Civic Engagement

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


Be Quiet and Don’t Move So You Can Be Heard

Thursday, June 20, 2013 Comment protesters standing outside building in turkey with turkey flag

Last Saturday, one day after I left Istanbul following an intense week of interviews with more than 100 Gezi Park protest participants, Turkish police forcefully cleared out the park, which had been occupied by protesters for the last three weeks trying to halt the construction of a replica Ottoman Barracks and a shopping mall in Taksim Square’s only park. It was a sad, violent end to a joyful, eventful occupation that had a Woodstock meets Paris Commune vibe, where drum circles got interrupted by tear gas volleys, and diverse groups ranging from soccer fans to anti-capitalist


The Role of Social Media, Citizen Media in Latest Anti-Government Unrest in Brazil

Friday, June 14, 2013 Comment passe livre sao paulo political organization facebook group page

Like Turkey, Brazil is seeing a wave of anti-government protests it hasn’t seen in years. Thousands of residents in several cities, including Brazil’s two biggest cities, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, are now organizing protests. Protests started in Sao Paolo after the government had authorized (another) increase in bus fares in the city. Through social media, the movement “Passe Livre” (Free Pass) formed online and quickly drew more than 50,000 supporters. Most of the protesters are university students, although officials said “anarchists” looking for a fight were also taking part. Mainstream media are portraying the


Networked Politics from Tahrir to Taksim: Is there a Social Media-fueled Protest Style?

Monday, June 03, 2013 Comment man standing holding peace signs in city in front of thousands of protesters

Protesters from one of the world’s richest countries, one of the world’s oldest autocracies, and one of the world’s rising developing countries walk into … a public space, use Twitter extensively, and capture global attention to their movement and their hashtag. From “#Occupy Wall Street” in the United States to the #M15 movement in Spain, from Tahrir Square and #Jan 25 in Egypt, to Taksim Square and #occupygezi in Turkey, there have been a variety of social movements that, while coming from strikingly different backgrounds and contexts, also share structural and stylistic elements. In this post,


What Comes After Election Monitoring? Citizen Monitoring of Infrastructure

Monday, April 29, 2013 Comment black man speaking into bull horn at rally

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 Comment large audience watching presentation of measuring symbolism and impact

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


In Praise of Peer to Peer Connectivity: Technosociologist Zeynep Tufekci

Monday, March 25, 2013 Comment woman giving presentation at ars electronica 2011

Zeynep Tufekci, a sociologist who uses, as well as studies, social media, offers a refreshingly rigorous and empirically-scaffolded perspective amid the frenzy of armchair social science regarding the impact of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Reddit and other participatory media. Too often, public discourse about the influence of social media, both positive and negative, devolves into a Manichaean rhetoric of utopia-or-apocalypse. While strong points of view from all quarters are necessary when new technologies are debated in the public sphere, Tufekci captured my attention by her combination of empirical scholarship, ability to tackle nuanced explanations in straightforward prose,


Is Civics in Crisis? Or Just Changing its Shape?

Monday, February 25, 2013 Comment close up of i voted sticker

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


DML Conference 2013: Democratic Futures

Wednesday, February 20, 2013 Comment people sitting on outdoor steps during black lives matter rally with fists in the air

President Barack Obama recently ended his post-State of the Union tour in his adopted hometown of Chicago. Roughly two weeks earlier a group of young Chicago residents started an online petition at Change.org urging the president to visit and directly address the city’s gun violence crisis. While a strikingly high number of gun related deaths were the catalyst for the petition, the architects of the campaign made a plea to the president to address the larger social, educational, and economic hardships facing the city’s Black and Latino youth population. Specifically, the petition encouraged the president to