Paul Mihailidis speaking at the 2020 Social Justice + Media Symposium

A Preview of the 2023 Social Justice + Media Symposium

Friday, March 24, 2023

"If the Internet teaches us anything, it is that great value comes from leaving core resources in a commons, where they’re free for people to build upon as they see fit.”

— Lawrence Lessig

This quote is reflective of the goals of the Social Justice + Media Symposium, an annual gathering of students, educators, and community stakeholders to explore how media practices and pedagogies can support equity, justice, and positive social change in daily life. The 2023 Symposium will be held in Las Vegas, hosted by Nevada State College on March 31 2023. 

Paul Mihailidis, Symposium coordinator and Professor at Emerson College, made clear that the planning of the event involves more than just bringing together like-minded individuals in the pursuit of social justice. To help participants think about how media can support positive change in communities, each symposium is centered on a theme specific to the location hosting that year’s event. In this vein, the 2023 symposium is titled Spectacle, chosen due to host Nevada State College’s proximity to the famed Las Vegas strip:

What’s behind the lights? Who’s the labor that has never been seen? What’s behind all the Spectacle that Las Vegas is known for?

The term was chosen to recognize the underlying work that goes into physical spaces like Las Vegas, as well as in the digital environments that drive our daily information routines. According to the symposium’s website, the event “will explore the ideas of visibility and invisibility, of inequity and power, and of agency and voice, in the context of spectacle culture and its impact on civic and democratic futures.”

The symposium was created in honor of Dr. Moses Shumow, who worked at the intersection of media, narrative, and social justice. Dr. Shumow was a passionate activist, an educator and a researcher, with influential work including Liberty Square: Power, History & Race, a documentary about the history and legacy of the Overtown Community in Miami, Florida. 

Professor Mihalidis describes him as someone who worked to support the right causes “without care for resources or rewards.” Dr. Shumow’s ability to build relationships with the communities he worked with became a mechanism to do more passionate work. As the website of the symposium states, Dr. Shumow had a passion for bringing the perspectives of student communities and the communities he worked in into the media projects he created. 

In choosing the keynote speaker, Nevada State College wanted someone who can motivate people to see how they can use art, activism, and entrepreneurship to build interesting community-centered media. This year’s keynote speaker, Roger Perry, is a designer and creative service provider, and is the owner of Professional & Reliable Bartending and creator of Immersive Art Space, both in Las Vegas. Perry believes in the importance of community engagement and works to integrate collaboration in all the projects he executes. 

In addition to workshops and the conversation with Roger Perry, the symposium will also feature a screening of Quiet Rooms, a documentary co-created by Emerson College students and people who have been directly impacted by gun violence in Boston. The Moses Shumow Transformative Practice Award and the Transformational Research Award will be given out on the day. The former recognizes students engaged in work at the intersection of journalism education, participatory media, media literacy, community activism, and social justice; the latter recognizes early-career research academics who represent the aims and interests of scholar-activists in the field of communication.

Speaking to the future of the symposium, Dr. Mihailidis says that the symposium will only go as far as communities want it to go. 

“We decided to have it at different sites so that we can continue to cultivate different communities. As long as we have willing partners that are interested in sharing the experience,  the symposium offers a chance for a university to host a day for its students where they can connect and find space to talk about their work on media and social change, and through meeting they can cultivate passion.” 


Sharon-Hephzibah Mohie,

ELab Writing Assistant