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The Engagement Lab offers an MA in Media Design.

The Media Design MA is taught through the lens of civic media, which are the technologies, designs, and practices that produce and reproduce the process of being in the world with others toward a common good. Civic media, then, entails the ways in which we design media interventions to support positive civic and social impact in the world. These approaches prioritize social justice, equity, inclusion, and giving voice to those communities that are underserved.

Learning Objectives

  • Students will articulate a sophisticated understanding of contemporary issues in media, communication and technology that impact civic life.

  • Students will use a variety of participatory design and research approaches and methodologies, including human-centered design and participatory action research.

  • Students will employ the appropriate strategies to effectively communicate and work with communities.

  • Students address, in classes and projects, the major scholarly debates regarding the interplay of new technologies, designs, and civic and political life.

  • Students will discuss, write about, and design projects around the global scope of civic media and be able to situate local problems within a global context.


Partners are organizations of all sizes and working across various sectors and geographic locations, who have interesting problem spaces they confront. Thesis Partners could be local government offices, environmental agencies, community organizations, human rights groups, transportation, and housing advocates, and so on. Partners will visit the Media Design program in Fall and share the work of their organization and the specific challenges they engaged in. Once they share their ideas, students will rank their order of interest for which partners they are interested to work with. MD faculty will then create thesis groups, aiming to provide everyone with partners that are most aligned with their interests.

MD 600: Foundations in Civic Media Seminar

The core seminar course is required in the fall semester and introduces 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 learn methodological approaches such as participatory action research, grounded theory, design research, ethnography, content analysis, and social network analysis.

MD 610: Media Design Colloquium

This class is based on the premise that Media Design students are designers and artists, and working to develop portfolios to position their work as such. This colloquium facilitates individual Media Design projects, offering a means for students to present and receive feedback on their work and critique the work of their peers. Work may be related or unrelated to thesis work. The course requires a project to be developed with tangible outcomes. Students develop work plans with research/production goals for their projects and detailed reading lists to support their work. At three points during the semester, students present work in various formats and engage in critique with peers. Students focus on critique as an emphasis for the workshop. To complement the presentations and student projects, the course invites guest speakers engaged in this work and covers seminars on topics related to media design and student projects (i.e., critique, funding, project development and management, business creation). Students keep directed study journal entries to document their inquiries and research/production processes.

MD 620 and MD 621: Media Design Studios I & II

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

MD 622: Participatory Design Methods

This core course is required in the fall semester and explores the methods that inform media design and participatory research and practice. The course uses action research as our frame of inquiry and specifically looks at participatory research methodologies and qualitative methods, including focus groups, ethnography, observation, narrative inquiry, systems analysis, cultural artifacts, in-depth interviews, and more. Students 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. Students investigate participatory media research case studies and examine how to best understand their value and impact. Students complete a series of assignments and write a final paper on qualitative research, including understanding how to pick the appropriate methods for the thesis evaluation.


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120 Boylston St. Boston, MA 02116