QUESTIONS ABOUT THE CIVIC MEDIA FELLOWSHIP

 

WHO IS THIS FOR?

This program aims to support a new generation of practitioners and makers who use media, technology and culture to increase public participation, enable exchange of meaningful information, foster social connectivity, construct critical perspectives, promote transparency and accountability, or strengthen civic agency. We seek to elevate the work of social entrepreneurs, artists, activists, scholars and other catalysts to increase awareness, understanding and engagement around pressing areas of public interest, with particular attention to underrepresented communities and their ideas. Not all of these folks may be situating their work within the emergent field of civic media, and we are not trying to categorize individuals or their work. Rather, we are committed to an expansive and inclusive Fellowship, strengthening this emergent field, and catalyzing new communities of practice and scholarship.

Civic Media Fellows are emerging leaders in leveraging digital and popular culture, media and technology for social progress, and come from diverse perspectives, communities and areas of practice — people doing vital work that bridges the cultural and the political in new and exciting ways that defy easy categorization.

Just as Fellows come from different backgrounds, modes of engagement, strengths and perspectives, the purpose the experience serves varies — some may use it to step outside current involvements, to reflect and explore a new issue, media, technology or community. Others might have hit a proverbial wall in their own practice and need to reinvigorate themselves. All will be eager to contribute to the field itself as we collectively develop and share a deeper understanding of the practice of Civic Media. These motivations (and more!) are welcome as we work together to create a program that nurtures and advances both individuals within and the field of civic media itself.

 

WHY DID YOU CREATE THE CIVIC MEDIA FELLOWSHIP?

We were inspired to launch this fellowship because while there is tremendous innovation, progress and commitment among civic media practitioners, there are altogether too few supports for them to push boundaries, develop new approaches, and cross-pollinate among communities, disciplines and sectors. Their path is difficult not simply due to the subject matter, long hours or scarce resources, but because it is untrodden and their destination is emergent. They know the danger of the bleeding edge, the challenge of learning how to actually do the work well, the frustration of not fitting into existing offerings neatly, and life between the rock and hard place of great expectations and neverending need. Painfully aware that these realities are exacerbated due to the relatively few communities working in these ways, we aim to support them directly and through engagement with a participatory civic media network.

 

WHEN DID THE CIVIC MEDIA FELLOWSHIP START?

Our founding cohort began in January, 2019 with four Residential Fellows, who were joined by five Remote Fellows in March 2019. You can meet the full cohort here.

 

WHAT DOES THE FELLOWSHIP OFFER?

Civic Media Fellows form the core of a learning community, innovation hub and network that welcomes scholars, practitioners and diverse community partners. The Fellowship experience allows individuals who have been working largely alone, or without peer support, the chance to connect with a cohort of likewise-amazing Fellows, nestled within a vibrant community of thinkers, doers, troublemakers and supporters here in LA and across the country.

 

WHAT’S THE EXPERIENCE?

This is not a program with a one-size fits-all curriculum where the paths are predetermined, the adventures are pre-chosen, and the destination is defined. Rather, each cohort participates in the Civic Media Fellowships as co-creators with us, shaping the program to meet their unique challenges, even as they extend and refine their own practice. The program and its community are — and will ever be — a work in progress: a fully-participatory imagining – learning – teaching – exploring – building endeavor! From experiential learning, to classes, hosting workshops, creating media objects, sharing practices, fellowship elements will be both emergent and designed, and include experiential learning.  

Generally, Fellows will spend their fellowship developing, making, hacking or researching public-interest and/or civic-oriented media and technologies. Exploration and creation may be individual and collaborative, short term and longer, fun and serious – Fellows work collaboratively with each other and others in joining and generating projects. Enthusiasm, patience and commitment to realizing a new program together are essential components!

In every part of the Fellowship experience, we aim to make new connections and forge new collaborations, cultivating mentorship as a give-and-get exchange. Our hope is that Fellows become vibrant members of a greater community, and expand their networks across new practices and disciplines.

