Podcast: Anushka Shah, “How Entertainment Can Help Fix the System”

Around the world, citizens are saying the system is broken. If it’s education and schools one day, it’s healthcare the next. Our trust in politics and public institutions is falling globally, and our confidence in the ability to solve problems around us is teetering.

Can entertainment and pop culture be a way out? Can films, television shows, and digital content become spaces to teach us how to fix our systems? Can we create influential media that changes how we talk about identity, social justice, public institutions, and citizen power?

In this talk, Anushka Shah, founder of the production house Civic Studios and the Civic Entertainment project at the MIT Media Lab, explores how entertainment can provide alternate narratives of citizen participation.

Shah’s Civic Entertainment project explores the intersection of civic participation with film, television, radio, theatre and digital entertainment. The project focuses on researching the media effects of fiction towards thought and behavior change, explores how methods of social change available to citizens can be best represented in entertainment media, and investigates the representation of protest and activism in current popular culture.

Her production firm Civic Studios focuses on creating such civic entertainment content for Indian audiences. The aim of the content is to empower audiences by addressing the lack of trust in public institutions, knowledge of government and democratic systems, and increasing self-efficacy to participate in change as a citizen.

Originally from Mumbai, India, Anushka divides her time between Mumbai, Boston, and Chicago. She has a background in applied statistics and digital text analysis, and has also previously worked with non-profits and political parties in India.

About Andrew Whitacre

Andrew directs the communications efforts for CMS/W and its research groups. A native of Washington, D.C., he holds a degree in communication from Wake Forest University, with a minor in humanities, as well as an M.F.A. in creative writing from Emerson College. This work includes drawing up and executing strategic communications plans, with projects including website design, social media management and training, press outreach, product launches, fundraising campaign support, and event promotions.


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