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

hjenkinsHenry Jenkins was the founder and co-director of the MIT Program in Comparative Media Studies and now serves as the Provost’s Professor of Communication, Journalism, Cinematic Arts, and Education at the University of Southern California. He has published seventeen books on various aspects of new media, popular culture, and public life, starting with Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture in 1992. His most recent books have included Reading in a Participatory Culture: Remixing Moby-Dick in the Literature Classroom; Spreadable Media: Creating Meaning and Value in a Networked Culture; Participatory Culture in a Networked Era; and By Any Media Necessary: Mapping Youth and Participatory Politics. Henry blogs regularly at  He has been actively part of the MacArthur Foundation’s Digital Media and Learning initiatives since its launch, including recent participation in the Youth and Participatory Politics research network. These projects have involved extensive public engagement with educators, students, and young citizens in New England, the Midwest, and California.

Sangita Shresthova (Research Director/Program Director)


Sangita Shresthova is the Director of Research of the Civic Paths Group based at the University of Southern California. Her work focuses on intersections among online learning, popular culture, performance, new media, politics, and globalization. She is also one of the authors of Popular Culture and the Civic Imagination: Case Studies of Creative Change (NYU Press, 2020) and of Practicing Futures: A Civic Imagination Action Handbook (Peter Lang, 2020). Her earlier book on Bollywood (Is It All About Hips?) was published in 2011 by Sage. She is one of the creators of the Digital Civics Toolkit (, a collection of resources for educators, teachers and community leaders to support youth learning. Her own creative work has been presented in academic and creative venues around the world including the Schaubuehne (Berlin), the Other Festival (Chennai), the EBS International Documentary Festival (Seoul), and the American Dance Festival (Durham, NC). She enjoys engaging with diverse communities through her workshops, lectures and projects.

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 journals Feminist 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.

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 focuses on LGBT representation in popular culture and digital publics. His recent work analyzes the role of celebrity, queer politics, and intersectionality in award shows, media activism for Proposition 8, and the It Gets Better Project. Raffi has presented conference papers at SCMS, NCA, ICA, PCA, and Console-ing Passions. He has published in “Spectator” and has a book chapter on the television show Glee in the edited volume Queer Youth and Media Cultures. He has won scholarships and awards from the USC Lambda Alumni Association, the UCLA LGBT Center, and served as the President of the Gay and Lesbian Armenian Society.


Civic Paths Members

Andrea Alarcon 

Andrea’s interests lie in the intersection of ICTD and cultural internet studies, as well as transculturalism and multilingualism on the web. She is particularly interested in the appropriation of social media in developing countries, especially as gateways to the web, and the influence of socioeconomic background and entrenched inequalities on the online experience. She received her MSc degree from the Oxford Internet Institute, and her BSc in online journalism from the University of Florida. She also worked as a Research Assistant with Microsoft Research’s Social Media Collective. Before academia, she worked as a web producer and editor for the World Bank, and in social media for Discovery Channel in Latin America. She currently writes about digital culture for Colombian mainstream media.

Jeeyun Sophia Baik

Jeeyun (Sophia) Baik is a Ph.D. student at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Her research interests include political communication, participatory culture, and youth engagement. She is exploring how entertainment media engage youth into political and social issues, and how digital platforms (re)shape public spheres. She received her Master of Public Diplomacy at USC Annenberg, and her thesis on the role of political comedy shows in elections was presented to the National Communication Association. She earned a B.A. in International Relations at Seoul National University in South Korea. Prior to joining the doctoral program, she produced news at the Los Angeles Bureau of SBS, a major Korean broadcaster. She also has various work experiences in PR at a film festival, a documentary project, and a governmental organization.

Thomas J. Billard

Thomas J Billard conducts research on transgender coverage in political media, transgender representations in mass media, graphic design in brand culture, and processes of production and encoding in graphic design. His research has been presented at the annual meetings of the International Communication Association, American Political Science Association, American Sociological Association, and National Women’s Studies Association, among others. His writing has been published in the Journal of Communication and International Journal of Communication, and he has a number of chapters forthcoming in edited volumes. He holds a BA in political communication from the George Washington University and is currently a doctoral student in the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California.

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.

