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Civic Media Project Introduction

August 18, 2017

By Eric Gordon and Paul Mihailidis

Civic life is comprised of the attention and actions an individual devotes to a common good. Participating in a human rights rally, creating and sharing a video online about unfair labor practices, connecting with neighbors after a natural disaster: these are all civic actions wherein the actor seeks to benefit a perceived common good. But where and how civic life takes place, is an open question. The lines between the private and the public, the self-interested and the civic are blurring as digital cultures transform means and patterns of communication around the world.

As the definition of civic life is in flux, there is urgency in defining and questioning the mediated practices that compose it. Civic media are the mediated practices of designing, building, implementing or using digital tools to intervene in or participate in civic life. The Civic Media Project (CMP) is a collection of short case studies from scholars and practitioners from all over the world that range from the descriptive to the analytical, from the single tool to the national program, from the enthusiastic to the critical. What binds them together is not a particular technology or domain (i.e. government or social movements), but rather the intentionality of achieving a common good. Each of the case studies collected in this project reflects the practices associated with the intentional effort of one or many individuals to benefit or disrupt a community or institution outside of one’s intimate and professional spheres.

As the examples of civic media continue to grow every day, the Civic Media Project is intended as a living resource. New cases will be added on a regular basis after they have gone through an editorial process. Most importantly, the CMP is meant to be a place for conversation and debate about what counts as civic, what makes a citizen, what practices are novel, and what are the political, social and cultural implications of the integration of technology into civic lives.

How to Use the Site

Case studies are divided into four sections: Play + Creativity, Systems + Design, Learning + Engagement, and Community + Action. Each section contains about 25 case studies that address the themes of the section. But there is considerable crossover and thematic overlap between sections as well. For those adventurous readers, the Tag Cloud provides a more granular entry point to the material and a more diverse set of connections.

We have also developed a curriculum that provides some suggestions for educators interested in using the Civic Media Project and other resources to explore the conceptual and practical implications of civic media examples.

One of the most valuable elements of this project is the dialogue about the case studies. We have asked all of the project’s contributors to write in-depth reviews of others’ contributions, and we also invite all readers to comment on cases and reviews. The peer reviews are labeled as “featured comments” in the Disqus section and they should be understood as part of the critical commentary that makes each of these cases come alive through discussion and debate.

Citation guide

APA Format: Author(A), last name first, Author(B) last name first, & Author(C) last name first. (Date published if available; otherwise — n.d.). Case Study Title. Website Title. Retrieved date. From URL.

Example: Snow, J., Stark, A., & Stark, B. (2015). Civic Media in Westeros. Civic Media Project. Retrieved 8 June 2015 from http://

Chicago Format: Author(A) last name first, Author(B) first name first, and Author(C) first name. Date Published. “Case Study Name.” Website Name. Access Date. URL.

Example: Snow, J., A. Stark, B. Stark. 2015. “Civic Media in Westros.” Civic Media Project. Accessed June 8, 2015.

The Book

Civic Media: Technology, Design, Practice is forthcoming from MIT Press and will serve as the print book companion to the Civic Media Project. The book identifies the emerging field of Civic Media by bringing together leading scholars and practitioners from a diversity of disciplines to shape theory, identify problems and articulate opportunities. The book includes 19 chapters (and 25 case studies) from fields as diverse as philosophy, communications, education, sociology, media studies, art, policy and philanthropy, and attempts to find common language and common purpose through the investigation of civic media.

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