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Hume joins MIT civic media center as research director

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Alexandra Kahn
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MIT Media Lab

MIT's new Center for Future Civic Media (C4FCM) has announced that Ellen Hume will join the center as research director, effective Jan. 28.

A joint effort between the MIT's Media Lab and Comparative Media Studies Program, C4FCM, founded earlier this year with a $5 million grant from the Knight Foundation, develops new techniques and technologies to promote and enhance civic engagement in local communities, providing people with new means to share, prioritize, organize and act on information relevant to their communities.

As research director, Hume will collaborate closely with C4FCM principal investigators Chris Csikszentmihályi, associate professor of media arts and sciences; Henry Jenkins, Peter de Florez Professor of Humanities and co-director of the MIT Comparative Media Studies Program; and Mitchel Resnick, LEGO Papert Professor of Learning Research and head of the Program in Media Arts and Sciences, to define the priorities and plans for the new center.

Hume is currently founding director of the Center on Media and Society at the University of Massachusetts Boston, where she created the New England Ethnic Newswire. Previously, she served as executive director and senior fellow at Harvard University's Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, and as executive director of PBS's Democracy Project, where she developed special news programs that encouraged citizen involvement in public affairs.

Hume was a White House and political correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, national reporter with the Los Angeles Times and regular commentator on PBS's Washington Week in Review and CNN's Reliable Sources program. Hume wrote "Media Missionaries" (2004), a report for the Knight Foundation about American journalism training abroad, and the award-winning "Tabloids, Talk Shows and the Future of News" (1995) for the Annenberg Washington Program. She holds a B.A. in American History and Literature from Harvard University and honorary doctorates from Kenyon College and Daniel Webster College.

As part of its four-year grant from the Knight Foundation, C4FCM will study and identify best practices in existing uses of civic media; develop new tools and techniques based on best practices; partner with local groups to test these tools in real community settings; and monitor the results to inform the next phase of development.

Whereas many other research efforts support and study interactions in distributed, virtual communities, C4FCM focuses explicitly on geographically local communities. The Center uses the term "civic media" to refer to any form of communication that strengthens the social bonds within a community or creates a strong sense of civic engagement among its residents.

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