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.

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.

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.

Sangita Shresthova
(Research Director)

sshresthovaSangita is a Czech/Nepali international development specialist, filmmaker, media scholar, and dancer with extensive interdisciplinary qualitative research experience. She holds a Ph.D. from UCLA’s Department of World Arts and Cultures, and a MSc. degree from MIT’s Comparative Media Studies program where she focused on popular culture, new media and globalization. She also earned a MSc. in Development Studies from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). While at LSE, her work focused on the educational communication components of international development interventions. As a Global Media Manager at Procter & Gamble, she led an extensive research project to help the company shift from a general television based advertising model to include a targeted, flexible new media approach. Her scholarly writing has been published in several journals, including the Dance Research Journal. Sangita’s work on global participatory aspects of Bollywood dance will soon be released as a book.

Liana Gamber Thompson
(Postdoctoral Research Associate)

LianaLiana Gamber Thompson is a Postdoctoral Research Associate working on the Media Activism and Participatory Politics (MAPP) Project at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at USC. She also facilitates the Civic Paths graduate research group at Annenberg. Her fields of interest include popular culture, identity and authenticity, and gender and feminism. She is currently investigating how youth engagement in participatory cultures, online networks, and new media leads to civic engagement more broadly. Specifically, she is looking at how libertarian youth organizations participate in these processes and their various strategies for achieving particular political goals, both electoral and discursive. Liana earned her PhD in Sociology and Feminist Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2010. There, her research focused on teenage girls’ social and affective uses of popular music and the transgressive nature of fandom. She has also taught courses on popular music and cultural politics, community and social justice, the sociology of emotions, and new media and technology.

Arely Zimmerman
(Postdoctoral Research Associate Alumnus)

azimmermanArely Zimmerman earned her PhD from UCLA’s department of political science with specializations in political theory and race and ethnicity. Her research interests center around questions of identity, inequality, and membership within the context of transnational migration and multiculturalism. She is particularly interested in the intersections of race, gender, class, and citizenship in constituting contemporary political identities and forms of participation in the public sphere. This interest is reflected in her ongoing research with Latino/a immigrant communities in the US, which focuses on the relationship between alternative forms of civic and community participation and formal claims to citizenship. As part of this research program, Arely currently is examining the various strategies of empowerment developed by immigrant youth activists, including the function of new media in mobilizing political participation and civic engagement.

Neta Kligler-Vilenchik
(Research Assistant)

Neta Kligler-VilenchikNeta Kligler-Vilenchik is a Doctoral candidate at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at USC. Her research examines ways in which new media and participatory culture contexts relate to young people’s civic and political engagement. She is part of the Youth & Participatory Politics (YPP) network, where she is leading a case study on organizations and groups building on fandom, online and off-line, to encourage and sustain young people’s involvement in public life. Neta is currently working on her Doctoral thesis on alternative citizenship models and their potential for youth civic engagement. She has published work in Transformative Works & Cultures and in the European Journal of Communication. She holds an M.A. in Communication from the University of Haifa, Israel.

Melissa Brough

mbroughMelissa Brough is an Annenberg Fellow and doctoral candidate in Communication, a 2010-2011 Fulbright grantee to Colombia, and currently a Russell Fellow. She works in the fields of communication for social change, participatory and civic media, visual and digital media cultures, and social movements. She is writing her dissertation about participatory public culture in the digital age, based on a study of youth political and cultural engagement in Colombia. She received her B.A. in Development Studies and Modern Culture & Media from Brown University.


Samantha Close

Samantha CloseSamantha Close received her B.A. in English Literature from Yale University. She subsequently received an M.Phil in Digital Design from the Glasgow School of Art. Samantha taught a wide variety of courses in equally varied venues, from English as a second language in Japanese schools, to intensive summer writing courses for gifted students with the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, to arts practice workshops for at-risk young people in Glasgow with Impact Arts, to a guest lecture on manga and kawaii culture in an undergraduate comics course at UCI. Her research interests are in fan studies, critical theory, theory-practice, new media, and the relationship between Japan and the US. She presented on her work at numerous conferences, including the Modern Language Association, the Anime Expo Anime and Manga Studies Symposium, and the Graduate Symposium on Women’s and Gender History at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In connection with Civic Paths, Samantha is interested in how the media industries are and are not transformed by the internet, the aesthetic dimension of politics, and amateur media production.

