Henry Jenkins (Provost’s Professor of Communication, Journalism and Cinematic Arts)

hjenkinsHenry Jenkins joins USC from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he was Peter de Florez Professor in the Humanities. He directed MIT’s Comparative Media Studies graduate degree program from 1993-2009, setting an innovative research agenda during a time of fundamental change in communication, journalism and entertainment. As one of the first media scholars to chart the changing role of the audience in an environment of increasingly pervasive digital content, Jenkins has been at the forefront of understanding the effects of participatory media on society, politics and culture. His research gives key insights to the success of social-networking Web sites, networked computer games, online fan communities and other advocacy organizations, and emerging news media outlets. Jenkins has also played a central role in demonstrating the importance of new media technologies in educational settings. At MIT, he led a consortium of educators and business leaders promoting the educational benefits of computer games, and oversaw a research group working to help teach 21st century literacy skills to high school students through documentary videos. He also has worked closely with the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to shape a media literacy program designed to explore the effects of participatory media on young people, and reveal potential new pathways for education through emerging digital media.

Sangita Shresthova (Research Director)

sshresthovaSangita Shresthova is the Director of the MacArthur funded Henry Jenkins’ Media, Activism & Participatory Politics (MAPP) project based at the University of Southern California. MAPP focuses on civic participation in the digital age and includes research, educator outreach, and partnerships with community groups and media organizations, and companies. Sangita’s own scholarly work focuses on the intersections among popular culture, performance, new media, politics, and globalization. She holds a Ph.D. from UCLA’s Department of World Arts and Cultures and MSc. degrees from MIT and LSE. Her book on Bollywood dance and globalization (Is It All About Hips?) was published by SAGE Publications in 2011. Drawing on her background in Indian dance and new media, she is also the founder of Bollynatyam’s Global Bollywood Dance Project. Her more recent research has focused on issues of storytelling and surveillance among American Muslim youth and the achievements and challenges faced by Invisible Children pre-and-post Kony2012. She is also one of the authors on By Any Media Necessary: The New Activism of Youth, a forthcoming book that will be published by NYU Press.

Gabriel Peters-Lazaro (Assistant Professor – Division of Media Arts + Practice at the USC School of Cinematic Arts)

sshresthovaGabriel Peters-Lazaro is an assistant professor of the practice of cinematic arts in the Division of Media Arts + Practice at the USC School of Cinematic Arts where he researches, designs and produces digital media for innovative learning. As a member of the Media, Activism and Participatory Politics (MAPP) project he works to develop participatory media resources and curricula to support new forms of civic education and engagement for young people. He helped create The Junior AV Club, a participatory action research project exploring mindful media making and sharing as powerful practices of early childhood learning. He teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on digital media tools and tactics, digital studies and new media for social change. He received his B.A. in Film Studies from UC Berkeley, completed his M.F.A in Film Directing and Production at UCLA and is a Ph.D. candidate in Media Arts + Practice.


Research Assistants

Sam Close

billardSamantha Close is a doctoral candidate in Communication at the University of Southern California.  Her research interests include digital media, theory-practice, political economy, fan studies, gender, and race. She focuses particularly on labor and transforming models of creative industries and capitalism.  Her documentary “I Am Handmade: Crafting in the Age of Computers,” based on her on-going dissertation work into the economic culture of crafting, is hosted online by Vice Media’s Motherboard channel.  Her writing appears in the academic journalsFeminist Media Studies, Transformative Works and Cultures, and Anthropology Now as well as in more informal online spaces.  You can find her on Twitter @butnocigar.

Yomna Elsayed

sshresthovaYomna Elsayed is a PhD student at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. She is a research assistant for the MAPP project. Her research interests include the cultural productions and manifestations surrounding social change in the Arab World and Egypt in specific. She is also interested in online technologies and how they are appropriated by youth to overcome cultural and political barriers, and to engage in a process of public will formation at a time of social conflict.

Rogelio Lopez

rogelioRogelio’s work focuses on the role of emerging media and tech in social movements, activism, civic engagement, and youth culture. He completed his M.S. in Comparative Media Studies & Writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2013. His M.S. thesis compared the media strategies of the United Farm Workers (UFW) in the 1960s and Undocumented Immigrant Youth Movements in the 2000s. Prior to USC, Rogelio worked with MIT’s Center for Civic Media, Youth and Media at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, and the Engagement Lab at Emerson College. Current projects include a mixed methods analysis of social media use in the #BlackLivesMatter Movement and a computational analysis of Net Neutrality activism online.


