Intro to Civic Media | MIT Center for Civic Media

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.


Democratizar los medios

Para que una democracia funcione, la participación es clave. Si votar es el alcance de nuestra participación, podemos de una vez concluir que vivimos en una farsa democrática. Por eso, aún no existe la democracia, sólo el anhelo a ella. Para lograr en verdad llegar a la democracia, debemos ir más allá de ser espectadores del poder y crear nuestros propios espacios dentro del poder. Y al mismo tiempo, debemos ir más allá de nosotros mismos e interactuar (escuchar, debatir y actuar en conjunto) con los espacios de poder de los demás.

Lo mismo podemos concluir de los medios de comunicación, y de la información en general. Sino participamos en la creación de nuestra información, y nos resignamos nada más a ser lectores pasivos (espectadores) de lo que ocurre alrededor del mundo, somos vehículos que se pueden manipular fácilmente por aquellos que sí crean su propia información y la propagan de forma masiva. Nosotros sí pensamos, pero pensamos lo que otros piensan, hasta que nosotros mismos podamos llegar a producir e imaginar nuestro propio mundo.

My intro to Civic Media

My name is Mary and I am a junior at Wellesley College. I am a History major and Middle Eastern Studies minor. When I saw this course listing I became very excited. This area of media is not one that I know a lot about, but have wanted to learn more about for some time. I’d also heard great things about the MIT Media Lab and the Center for Civic Journalism from professors at Wellesley. Before I get to my personal definition of Civic Media, I’ll let you know a bit about my media interests and why I took this class.

CMS.360/860: Introduction to Civic Media

Today was the first session of the new Introduction to Civic Media course that I'm teaching at MIT's Comparative Media Studies program (CMS.360/860). It's been interesting to develop the syllabus in public, which I've been doing using etherpad. I started putting up ideas for the course several weeks ago at, and last week began tweeting, sharing via FB and G+, and sending the link around to mailing lists. All of these produced a fair amount of interest, but I got the best response by posting the link in IRC channels (oddly enough.) Many people stopped by to add ideas, readings, links to texts, and generally help me develop what I think is going to be an amazing first stab at an Introduction to Civic Media course.