Kevin DriscollKevin Driscoll is a PhD candidate in the Annenberg School for
Communication and Journalism at University of Southern California. His recent research addresses popular technical cultures in the U.S. with special attention to hobbyist telecommunication networks, and the history of personal computing. Previously, he earned an MS in Comparative Media Studies at MIT and taught computer science at Prospect Hill Academy Charter School.

Alex Leavitt
(Research Assistant)

aleavittAlex Leavitt received a B.A. in English Literature and a minor in Japanese from Boston University in 2009. After graduating, he joined the Comparative Media Studies department at MIT to research with the Convergence Culture Consortium. Before joining USC, Alex was a research assistant to danah boyd at Microsoft Research New England and was a teaching assistant for a class on Internet & Society at Harvard Extension School. He continues to research with the Web Ecology Project, participates in Students for Free Culture, and helps run ROFLcon, the conference for Internet culture. His research interests focus on social media, Internet studies, and disruptive Technology (with a bit of globalized pop culture on the side).

Zhan Li

Zhan LiZhan Li holds a B.A. in Social & Political Sciences and a M.Phil. in Social Anthropology from Cambridge University (Trinity) as well as a S.M. in Comparative Media Studies from MIT. For his Ph.D. in Organizational Communication, he is specializing in researching the future of scenario planning, a widely used strategic foresight method. Previous thesis topics have included the World Bank’s promotion of Knowledge Management and Economics in the 1990s, and the U.S. Army video game America’s Army during the run-up to the 2003 Iraq War. Most recently working as a global media investment banking analyst for HSBC in New York City (with a special focus on India and China), Zhan has also been employed as a researcher at Sony (Los Angeles), the Microsoft Games-To-Teach lab at MIT (Cambridge, MA), the London Business School’s Future Media Program and UBS Warburg (London). At Annenberg, Zhan manages the Annenberg Scenario Lab, which focuses on online media innovation in scenario planning techniques for a variety of organizations. His dissertation will focus on the development of online techniques for participatory scenario planning and futures that are informed by organizational communication and new media theory.

Joshua McVeigh-Schultz

Joshua McVeigh-SchultzJoshua McVeigh-Schultz is a designer, scholar, and media maker in the Media Arts and Practice PhD program in the School of Cinematic Arts. He is interested in the intersection between interactivity design and rituals of public life. He completed an MA in Asian Studies at UC Berkeley and an MFA in UC Santa Cruz’s Digital Arts and New Media program. He works as a researcher for the Institute for Multimedia Literacy and is a member of the Civic Paths research group, studying new models of political engagement at the intersection of civics and pop-culture. He is also a designer in the Mobile and Environmental Research Lab, where he develops speculative interactive experiences for built environments and vehicles of the future.

Ritesh Mehta

Ritesh MehtaEmerging from and running across Ritesh’s academic travails in cognitive science at UC-San Diego and philosophy (in which he obtained his Masters) at the University of Missouri-St Louis, has been a curiosity about theories of ‘distributed cognition’. At USC Annenberg, Ritesh wants to bring a robust, hybrid perspective of this construct towards the ethnographic study of the communicative interdependencies amongst artists-craftsmen during film and TV production. Generally though, he loves to ponder how people empower the texts and paratexts of film and TV to participate in culture, and how this gradual process moulds these crafts and media. He continues to feel philosophical allegiance to Ancient Skepticism and C. B. Martin’s theory of properties, and is intent upon finding his own crossroads of analytic and evocative critical writing. Ritesh remains constantly partially embedded in the found and untold worlds of Oscar prognostication, HBO’s Six Feet Under, and The Lord of the Rings. It’s surprising then that as an undergraduate he majored in marketing and management at the University of Pennsylvania, which led him to mini-careers as a brand manager for his family’s luxury jewelry business in Mumbai, but more revealingly, as a copywriter in advertising.

