact. Work centers on readings, visualization exercises, and a final project. Students taking graduate version complete additional assignments.

Tech And Social Change (MAS.S.60)

Emilie Reiser, Alexis Hope, and Ethan Zuckerman

This project-based class is designed to explore the potentials and limitations of using technology as a primary lever of social change. The course itself is built around readings, discussions, visiting speakers, and hands-on workshops introducing participatory design methodologies.

Previously Taught Classes

Social Television: Creating New Connected Media Experiences (MAS.571)

Henry Holtzman and Marie-Jose Montpetit

Examines television distribution and how digital technology is changing the way television fits into society. Takes a systemic look at the various ways television is currently distributed, with a particular emphasis on emerging technologies that place it in a social context. Explores the multiple facets of the social television experience, from video technology fundamentals and challenges, to user interfaces, content consumption, and business cases. Student teams work on a term project to develop a prototype of a new social television application. More information.

Special Topics: Data Centric Projects (MAS.S62)

Catherine Havasi, Cesar A. Hidalgo, Sepandar Kamvar, and Ethan Zuckerman

Data Centric Projects (DCP) is a project-oriented course targeted for students working in projects that involve the use of data, both big and small.

The course will help equip students with basic data science skills, from Crawling, Parsing and Cleaning Data to Multivariate Analysis, Visualizations, Null Models, Statistical Inference and Hypothesis Testing. More importantly, the course will focus on the creation of tools and narratives that will build on data to improve our understanding of the world.

DCP is a project oriented course created for students that are already working in research activities in which the collection and analysis of data is central. The course format will mix lectures on basic concepts, student presentations and critiques of student’s work. Students will be graded based on the their ability to advance their research projects, which they will be required to present through both papers and oral presentations throughout the course.