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

Anushka Shah photo
Anushka Shah, founder of Civic Studios and the Civic Entertainment project at the Center for Civic Media, MIT Media Lab.

Anushka Shah asks, our trust in politics and public institutions is falling globally — can entertainment and pop culture be a way out?

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.

Andrew Whitacre
Written by
Andrew Whitacre

Andrew directs the communications efforts for CMS/W and Responsible AI for Social Empowerment and Education. 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.

Elizabeth Borneman
Written by
Elizabeth Borneman

Elizabeth is a designer, writer, and researcher interested in how art, computation, and communication can combine to strengthen community structures, and enhance learning across learner backgrounds. A Florida native, Elizabeth earned her Bachelor of Science in Neurobiology from Georgetown University. There she led a research team in the Culture and Emotions Lab investigating the campus climate for patterns in students’ belonging and social engagement across university locations and situational contexts. She also spent a semester in Cape Town, South Africa as a field researcher studying plant systems and animals’ optimal foraging, ideal free distribution, and territorial defense behaviors.

She most recently worked as a designer and programmer artist in Xaq Pitkow’s Computational Neuroscience lab, where she designed and prototyped interactive graphics and games for teaching and communicating concepts in computational neuroscience and in color vision grounded in visual perception. She’s excited about the power of info-visualization. At MIT, Elizabeth works in the Teaching Systems Lab designing multi-media practice spaces and curriculum for equitable teaching in Computer Science and STEM. Outside of study, Elizabeth likes to go dancing, spend time on the water, and explore outdoors.

Andrew Whitacre Written by Andrew Whitacre
Elizabeth Borneman Written by Elizabeth Borneman