Raffi Sarkissian

Raffi SarkissianRaffi Sarkissian is a doctoral student at the Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism. He received B.A. degrees in Communication Studies and Sociology from UCLA in 2009 and graduated with an M.A. in Critical Studies from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts in 2012. His academic scholarship includes examining the evolving modes of representation, production, distribution, consumption, and effects of media content, particularly as they relate to LGBT images and stories. Raffi is interested in the ways queer youth and family narratives intersect with political rhetoric and popular culture. He plans to explore these and other interests through an interdisciplinary methodology that brings together media and cultural studies with queer and feminist theory. Raffi has presented his work at many conferences including Society for Cinema and Media Studies and Popular Culture Association. He has won scholarships and awards from the USC Lambda Alumni Association, UCLA LGBT Center, and the Gay and Lesbian Armenian Society.

Andrew Schrock

aschrockAndrew Schrock is a Ph.D candidate at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. Andrew received his BA in computer science and fine art with honors from Brandeis University. After graduation, he worked as a software developer and project manager, periodically penning articles on technology and music. At University of Central Florida he majored in communication and taught in the Digital Media department. After moving to California he was research assistant to danah boyd and assistant director of the Annenberg Program on Online Communities. His current work examines how communicative practices with open data and mobile technologies lead to increased social cohesion. His two primary projects are a mixed-methods investigation into why practices with mobile social media result in increased social capital in ego-centric networks, and how “civic hacking” draws together geeks, government actors and corporations through code and open data sets.

Benjamin Stokes

Benjamin StokesBenjamin Stokes investigates how digital media foster civic engagement, informal learning, and activism. He is currently studying how mobile media and videogames can advance social justice by bridging online and offline participation. Previously he co-founded Games for Change, the branch of the serious games movement focused on social issues and nonprofit organizations. Most recently, he was an education program officer at the MacArthur Foundation in their portfolio on Digital Media and Learning. Benjamin has also led the development of original digital media properties; at the educational nonprofit NetAid, his team created digital games and an activist training website that engaged more than 150,000 youth in fighting extreme poverty. Benjamin studied the single atom wire for his B.A. in physics at Haverford College, while also co-founding the campus anti-sweatshop alliance.

Lana Swartz

Lana SwartzMost of Lana’s work is on money (and other regimes of value) as techno-social practice. At Annenberg, she has worked on the CivicPaths research collaborative and the new Media, Economics, and Entrepreneurship working group. In 2009, she completed a masters in Comparative Media Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her thesis was on “fake” luxury fashion. There, she also worked on a teachers’ strategy guide and an unconference on cultural geography and new media literacies. As part of TeachForAmerica, she taught high school English in Houston, TX.

Rhea Vichot
(Research Assistant)

Rhea VichotRhea Vichot graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Comparative Media Studies in 2004. She attended New York University and attained a Masters in Cinema Studies as well as a Graduate Certificate in Culture and Media in 2006. In 2009, Rhea received a Masters in Digital Media from Georgia Institute of Technology. At Annenberg, Rhea has conducted continuing research on Anonymous, along with other online countercultures and their relationships to learning, cultural practices, and political and civic engagement. Her current research interests include global popular culture, online and fan communities, and media criticism. In particular, she is interested in subaltern groups that have been historically linked with either ‘hacker’ culture and/or marginalized’ subcultures. In addition, she is interested in critical analysis of media, both as a medium of commercial art as well as an object for cultural production by designers and players.


Civic Paths Alumni

Lori Kido Lopez

Lori Kido LopezLori received her B.A. in Media Studies and Asian Studies at Pomona College. During her time at Pomona she wrote two theses — one on representations of Asian American women in pornography and another on the treatment of Princess Masako by Japanese and American press — and also served as Student Body President. She received her M.A. from Indiana University in Mass Communication and wrote a thesis on Asian American magazines. As a journalist, she has written for a number of web publications and was a food writer for two Indiana city magazines. Here in LA she volunteers her time as a Board Member and blogger for the Media Action Network for Asian Americans. Her general research interests include race and gender, cultural studies, identity, reality television and popular culture. Her dissertation investigates the wide range of Asian American media activism taken up by traditional advocacy organizations, fans, advertising agencies, online communities, and media producers. For more information, visit Lori’s website (

Christine Weitbrecht

Christine WeitbrechtChristine is a Master of Communication Management student at the University of Southern California. She completed her undergraduate degree with a Bachelor of Science in Communications, Media and Society at the University of Leicester, England. Coming originally from a strong marketing background, Christine’s area of interest shifted towards transmedia storytelling and fan engagement in her final year at Leicester, and she looks forward to applying this knowledge in the entertainment industry after graduating in August 2011.