Civic Imagination Project

The Civic Imagination Project taps the civic imagination (our collective vision for what a better tomorrow might look like) to bridge perceived cultural gaps between diverse communities. Over the last 6 years, our team, based at the University of Southern California, has worked with communities all over the world to develop tools for unlocking the imagination and harnessing unbridled creativity for real world action because we need hope and imagination to mobilize and sustain our collective efforts. Our group believes that to make the world a better place everyone needs to be able to imagine what a better world looks like, even now, especially now. Find out more about our work through our project website!

Media Activism & Participatory Politics (MAPP)

The  (Media Activism Participatory Politics (MAPP) Project is based at at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Over the past four years, MAPP conducted five case studies of diverse youth-driven communities which translate mechanisms of participatory culture into civic engagement and political participation. Our findings stress the interplay between individual growth, organizations, networks, communities, and platforms. As MAPP researchers learned, these groups often succeed by tapping practices of cultural appropriation, storytelling and remixing, working across organizational contexts, deploying metaphors from popular culture, and drawing on sustained engagement with interest-driven and friendship-based networks. Over time, youth involved in these communities mapped innovative and imaginative trajectories that scaffolded existing skills and interests towards a sustained ability to achieve social change. The interim findings of MAPP research have been published as a Working Paper series. MAPP also continues to further analyze and synthesize case study findings through publications, presentations, and other public facing efforts. Moving forward MAPP efforts will shift emphasis from research to intervention, forming strong partnerships with a range of practitioners in order to apply the insights from this research. Working with the School of Cinematic Arts Media Arts + Practice Division at USC, MAPP researchers have begun developing a series of multimedia resources (and testing a range of classroom practices) that will support educators — in school and out — who want to help foster actionable civic learning. This project is part of MacArthur Foundation’Youth & Participatory Politics (YPP) Network.

Find out more about our By Any Media resource for practitioners here!

Civic Learning

Through investigating community organizations, this research project sought to understand how the practices and norms of participatory culture might enable sustainable, yet informal, civic learning among young people. This is project was supported by Spencer Foundation’s New Civics Initiative and the Annenberg Program for Online Communities (APOC).

Fan Activism

In Convergence Culture, Henry Jenkins describes how popular culture, and more broadly participatory culture, can function as a civic playground, where lower stakes allow for a greater diversity of opinions than tolerated in political arenas. Our work in fan activism builds on these observations, we begin with the premise that participatory culture, like popular culture, encourages active participation, lively discussion, and even mobilization around particular topics and issues, leading to civic engagement.

Graduate Student Led Research

Drawing Civic Paths ideas and connections, students in the group lead individual and collaborative projects in the space of civic engagement and participatory culture.