Methodologies for the Civically Engaged (shared reading)

What innovative methods can fans and/or the civic-minded employ in order to engage in civics, politics, activism, charity, or active community?

Here, I want to share the following papers that directly address or allude to methodology: Photo Voice, Alternative Media (Small-format videos), and Global Microstructures. Thanks to my colleagues Nan Zhao and Lana Swartz for bringing my attention to Photo Voice and Global Microstructures respectively.

Photo Voice and Small-format videos can potentially enable civic-minded groups to innovatively document their observations, express their feelings and voice their concerns with regard to the communities or peoples they want to bring attention to. E.g., with Invisible Children, wouldn’t it be interesting if the organization facilitated bottom-up production of videos and photo collages, in addition to attracting membership via its own cool, top-down ‘branding’ videos? Members of IC would become documentary photographers and filmmakers, and as IC looks beyond Uganda for its raison d’etre, its members would be armed with new methods to showcase the plight of newer afflicted peoples, or more wondrous still, let those peoples document themselves.

Global microstructures are difficult to implement as a methodology, since as the authors observe, these microstructures are emergent and “temporally complex”. However, it is not inconceivable that civic participation could / does occur in this format. If so, it is important for researchers to be on the look out for, and for orchestrators to understand in order to execute . After all, terrorist cells a la Al Qaeda, this article discusses, allegedly operate as global microstructures.

Links to articles:

Wang, C. & Burris, M. (1997). Photovoice: Concept, methodology and use for participatory needs assessment. Health, Education & Behavior, Vol 24 (3): 369-387.

Caldwell, J. T. (2003). Alternative media in suburban plantation culture. Media, Culture & Society, Vol 25: 647-667.

Cetina, K. (2005). Complex global microstructures: the new terrorist societies. Theory, Culture and Society, 5, 213-234.

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