Civic Paths Members

Thomas J. Billard

billardThomas J Billard, aka TJ, is a doctoral student and Annenberg Graduate Fellow in the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. He hold an honors BA in political communication from the George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs, and prior to beginning his doctoral studies at Annenberg, he worked as a research analyst in the social science department of EurekaFacts, LLC, a DC-area market research firm. His research has two main focuses: (1) the strategic communications of the transgender movement, with a particular interest in issues of identity politics, and (2) typography and graphic design, with a particular interest in the processes of production and meaning encoding. His research has been presented at the annual meetings of the International Communication Association and Popular Culture Association. Additionally, he has two works forthcoming–a review essay in the Journal of Communication and a book chapter in an edited volume on gender identity and sexuality in children’s entertainment media–and others in various stages of the peer review process.


Michelle C. Forelle

sshresthovaMichelle C Forelle is a doctoral student of communication at the Annenberg School of Communication and Jouranlism at USC. Born in Valencia, Venezuela, Michelle and her family immigrated to Florida when she was young. She received her B.S. in Film Production from Boston University and her M.A. in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University. Her work examines the intersections of technology, culture, politics and law. She has previously published on the efficacy of get-out-the-vote online games, on the use of bots by Venezuelan political parties, and on the challenges of operationalizing diversity in U.S. communication policy. Her dissertation is an exploration of the legal implications of the Internet of Things, with a focus on the changing interpretations of property, ownership, and labor.

Chloe Yuqing Jiang

sshresthovaChloe Yuqing Jiang is a first-year graduate student in the M.A. Strategic Public Relations (SPR) program at the University of Southern California. Prior to moving to Los Angeles, she earned her undergraduate degree in both Film and International Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2015, and held a public relations internship at Weber Shandwick. She spent a summer in Paris studying film during her junior year of college. Chloe is interested in entertainment PR, corporate PR and anything technology related. Her team won the 2015 USC Annenberg Virtual Reality Immersive Journalism Women Hackathon last semester. She also served as the Assistant Account Manager of The Annenberg Digital Lounge account at TriSight Communications (a student-run public relations firm). She is the 2015-2016 Annenberg Graduate Representative for the SPR program.

Diana Lee

diana leeDiana Lee is a doctoral candidate at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism who researches the creation and circulation of mediated counter-narratives in response to racial microaggressions. Through multimedia visual culture and storytelling resistance practices, she explores how these networked participatory cultures aim to collectively process, speak back to, or educate about racial microaggressions and their layered, cumulative effects. She is particularly interested in the potential healing and empowering impact of participating in these resistance practices for those who frequently navigate microaggressions in their everyday lives, and how these kinds of engagement can be utilized and fostered for education in other contexts of learning. Before doctoral studies, Diana worked in education research and evaluation, afterschool programming and development, and on several mixed-methods research projects in education, psychology, mental health, immigration, youth culture, media literacy, and communication. Diana holds a B.A. in Sociology from UC Berkeley, an Ed.M. in Learning and Teaching from Harvard Graduate School of Education, and a M.A. in Media, Culture, and Communication from NYU.


Raffi Sarkissian

raffia sarkissianRaffi Sarkissian is a doctoral candidate in the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. His academic scholarship investigates queer politics and ambivalence in popular LGBT media culture and digital publics, including representation and reception for award shows, grassroots media activism for Proposition 8, and online campaigns like It Gets Better and the red equal sign. His research also encompasses the study of celebrity and the intersections of race, gender, and sexuality in film, television, and digital culture. Raffi has presented conference papers at SCMS, NCA, ICA, Console-ing Passions, and PCA. He has published in “Spectator” and has a book chapter on the television show Glee in the edited volume Queer Youth Cultures. He has won scholarships and awards from the USC Lambda Alumni Association, the UCLA LGBT Center, and serves as the President of the Gay and Lesbian Armenian Society.

Paromita Sengupta

senguptaParomita Sengupta has a BA and an MA in English Literature from Jadavpur University, and an MA in Media Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She enjoys studying the narratives and affective bonds which exist between members of online communities. Her current research focuses on the intersection of activism and pedagogy. She is interested in studying how participatory action creates spaces for alternative ways of engaging in political action, such as through humor, storytelling and mischief-making.

