Civic Engagement

Capabilities of Movements and Affordances of Digital Media: Paradoxes of Empowerment

Thursday, January 09, 2014 Comment man holding up hands fingers in heart shape in front of federal building

From the “Indignados” in Spain, to “Occupy” in the United States, from Tahrir Square in Egypt to Syntagma Square in Greece, from Gezi Park in Turkey to #Euromaidan in Ukraine, the recent years have witnessed a proliferation of protests which, while embedded in differing circumstances and specific grievances, share multiple characteristics. Social media, an integral aspect of all these movements, is not a mere “tool” that is external to the organizational and cultural structure of these movements. Instead, it has become increasingly clear that communication is a form of organization, and the form of communication strongly


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

Tuesday, December 10, 2013 Comment rally in india men holding facebook signs peace signs

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


Learning from Healthcare.gov

Thursday, December 05, 2013 Comment close up on black keyboard

“But I just want to remind everybody, we did not wage this long and contentious battle just around a website.” – Barack Obama, “Remarks by the President on the Affordable Care Act,” Oct. 21, 2013 The disastrous launch of HealthCare.gov gives an opportunity for everyone invested in digital media and learning initiatives to reflect critically about what we do and to ask some hard questions.  Although it may be “just” a website, according to the president, the flawed federal Internet portal intended to enroll millions of consumers into a system of affordable healthcare coverage exposes a


Pollution Challenge! and Civic Learning with Video Games

Thursday, November 07, 2013 Comment 3 male students working at table together on ipads and work sheets

I can’t play video games. I forget this simple fact every couple of years and a dark cloud swoops over Casa Garcia and I am enveloped in the feverish button mashing of some complex simulation for a hazy month or two. I have the kind of personality where, once I’ve begun playing a game, I am consumed. In high school, around the time I should have been doing research on colleges, keeping up with homework, and diligently eyeing my GPA as an eager-to-get-into-my-preferred-university high school junior, I started playing the Sims. The sandbox-like nature of the


Human Rights and Social Media in India: Blank Noise

Monday, October 21, 2013 Comment group of teenagers leaning against outside fence in india

On a recent visit to Sarai, a Delhi research think tank housed in the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, I met a number of female university students who described participating in the mass protests that occurred after a 23-year-old physiotherapy student was raped and murdered in what many perceived as an event that unleashed a torrent of dissent to express longstanding dissatisfaction about lax policing and prosecution of crimes against women in India.  Participants recounted assaults at demonstrations that included braving tear gas, water cannons, and violent interruptions by police of the peaceful sharing


When Students Say They Want to Change the World, Listen: Angela Maiers

Monday, October 07, 2013 Comment students and teachers working together at conference workshop

Ask any teacher why they teach, and for all their other reasons, I bet they agree that teaching matters. Doing something that matters is being someone that matters. How could young learners today learn that they can teach and contribute to others’ learning? How could they learn that what they are doing – and they, themselves – matter? Angela Maiers has been igniting a movement around what she and others are calling Genius Hour. Maiers, a former teacher and now full time education advocate, activist, and consultant, brings together passion-based learning, activist learning, and the peer


Pepper Spray and Penguins: Analysis of Turkey’s Social Media-fueled Gezi Protests

Thursday, October 03, 2013 Comment protest sign in the air and hand holding iphone during turkey protest

The Gezi protests took everyone, including the protesters themselves, by surprise. “This wasn’t what I had planned to do in June at all,” said a man in his early 30s to me as we sat in the small grassy area in front of his tent where he had been staying for more than a week. His wife nodded as she fiddled with her smartphone. I asked her what she was looking at. “Twitter,” she said, “I’m just getting the hang of it.” The protesters in Gezi were also getting the hang of being tear-gassed – as


Using Social Media for Women’s Rights: Breakthrough

Friday, September 13, 2013 Comment students working around table on laptops

The horrific Delhi gang rape case in which a 23-year-old physiotherapy student was murdered as a result of a grotesque sexual assault brought tens of thousands of protesters into the streets of the city to express outrage about the prevalence of gender-based violence in India.  Many have credited access to sites like Facebook and Twitter for allowing Indian citizens to express their dissent, but the story of political organization and awareness campaigns on the ground is much more complicated and predates this galvanizing high-profile crime by a number of years. For example, Breakthrough describes itself as


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

Thursday, August 22, 2013 Comment people working on laptops in home livingroom

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,


Social Media, Citizen Media, Online Tools Are Shaping Brazil’s Protests and Politics

Friday, June 28, 2013 Comment large crowd of protesters rallying in brazil outside government building

What started earlier this month as a protest against the cost of public transportation has spread like wildfire across Brazil. One estimate said protests have taken place in 430 cities. The range of issues has grown too, including education reform, high taxes, healthcare and public corruption. I’m not sure there has ever been so much discussion about the country by so many people using social media – and it has created some instability for the government. To begin to understand the story that is unfolding, two colleagues, Fabio Malini from the Universidade Federal do Espírito Santo