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Celebrating Innovation at the 3rd Annual Media Design Thesis Exhibition

October 15, 2019

Current Media Design students, Engagement Lab faculty, and citizens throughout the greater Boston area mingle and interact with the final civic media projects.

On September 5, 2019, Emerson College’s Urban Arts Gallery hosted the 3rd Media Design public exhibition and reception. This event featured five interventions with Boston-based organizations looking to use media to improve their impact in their communities.

Each year, Emersons’s MA in Media Design program brings together ambitious entrepreneurs, activists, and artists from across the globe to partner with community organizations to research and design innovative projects that leverage new media and technology to promote more equitable and inclusive civic futures.

Working closely with faculty advisors, student teams develop a deep knowledge base and a broadly applicable skill set that prepares them for a life and career of improving the world through media, technology, and civic engagement.

This year’s cohort put together innovative, thought-provoking prototypes with dynamic partners.

A guest interacting with iCivics Explorer.

Project Title: iCivics Explorer: A Media Literacy Approach to Empowering Student Voices Through Civic Media Creation

Partner: iCivics

Designers: Herman E. Servatius and Giles Bullen —

Partnering with iCivics, a non-profit organization that provides educational online games and lesson plans to promote civics education, Herman and Giles collaborated to create iCivics Explorer, an app designed to assist students and their teachers in conducting interviews as well as collecting, documenting, and sharing local stories.

The core principles guiding the design of this app are: learning foundational media creation skills as part of a media literacy education, and creating expressive content around topics of personal interest. By guiding students through the interview process from the planning stages through to writing, iCivics Explorer embodies the process and effects that small civic actions can have.

Project Title: A Collective Win-State for the Community and the Players: Facilitating a Co-Creative Design Process with The Boston Ujima Project

Partner: The Boston Ujima Project

Designers: Emily Baeza & Lea Neilsen

Emily and Lea created Ujima: A Community Solidarity Game, a collaborative role playing card game designed in partnership with The Boston Ujima Project. Set in an imaginative neighborhood, players face real-world challenges to pool their resources and collectively decide on which businesses will, or won’t, thrive.

This game is intended to be played during Ujima’s City-Wide Assemblies in order to empower members to have deliberative and collaborative conversations about the businesses in their communities.

Guests discuss Elisa’s Media Design project, outlined on the wall behind them.

Project Title: Illuminating Mental Health

Partner: Clay Center

Designer: Elisa Hamilton

For her project, Elisa collaborated with The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds at Mass General Hospital to create a participatory art model that aims to combat the stigma surrounding mental health issues through a participatory art method called the “illuminated collage.”

The Illuminating Mental Health workshop model uses collaborative art making in an effort to increase awareness, and to provide an entrypoint for having conversations about mental health. By bringing dialogue about mental health out of the shadows and into the light, Elisa seeks to use this project to normalize conversations about mental health and to provide a collaborative, creative vehicle for identifying, expressing, and sharing feelings.

Project Title: Citizen TALES* Commons: The Transformative Power of Collective Voice in Academia

Partner: Citizen TALES* Chorus

Designer: Vassiliki Rapti, Ph.D.

Vassiliki collaborated with Citizen TALES* Chorus, the Engagement Lab, and Missing Link studios to create an immersive project that explores how the adjunct underclass can be empowered today.Seriously asking the question, “what should I/we do against the walls of exclusion?”, Vassiliki shows how she innovated the Greek chorus through collaboration in order to practice direct democracy, “full citizenship” and inclusion, for the sake of the common good.

Citizen TALES* Commons is a transformative, holistic, multimodal platform of open communication, both spatial and virtual, facilitated by a website and disseminated through podcasting. More details about the project can be found at

Media Design graduates Renée Hopkins, Giles Bullen, and Isaiah Frisbie!

Project Title: Path of Participatory Resistance: A Gallery Guide for Radical Reflection & Collaborative Curation

Partner: Urbano Project

Designers: Isaiah Frisbie & Renée Hopkins

Partnering with the Urbano Project, a non-profit community art studio that fosters public and participatory art, Isaiah and Renée developed the Path of Participatory Resistance, a decal-based installation that asks visitors to actively interact with and question issues of art, social change, and justice.

The installation creates a pathway with a series of prompts for visitors to respond to. Path of Participatory Resistance strives to amplify visitors’ agency in gallery settings by prioritizing their responses as an integral staple of art spaces and situate issues of justice and equity as essential realities in art-making and curation spaces.

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