Kari Storla

sshresthovaKari Storla is interested in the intersection of rhetoric, gender, and trauma, with a focus on sexual assault and sexual assault prevention. In particular, she is interested in exploring the ways efforts to stop sexual assault can inadvertently reinscribe the rape myths they work to dismantle. Kari earned her B.A. in speech from Georgia State University. Her undergraduate honors thesis examined the online self-identification of girl gamers and gamer girls.  More recently, her paper “Cure for rape culture: Homeopathy, allopathy, and the construction of rape seen through a Burkean perspective” won a top student papers award in its division at the 2014 NCA Conference. In addition to her research, Kari is passionate about teaching, serving as one of the TA Fellows at USC’s Center for Excellence in Teaching.

Emilia Yang

sshresthovaEmilia Yang is an activist, artist, and militant researcher. Yang is currently a Ph.D. student in Media Arts + Practice in the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California. Her work has been interconnected with digital communications, performance, and public art. Her research focuses on participatory culture and its relationship to media, arts, and design. She is interested in transmedia storytelling framed through the question of how it can foster social change and civic engagement. Her art practice utilizes site-specific interactive installations, interactive documentaries, performance, and urban interventions, all of which explore social justice issues in participatory ways. Emilia completed an M.A in Communications at Penn State University. Her Master’s project researched the first social media protest to make it to the streets in her home country Nicaragua. She developed a participatory transmedia storytelling hub in a site called with the objective to present the maximum number of stories and violations of human rights around this protest.

Yining Zhou

sshresthovaYining Zhou is a candidate for the dual degree master program in Global Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at USC. She received her B.A. in Journalism at Renmin University of China. After moving to Europe, she received training in cultural studies, screenwriting and children literature in Madrid and London. For her MSc thesis at the London School of Economics and Political Science, she studied how diasporic Chinese youths adopt online communication tools to engage in the environmental issues in homeland, through which these young diasporas confirm, construct and express the diverse layers of their identities. Now, she is studying at USC, focusing on social marketing and digital storytelling, to complete the second year of her program. She is a member of the World Building Media Lab at USC for the ongoing project Makoko 2036, working as a narrative designer. As an aspiring storyteller, Yining is committed to creating compelling stories about cultural integration and synthesis. She is also an enthusiast for animation.

Advisory Faculty

Limor Shifman (Visiting Scholar)

sshresthovaLimor Shifman is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication and Journalism at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a visiting scholar at the USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism. She studies popular culture and new media, and is particularly interested in two realms: understanding the big meaning of small texts (such as jokes) and identifying patterns in seemingly chaotic universes of digital content. The intersection between these dimensions has led her to explore questions such as: Can we identify features common to YouTube clips that lure massive user involvement? What role do Internet jokes play in globalization processes? How do internet memes function as agents of political and social change? Professor Shifman’s work has been published in venues such as Journal of Communication, American Sociological Review, New Media and Society and Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. She is the author of Televised Humor and Social Cleavages in Israel (Magnes Press, 2008 [in Hebrew]) and Memes in Digital Culture (MIT Press, 2013).

Mike Ananny
(Assistant Professor, School of Communication)

Mike AnannyMike Ananny is an Assistant Professor at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, an Affiliated Faculty with USC’s Science, Technology and Society research cluster, and a Faculty Associate at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society. He studies the public significance and sociotechnical nature of networked news systems and is currently working on a book on a public right to hear in networked journalism. He has held fellowships and scholarships with Stanford’s Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, the LEGO Corporation, Interval Research, and has worked or consulted with LEGO, Mattel and Nortel Networks, helping to generate research concepts and prototypes for new product lines and services. He received a PhD from Stanford University (Communication), SM from the MIT Media Lab (Media Arts & Sciences), and BSc from the University of Toronto (Human Biology & Computer Science), and has published in a variety of venues including Critical Studies in Media Communication, International Journal of Communication, American Behavioral Scientist, Television & New Media, the Handbook of Research on Urban Informatics, and the Association for Computing Machinery’s conferences on Computer-Human Interaction and Computer Supported Collaborative Learning.

Kjerstin Thorson
(Assistant Professor, School of Journalism)

KjerstinKjerstin Thorson is an assistant professor in USC Annenberg’s School of Journalism. Her research explores the effects of digital and social media on political engagement, activism and persuasion. Recent research projects have investigated the video activism in response to California’s Proposition 8, the contributions of media use in shifting conceptions of politics among young adults, and the impact of uncivil political blogging on emotions, partisan social identity, and political participation. Kjerstin’s research has been published in scholarly journals, including Mass Communication and Society, Journal of Computer Mediated Communication and Information, Communication & Society. Prior to completing her Ph.D. in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Kjerstin worked for several years in public relations and corporate communications. Most recently, she worked in corporate communications at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. She holds an M.A. from the Missouri School of Journalism.

Civic Paths Alumni