Citizenship as Multimodal Practice

Results of the 2016 election were announced nearly a year ago. Following a period of paralysis, we at MASCLab, in partnership with collaborators and co-conspirators across the college, have cultivated our multimodal practices of citizenship by earnestly pursuing opportunities to experience “becoming educated” as a full-bodied practice.

We view and re-view films that move audiences to action. Among them have been the documentary film, 13th, about our nation’s mass incarceration phenomenon as the modern legacy of slavery; Newtown, a documentary that depicts the aftermath of the gun massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in which 20 children and six educators were killed; a series of short films by the Foster Care Film and Community Engagement Project that profile the lives of former foster youth.

We read poems and poetic, unapologetic prose – Derek Walcott and Teju Cole and Gloria Anzaldúa and Tomas Tranströmer and Prince and June Jordan and John Berger and Toni Morrison and David Bowie and Adrienne Rich and Lucille Clifton and Pablo Neruda and …

We delve into sobering research that energizes our efforts toward creating increased awareness about juvenile justice, gun violence and gun control, and youth media.

We write our way out of social paralysis by creating artifacts and engaging in forms of multimodal scholarship that put the personal in conversation with the local and the global: a podcast series that highlights social issue media projects on topics like juvenile justice, religion, and online civic engagement; a workshop (one of many such occurrences) spent creating gifs to interrogate and interrupt the culture of stigma, a media literacy game to ignite players’ imaginations about news rife with falsehoods and not much else, but also so much else.

I have been asked by students, colleagues, and friends for “real” or “better” news sources and to recommend media literacy strategies for wading through fake news. My answer is, at best, unsatisfactory: read everything, talk to everyone.

No, this is not actually possible, but the implied disposition is not only manageable, but must be compulsory: that we ought to educate ourselves by consuming and engaging with a plurality of texts with different content and of varied genres, and by placing ourselves in the company of different others – others with whom we share kinship or not, interests or not, backgrounds or not, aspirations or not, goals or not.

That’s the goal we have at MASCLab and we pursue it by reading and viewing widely and deeply, listening with openness, and entering conversations with words and media. We are cultivating out citizenship through multimodal practices of listening, noticing, making media, and building community. We hope you continue to join us.

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