Ethan Zuckerman

ezheadshothersman.jpg

Ethan is the newly-appointed (June 22, 2011) director of MIT’s Center for Civic Media. He is a senior researcher at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University and a fellow at MIT’s Center for Future Civic Media. His research focuses on the distribution of attention in mainstream and new media, the use of technology for international development, and the use of new media
technologies by activists.

With Rebecca MacKinnon, Ethan co-founded international blogging community Global Voices. Global Voices showcases news and opinions from citizen media in over 150 nations and thirty languages, publishing editions in twenty languages. Through Global Voices, Ethan is active in efforts to promote freedom of expression and fight censorship in online spaces.

In 2000, Ethan founded Geekcorps, a technology volunteer corps that sends IT specialists to work on projects in developing nations, with a focus on West Africa. Previously Ethan helped found Tripod.com, one of the web’s first “personal publishing” sites. He blogs at http://ethanzuckerman.com/blog and lives in the Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts, USA with his wife, son and a small, fluffy cat.


Blogs (10)


New Media, New Civics? The Bellwether Lecture at the Oxford Internet Institute

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

ethan10.600.jpg The Oxford Internet Institute was kind enough to invite me to give the inaugural lecture in their Bellwether Series. The OII’s director, Professor Helen Margetts, introduced the series explaining that she hoped talks would anticipate what is to come in the space of internet and society…and explained that the word “Bellwether” came from a middle English word for a castrated ram, who was fitted with a bell and made to lead a flock of sheep. That’s pretty ominous compared to my assumption when I was invited, which was that they found someone named Bellwether to sponsor


The “New Civics,” the “Good Citizen,” and the “Born Digital” Generation

Thursday, August 22, 2013

ethan.9.600.jpg With Rewire out in the world, I’ve had some time this August to think about some of the big questions behind our work at Center for Civic Media, specifically the questions I started to bring up at this year’s Digital Media and Learning Conference: How do we teach civics to a generation that is “born digital?” Are we experiencing a “new civics,” a crisis in civics, or just an opportunistic rebranding of old problems in new digital bottles? My reading this summer hasn’t given me answers, but has sharpened some of the questions. Earlier this summer,


What Comes After Election Monitoring? Citizen Monitoring of Infrastructure

Monday, April 29, 2013

ethan.8.600.png I was recently in Senegal at a board meeting for Open Society Foundation, meeting organizations the foundation supports around the continent. Two projects in particular stuck in my mind. One is Y’en a Marre (“Fed Up”), a Senegalese activist organization led by hiphop artists and journalists, who worked to register voters and oust long-time president Abdoulaye Wade. (I wrote about them last week here, and on Wikipedia). The other is a project run by Open Society Foundation West Africa – OSIWA – with support from partners in Senegal, Liberia, Nigeria and the UK. It’s an election


Beyond “The Crisis in Civics”

Thursday, March 28, 2013

892762_447056308707975_905324296_o.jpg Two weeks ago, I gave the opening keynote at the Digital Media and Learning Conference in Chicago. The conference, which explores how digital media is and could be changing education and learning, focused on the theme of “Democratic Futures: Mobilizing Voices and Remixing Youth Participation.” In the spirit of the theme, my talk examined how digital media is changing how we participate in the civic life of our communities and the world as a whole, and how we might teach a new digital civics. This is an issue I’ve been thinking through since coming to the Center for


Is Civics in Crisis? Or Just Changing its Shape?

Monday, February 25, 2013

ivoted.jpg In late January, Austin Oberbillig and Evan Ricks, students at Olympia High School in Olympia, Washington made a video called “Lunch Scholars.” The video was meant to be a high school version of “Jaywalking,” a sketch Jay Leno has done for twenty years, where he asks people on the street near his Hollywood studio simple questions – who was the first U.S. president? – and compiles the funniest answers into video segments for his show. Austin and Evan did the same thing, shooting four hours of footage and editing it into just under five minutes, featuring


What Ancient Greek Rhetoric Might Teach Us About New Civics

Thursday, November 29, 2012

old_new_greece.jpg A great deal of our conversation lately has focused on getting governments to open up their data and to share what they know with the general public. We are beginning to see a larger trend emerge -– much of the thinking of the power of technology to transform societies, especially societies in the developing world, focuses on government transparency. I think this focus is deeply important, but I also think it’s an incomplete way to understand the space of technology and social change. We need to understand not just governments and transparency, but the rights and


Understanding Digital Civics

Monday, September 03, 2012

ethan.4.600.jpg Last week, I gave a lecture titled “The Emergence of Digital Civics” at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia. I was in South Australia to give another lecture, a joint lecture with Dr. Genevieve Bell of Intel in memory of her friend James Tizard. I hope to write up the talks Genevieve and I gave, but since I had detailed notes for my civics lecture, I’ve worked them into a blog post. In Kansas City, a young man named Jase Wilson is trying to build a trolley system. Kansas City applied to the US department of transportation


How Do We Make Civic Crowdfunding Awesome?

Monday, August 13, 2012

ethan3.600.jpg Ten people each contribute $100 a month into a pool. They meet once a month and discuss possible projects to support. Each month, they give a grant of $1000 to a project that meets a simple criterion: it’s awesome. That’s the logic behind the Awesome Foundation, founded by Tim Hwang and friends, brilliantly built and managed by Christia Xu. Awesome Foundation now has 50 chapters in 10 countries and has given 252 grants, sponsoring awesome projects like Float, which attaches air pollution sensors to kites to report on air quality, and Free the Billboards, which invites


Basta! Telling Stories About Occupy Wall Street

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

OccupyWallStreet.jpg Media activists Marisa Jahn and Julian Rubinstein recently joined us at the Center for Civic Media for our weekly Civic Media Lunch series. Marisa is the new director of the People’s Production House, a New York based project that works with low income workers and youth, building capacity around media creation. Julian is an author and journalist who now works on Newsmotion.org, a civic media and documentary storytelling initiative. Marisa walked us through some of her history as an activist and artist, showcasing some of her work as a graphic designer. For the 2008 Wall Street


Four Questions about Civic Media

Monday, June 27, 2011

ethanpic.600.500.jpg The civic media field is often better defined by example than in abstractions. The field is so nascent and fluid that any comprehensive, conceptual definition will likely miss key aspects of the field. For those of us who believe civic media – the various ways communities create, find and share actionable information – is transforming media and civic life, exciting examples are always an opportunity to think about the future of the field.