By Any Media Necessary: Mapping Youth and Participatory Politics

Think Critically - Act Creatively: Harnessing the Power of Fiction for Social Good

created by: Gabriel Peters-Lazaro and Sangita Shresthova, along with Karl Bauman, Ilse Escobar and Susu Attar


The “Think Critically, Act Creatively” workshop is a future-focused experience highlighting the power of stories as tools for fostering civic imagination and inspiring real world change.
The workshop reflects ongoing efforts by USC’s Media, Activism & Participatory Politics (MAPP) Project to integrate peer-based learning, popular culture, and media production into civic learning pathways.
Over the past four years, MAPP conducted five case studies of diverse youth-driven communities which translate elements of participatory culture into civic engagement and political participation. Our findings stress the interplay between individual growth, organization, networks, communities, and platforms.

As MAPP researchers learned, these groups often succeed by tapping the following practices:
Cultural appropriationStorytellingRemixingWorking across organizational contextsDeploying metaphors from popular cultureDrawing on sustained engagement with interest-driven and friendship-based networks.

Over time, youth involved in these communities built innovative and imaginative trajectories that scaffolded existing skills and interests towards a sustained ability to achieve social change.
Building on these findings, MAPP researchers partnered with the Media Arts + Practice Division (MA+P) at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts to create a workshop that encourages participants to:
  1. Think critically about existing examples of civic media
  2. Act creatively by drawing on their own experiences and aspirations to translate these insights into their own media practices
In the summer of 2013, the team piloted these workshops at a CDF Freedom School working with youth focused on the issues confronting undocumented immigrants and at The Islamic Center of Southern California, working with participants of the Muslim Youth Group Leadership Academy. Educators and participants from these pilot experiences have become key collaborators in the development of this workshop.

About the Workshop

Highlighting the importance of civic imagination, the workshop leads participants through an exercise of building a future world in which both real and fantastical solutions to social inequality are possible. Working backwards, the participants then break into smaller groups to share insights and build on these imagined worlds to brainstorm character-based narratives of social change set in the shared future world. After working out their stories, the groups are then given a short amount of time to prepare a performance of their narrative. Encouraging spontaneity and creativity, the group performances give participants an immediate platform for sharing their stories, leading to group dialog and reflection. In the longer version of the workshop, the groups continue to refine and adapt their core stories and visions of the future world by transposing them into the collective production of a newscast style video. This phase of the process creates a shared framework in which all of the stories can come together, as each group plans their own segment with the intention of editing them all together. Participants learn basic video production and editing skills as they plan, shoot and edit their work. Use of the ‘newscast’ genre also encourages learners to reflect on how some storied become ‘news’ and on conventions of mass media.

This workshop offers a hands-on opportunity for participants to experience how partner organizations inspire civic imagination, amplify voice, encourage youth development, circulate alternative narratives, and scaffold participation to achieve systemic change.

Running the Workshop (duration 2hrs)

Social media - twitter, facebook, pinterest, instagram, tumblr, snapchat, youtube, vine, television, theater, film.
Key Words - incarceration, detention, deportation, queerness, reproductive rights, patriarchy
Daily life - hat, coffee, chair, pasta, car, tree, bus, school, college
See MIXBIT Icrebreaker from DML2014 for reference:
What does this mean for: education, transportation, media, government, commerce, agriculture, environment and other themes that the participants surface.For a detailed account of an actual workshop that we conducted, see Neta Kligler Vilenchik’s documentation of the 2 hr workshop version at DML 2014.

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