Participatory Culture

Description of Collaborative Research Focus Area:

DANM's Participatory Culture studies and research efforts explore the role of information and communication technologies in the current shift from "top-down" culture to a culture of participation and social engagement. Within the social register the human/computer interface acts as both a boundary and a bridge. Participatory Culture research in DANM encompasses a range of projects in social computing and community-media activism, which involve the design of new technologies to address social problems and facilitate broader participation in culture and politics.

Project Groups currently run Spring through Winter under DANM 250A-B-C. Beginning in Winter 2011, the project group sequence will run Winter, Spring and Fall quarters.

Current Project Group in Progress

* Spring 2010 - Winter 2011: Software as Culture

Full proposal: PDF 112KB
In many scientific disciplines today it is believed, that software is the best model of the object of study. This is an operating principle in molecular biology, operations research, neuro-psychology, immunology, game theory, economics and many other sciences. This digital ideology of science should be distinguished from something far more pervasive: digital life leaks outside of professional circles and flows beyond the technical vocabularies of specialists’ dialogues. We propose a project group to interrogate these new, software-based conditions of life and collaboration through a combination of software studies, software design, and software art.

Lead Professor: Warren Sack
Project Group Page: Software as Culture

Past Project Groups:

* Spring 2009 - Winter 2010: Social Price Tracker

Full proposal:MS Word 32KB

DANM students will collaborate with Graduate Students in the School of Engineering in the development of a locative media project – an interface for cell phones and hand-held devices that will allow consumers at big box stores, like Wal*Mart to trace and compare the “social cost” of commercial products. The phrase “social cost” here refers to;

  • the human capital exploited (under-paid and uninsured wage labor, undocumented labor, prison labor, outsourcing, etc.),
  • the natural resources expended (carbon footprint, chemical waste, etc.)
  • and the overall ecological and economic impact of the production and distribution of consumer goods.

* Spring 2008 - Winter 2009: Public Media: New Forms of Democratic Participation

Full proposal: MS Word 32KB HTML Version

When you scream in cyberspace, can anyone in Washington, D.C. hear you? Free, participatory culture is a bubbling, productive realm of invention and discovery, but its biggest successes have largely been in the construction and distribution of open source software alternatives (e.g., Linux) to commercial products. Can participatory (i.e., non-broadcast), public media be invented that inspire and facilitate new forms of democratic participation and the reinvigoration of civic society? In this project group we will attempt to address this question through a process of invention and experimentation.

Spring 2007 - Winter 2008: “Digital Inclusion”: Creating Tools for Citizen Media Activists

Wiki Page for this Project
Original Project Proposal: MS Word 40KB


This project group is engaging in both the development of new technologies and community-based media activism in an effort to enable marginalized communities – not traditionally thought of as scholarly or academic - to produce and interpret knowledge and represent their own experiences and perspectives using media tools built or adapted for their specific contexts.

Ten modified digital cameras are now being distributed by documentary filmmaker Gabriel Stauring to individuals in displaced persons camps in Darfur, Sudan. The opportunity to send the cameras to Darfur prompted an analysis of potential “use scenarios” for the hardware and software in that context, which led to the consideration of a whole new set of hardware and software features that could facilitate “citizen media activists” in a variety of extreme circumstances.

* Spring 2005 - Winter 2006: Social Computing Lab

People: Warren Sack, aphid, Michael Dale, Michella Rivera-Gravage and alana Perlin

Page Details
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