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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
BackgroundThe “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:
- Think critically about existing examples of civic media
- Act creatively by drawing on their own experiences and aspirations to translate these insights into their own media practices
About the WorkshopHighlighting 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)
- Icebreaker (15 minutes)As participants enter, hand them prompt cardsEach person forms a one-word response to their promptEither film or have participants stand up and state their response word”prompt card ideas (can vary depending on focus of workshop):
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:http://mixb.it/_1WTFt3zM
- Introduce Storytelling and Narrative (10 minutes): Stress the important work that such storytelling does for the communities. Also stories allow individuals to connect their narrative to larger stories while maintaining their uniqueness. Talk about how encouraging participants to insert some of themselves into the narratives can open new channels for expression and connection to others. These can then serve as a foundation to take action (but the connections are valuable in and of themselves)
- Civic Imagination (5 minutes): Introduce concept of civic imagination as a way to open up possibilities, strengthen community, express goals/dreams, and help guide action - we need to be able to imagine civic alternatives and possibilities to take constructive/creative action.
- Future World Exercise (20 minutes): Use a board or flipchart. Ask participants to imagine a future world set in a specific year (i.e. 2044) where fantastical things are possible (future is a fantasy). The key theme of this world is: “There are no borders.” Ask participants to brainstorm what the world looks like in terms of?
- Come up with Stories (20 minutes): Then break participants into smaller groups to come up with narrative of a story that happened in this world and relates to one of the themes fleshed out in the brainstorm. The fictional narrative should tell a story that helped make the world the way it is in 2044:The narrative needs to incorporate the following:centers on a character or group of charactersthere is a conflict that conflict is somehow resolved
- Performance Planning (15 minutes): Ask the participants to come up with a way to ‘perform’ the story back to the whole group. They should aim to make their performance should be 1-2 minutes long.
- Reflection: (15 minutes) rEnd workshop with a reflection on how the stories created may be developed further and how they could serve as a foundation for further action.
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