We have both a residential and a remote fellowship program. While the needs and commitments are tailored to each program, we design for interaction between the residential and remote fellows as much as possible. Both participate in weekly video calls, and remote participation is welcomed in LA-based interactions when formats and facilities are conducive to this.

 

Residential

10-month residency at USC in Los Angeles. In keeping with the spirit of cohort-based learning, Residential Fellows are expected to be located primarily in Los Angeles for the duration of the fellowship, with three days in a typical week dedicated to co-located collaborative work, centered around the USC campus, but also including group field trips and site visits. We have longer gatherings on occasion and may even find time to travel together, too!

While we respect commitments beyond the Fellowship and will work through occasional travel or schedule conflicts, we expect the majority of Resident Fellows’ mindshare will be with us in order to make real progress during our time together. That attention will be invested in exploring, developing and sharing ideas, reflections, practices and projects. Alone and together, we will both think and do, imagining and creating new things in the world.

Participation spans community interaction, planned and serendipitous activities. Fellows are encouraged to join existing campus projects or start new ones, organize and participate in community events, engage external partners on campus and vice versa — we will attempt to leverage the resources of the program and the University (e.g. facilities, equipment, community, and occasionally financial) to support Fellows’ efforts whenever possible.

Fellows will be paid a $5000/month stipend (+ additional $500/month to offset health care expenses) and enjoy the resources of the Lab and USC, including the ability to audit classes.

 

Remote

10-month part-time commitment (approximately 8 hours per week) from where you are. This time is largely spent in collaboration and exchange (weekly video calls, one-on-one check-ins, etc.) with fellowship peers as well as others on staff and in the community.

Remote Fellows interact with the cohort of both remote and residential fellows, building kinship and giving and receiving advice as they progress through the fellowship year. The Fellowship structure provides a sounding board for working through challenges and decision points in everything from daily practice to larger project initiatives and career goals, as well as an accountability structure to help realize the aims that individual Fellows set for themselves.

In other words, we want Remote Fellows to continue to do the great work they’re already doing, but with more support. Really — we’ve envisioned the remote fellowship for folks who are deeply involved in existing work and unable to make the time and location commitment that characterize the residency.

Remote Fellows receive a stipend of $2000 per month, travel expenses for fellowship events, and access to distance resources at USC (such as digital library resources).

 

WHAT IS THE TERM?

Our next cohort runs from August 2019 – May 2020.

 

HOW MANY FELLOWS ARE THERE?

There will be approximately six residential and six remote fellows in each annual cohort. They are joined by our Senior Fellows, which include alumni of the fellowship program and other illustrious and engaged community members.

 

HOW ARE FELLOWS SELECTED?

We draw upon people in wide-ranging networks spanning organizations, fields and geographies for nominations, of which we invite a subset to apply, and conduct interviews with selected applicants. While we review applicants individually, our final decisions are informed by fit within the cohort. Applications are accepted by invitation only.

 

HOW DOES THIS PROGRAM EMBRACE DIVERSITY?

We believe diversity is a super-power — a resource to be leveraged not a problem to be managed — and attention to it runs through everything we do. As part of learning with and from each other, the work and well-being of our community are profoundly strengthened by the differences among us, background, culture, lived experience, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, race, ethnicity, age, ability, and much more…. and we actively seek and welcome people from across these spectra. Recognizing that it is a work forever in progress, we are committed to harnessing — and demonstrating — the dynamism, joy and strength of an inclusive and empowered community.

 

WHAT’S THE NETWORK BEHIND THIS?

Founding sponsorship and support of this program come from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, with inspiration, knowledge and camaraderie shared by a tremendous network of MacArthur’s grantees and other collaborating organizations, our Senior Fellows and other leaders, the USC steering committee and the AnnLab team.

 

HOW CAN I ASK MORE QUESTIONS?

An expanded FAQ is coming soon! In the meantime, please email questions to annlab@usc.edu.