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Meet the Labbers: Ethan Zuckerman

Logga Wiggler/via Pixabay

In our ongoing audio series, Meet the Labbers, we hear people from all roles across the Media Lab talk about what they do and why they do it.  

Today, meet Ethan Zuckerman.

"I'm Ethan Zuckerman. I'm associate professor of the practice here at the MIT Media Lab. I direct a group, called the Center for Civic Media. We're interested in this idea that making media and putting it out in the world is a really powerful way of engaging with social change. We've looked very closely at what information do communities need to make political decisions, and through crowdsourcing and crowd mapping how do they document their own problems; how do they raise interest and raise attention around those problems. We've been very interested in how the media landscape is shifting as professional journalism is a less central part of the landscape as things like blogs and Twitter and Facebook and other forms of social media are increasingly important—almost everything is mediated.

Making media and putting it out in the world is a really powerful way of engaging with social change. 

I'm a practitioner rather than an academic. My background is mostly around the issue of under heard voices. Who gets to represent what's going on in countries that don't end up on the front page of US newspapers very often? So, coming here to MIT has been an opportunity both to study these issues with more rigor and more of an academic background behind it, but then also to try to build tools. And we look at how the language used to describe an issue or a controversy reverberates throughout the media ecosystem: How does it change civics? How does that change politics? How does it change participation in community affairs and national and international affairs?

I'm particularly interested in doing this work at the MIT Media Lab because of the quality of the students. We have utterly brilliant young people who come through the doors here. They desperately want to figure out how to use technology to make a positive impact on the world. But they're also open to looking really critically at this question of: How do we help people solve their own problems? Not: How do we solve problems for people? It's a wonderful opportunity.” 

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