The MA in Civic Media, Art & Practice is an intensive 12-month program centered around the production of a creative thesis project that will be situated within the theories and methodologies explored during coursework. Through the lasting connections forged with a wide array of organizational partners encountered during the program, CMAP graduates will be well-positioned to create their own avenues for work across a range of careers -- from leadership roles in innovation offices of municipal governments to creative digital roles at foundations and corporations focused on social responsibility -- implementing technologies and practices for civic engagement. APPLY TODAY for Fall 2018.

Is CMAP the right program for you?

CMAP strives to produce leaders of the knowledge economy and aims to help empower young entrepreneurs, socially-engaged artists, and civic leaders who will embrace innovative and dynamic career opportunities. There are an increasing number of careers in communication and innovation within the public or non-profit sectors that call for this kind of multi-faceted expertise. In CMAP, students will gain experience working with government, international aid organizations and community-based organizations, and will be prepared for a variety of roles as creative leaders, makers and thinkers.

Whether you are coming straight out of an undergraduate program and want to pursue an advanced degree or have been working in industry and are looking to refine your skills and position yourself more strongly in the field of civic media, we suggest you consider applying. APPLY NOW for Fall 2018.

Core Elements of the CMAP Experience

Engaged Research

Engaged Research with Faculty Fellows from Across the College

CMAP is supported by a core of faculty from Emerson College who are Engagement Lab Fellows. This group consists of nine professors from across the college (School of Arts, School of Communication, and the Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies). Their mission is to cultivate an intellectual community at Emerson College committed to research, pedagogy and practice of civic media. Our fellowship program is at the core of this mission, bringing together faculty from the Emerson community, and beyond, to build intellectual capacity for engaged research--research with direct application to people’s lives and livelihoods.

International Scope

Teaching Assistantships in the Salzburg Academy of Media and Global Change

Each summer, CMAP students interested in the education field or global development work may opt to serve as teaching assistants in the Salzburg Academy of Media and Global Change, working with undergraduates from all over the world to guide their own rapid prototyping of civic media projects. During the intensive three-week long academy, students study how culture, media, and technology can impact social movements, civic life and governance. This provides CMAP students the unique opportunity to teach others what they have learned, core to the pedagogical mission of the program.

Academic Collaborations

Leverage a Network of Top Research Institutions Based in Boston

The Engagement Lab has been working with the Center for Civic Media at MIT, the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, and the Tisch School for Citizenship at Tufts, to form a Civic Media Consortium. This consortium will be used to facilitate the sharing of courses, research, and graduate students across campuses. CMAP students could collaborate on research projects, take courses at other institutions, and propose their own projects for consideration.

Real-World Collaborations

Partnerships with External Organizations

External organizations will sign up to work with a CMAP cohort for a period of 12 months. The Engagement Lab has a strong track record of working with partner organizations, from NGOs and global advocacy organizations to cultural institutions and city governments. The Lab will cultivate partnerships to support each CMAP cohort, while partners will be encouraged to work with the Engagement Lab across cohorts on multiple facets of a single project or multiple projects.


The core experience and outcomes of the CMAP program are centered around thesis projects. Students should think of the 12-month experience as structured primarily by creative works that they are expected to produce, in certain cases scaled projects in partnership with an external organization. These projects will highlight the relationship of media, art, and practice that the program strives to explore, across a wide range of approaches to the art & design of civic media: e.g., a participatory digital campaign, mobile app, public art installation, interactive curriculum, virtual platform, or game. These projects will bring to life the theories and practices that CMAP students explore throughout the year.

The Structure

The 12-month program will consist of three courses in the fall and spring terms, and two courses in the summer.

Fall Semester (12 credits): (seminar, studio, production elective)

  • VM 655: Civic Media Theory
  • CM 622: Civic Media Design Studio I
  • CM 610: Civic Media Methods

Spring Semester (12 credits) (seminar, studio, production elective)

  • CM622: Civic Media Design Studio II
  • Two Electives from list of available courses

Summer Semester (8 credits)

  • VM 698 Masters Thesis (4 credits)
  • CM 640: Salzburg Academy on Media & Global Change (4 credits)
  • Or CM 622 Civic Media Design Studio III (4 credits)
  • Or Elective from list of available courses (4 credits)

Directed studies with approved supervision may also be taken as electives for CMAP

Core Courses

Civic Media Theory -- The core seminar course will be required in fall and spring semesters and introduce students to such core theoretical principles of civic media as critical media studies, public and political art, theories of democracy, social movements and governance. In addition to understanding the primary theoretical debates, students will learn methodological approaches such as participatory action research, grounded theory, design research, ethnography, content analysis, and social network analysis.

Civic Media Design Studio -- This two-class sequence introduces concepts, methods and practices of civic media. The studio provides opportunity for students to make media in expressive or design modalities, and to develop skills in working with partners. The studio will provide a guided space in which to critically evaluate case studies in Civic Media and develop production, project management, and evaluation skills. Students hone collaborative development and production skills that correspond with their project.

Civic Media Methods -- In this course, we will be exploring the methods that inform civic media research and practice. We will use action research as our frame of inquiry, and specifically look at participatory research methodologies, and qualitative methods, including focus groups, ethnography, observation, narrative inquiry, systems analysis, cultural artifacts, in-depth interviews, and more. Students will learn how to design a qualitative research study (including process and outcomes evaluations), how to write funding proposals, and how to build participatory research processes into an intervention. We will investigate civic media research case studies and examine how to best understand their value and impact. Students will complete a series of assignments and write a final paper on qualitative research, including understanding how to pick the appropriate methods for your thesis evaluation.


Alumni of CMAP are well positioned for the growing field of scholarship and applied work in civic media, including employment opportunities in government, community media, public media, non-governmental organizations, digital agencies, and cultural organizations.

Past graduates of CMAP currently work in various job sectors and organizations where they apply the skills and knowledge gained from the program, including the Obama Foundation, Global Family Research Project, Harvard Kennedy School, and more.

All CMAP students leave with a thesis project in the form of a prototype (and its documentation). Previous CMAP alumni thesis projects have ranged from topics and mediums including a creative data literacy curriculum and toolkit that was co-designed with public librarians and youth to an on-demand trash pick-up app aimed at helping neighborhoods in Cairo, Egypt. Some thesis projects have gone on to receive funding for further implementation. Learn more about last year’s thesis projects from CMAP students here.