Brooklyne Gipson

Brooklyne Gipson received her Bachelor of Arts degree in History with a concentration in Afro-American Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles. She then worked as a professional journalist for seven years, holding positions such as content producer, editor and blogger for publications such as The New York Post, XXL magazine, Complex magazine and She later earned an M.A.S. in American Media and Popular Culture from Arizona State University and an M.S. in Digital Social Media from the University of Southern California. Her research interests center on the intersections of race and digital technology. Specifically, she interrogates the utility of social media and other digital tools in the facilitation of grassroots organization, community building and civic engagement.

Jocelyn Areté Kelvin

Jocelyn Areté Kelvin is a musician, filmmaker, and actress, as well as Henry Jenkins’ assistant. Her first feature as director and producer, Your Friends Close, premiered at the United Film Festival and is currently streaming on Amazon, Vimeo and YouTube. Based in Los Angeles, she grew up in New York City and graduated from Northwestern University with a Bachelor’s in Theatre and Creative Writing, Poetry. In Chicago, she collaborated with dance companies Lucky Plush and the Moving Architects to direct site-specific dance films, and performed in theatres including Victory Gardens, Lookingglass, Strawdog, and Red Orchid. She is currently composing an interactive transmedia pop concept album and producing immersive events as Areté.

Do Own Kim

Do Own (Donna) Kim is a doctoral student at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. She is interested in new media and cultural studies. Her current research interests include the relationship between the real world and virtual worlds, transnational exchange of popular culture, participatory culture, commercialism, gender and sexuality.Donna received her B.A. degrees in Media & Communication and English Language & Literature from Korea University in 2015. Her interests are influenced by her media planning internship at Cheil Worldwide as well as her childhood. She has lived in five different countries including South Korea, China, Canada, the U.S., and Japan, where she studied at Nagoya University for a year as an exchange student in 2013-14.

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.

Lauren Levitt

Lauren Levitt is a second year PhD student in the Department of Communication at USC. She earned an MA in Media, Culture and Communication from NYU in 2014, where she wrote her thesis on 1960s science fiction television and the aesthetics of camp. Her article “Reality Realness: Paris Is Burning and RuPaul’s Drag Race” has been published in Interventions Journal, the online journal of Columbia University’s graduate program in modern art, and her chapter “Batman and the Aesthetics of Camp” was recently published in the anthology Sontag and the Camp Aesthetic: Advancing New Perspectives. Her research interests include gender and sexuality, culture, and radical politics.

Rogelio Lopez

Rogelio Alejandro Lopez is a third year PhD student at USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, where he studies networked social movements, civic media, and youth media cultures. Prior to USC, Rogelio completed his M.S. in Comparative Media Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, while also researching media activism, youth media production, and collaborative design at the MIT Media Lab’s Center for Civic Media. Working at the intersection of participatory action research and media making, Rogelio’s work emphasizes community media production for social change, such as solution-oriented video journalism among youth of color with Boston’s Press Pass TV, and participatory and collaborative design of mobile platforms such as Aago and MIT’s Vojo. Currently, he works with USC’s Civic Paths research group, where his focus is participatory politics and civic media among youth of color in the US and in Latin America. His ongoing projects include designing technologies for social change, data science approaches for digital activism research, and a historical overview of the civic imagination among Chicana/o youth activists. Rogelio’s technical skill set includes video production, photojournalism, graphic design, collaborative design, and programming in Python.   

Paromita Sengupta

senguptaParomita Sengupta has a background in English Literature and Media Studies, and she is currently a doctoral student at the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Southern California. Her work uses a multidisciplinary theoretical model to study cultural activism and youth politics. She is interested in researching how transmedia narratives, humor and participatory mischief-making are contributing to the creation of alternative templates of civic engagement, along with the ways in which these activist initiatives are archived on digital media platforms for the benefit of future neophyte activists.

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.

Sulafa Zidani

Sulafa Zidani is a doctoral student at USC Annenberg. She researches new media, participatory culture, and digital language and power dynamics, with special interest in China and the Arab World. Sulafa is a speaker of English, Arabic, Hebrew, Mandarin, and French. Prior to joining Annenberg, she worked as a teacher, research assistant, and translator in Palestine, Israel, China, and the US. She earned her BA and MA from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Asia Studies and Communication and Journalism. She previously investigated the complex relationship between political power and new media by focusing on the use of counter-power expressions born in the online resistance discourse on the Chinese microblogging website Weibo. She has also studied Arabic forms of digital creativity through a collaborative analysis of Gangnam Style remakes as identity practice. Through her research, Sulafa seeks to uncover the deeper meanings, values, and ideologies behind digital participation and expression