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Call for Participants—Teaching Data Storytelling for Civic Impact

The growth of data in journalism, storytelling and civics has ignited a rise in the number of university courses, workshops and hackathons that aim to teach students, professionals or community members their way around data. With that we have asked the following questions to achieve a better understanding around issues of data literacy and storytelling. 

  • What are overarching educational approaches and concrete class activities that can build data science capacity in non-technical communications fields such as journalism, documentary film, arts, and civic media? How does storytelling fit into that?
  • What are the ethics and privacy concerns of storytelling with data? How do we introduce and surface ethical dilemmas around data-sets in a safe learning environment? What is the ethical role of the storyteller in relation to the media product/audience (objectivity? transparency? other?)
  • What do we mean by "civic impact"? What is the relationship between storytelling and social change? How do we measure impact?
  • How do we connect the historical contexts of storytelling and journalism?

Outcomes of the Study Group

The goal of this study group is to build a network of educators and practitioners that can develop shared educational approaches on issues surrounding BUILDING CAPACITY and data literacy, the ETHICS of data and the CIVIC IMPACT of data-driven storytelling and how to measure it. In addition, sharing best practices, examples, and curricula will aid those in the study group and outside practitioners.

Convened by: 
Dalia Othman, Berkman Center <>
Catherine D'Ignazio, Emerson College Dept of Journalism & Engagement Lab <>
Rahul Bhargava, MIT Center for Civic Media <> 
Erhardt Graeff, MIT Media Lab and Berkman Center, Erhardt Graeff <>

Who should apply to participate?

  • People in the Boston area (no Skype-ing in, sorry)
  • Current and future educators in data journalism, civic media, civic engagement, digital storytelling, communications, data science and data visualization
  • Industry professionals interested in the pedagogy of their work—Journalists, Artists, Information Designers, Activists, Visualization, Statisticians, Data Scientists, Filmmakers
  • Researchers from Science Technology Studies, Social Computing, Human-Computer Interaction, Art & Design History, and other fields that study the impact of civics, data storytelling, and visualizations

The organizers will review applications to seed a 15–20 person group. Participants will be selected based on their experiences, interests, and with an eye towards creating a diverse group along multiple axes. 
To efficiently drive conversation in the room, participants will be asked to read a few select background texts prior to meetings. We ask that participants commit in advance to attend each session of the Study Group and complete the readings. The group will meet four times in the spring semester.
Applications are due February 23, 2015. Please apply using this form

What we'll cover

All four sessions meet on Thursdays from 5pm–7pm in a TBD room 
March 12: Introduction to the Study group, participants and discussing disciplinary questions and backgrounds.
March 19: How to build CAPACITY within a community. How can we develop participatory involvement through data (i.e.literacy and accessibility)?
March 26: How do we discuss and teach ETHICS? Focusing on the ethics and privacy of data.
April 2: What is civic IMPACT? How do we measure it and change?

What are Berkman Study Groups?

This year we are piloting a new agile and responsive format for exploring the important questions facing Internet and Society through in-depth discussion and development.

The Study Group format is design to encourage public participation with anyone in the greater Boston community. That might include students from Harvard and other Boston-area institutions, industry experts, and so on. The goal is to foster diversity of participation across disciplines and experience to tackle interesting questions in novel ways and with fresh perspective.

Feel free to share this opportunity with any others who might be interested in participating.


Sara M. Watson <> 
Berkman Study Groups Coordinator

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