News Column

Social Media Meets Social Justice Research in CUNY Project

Nov. 27, 2012

Tanya Roscorla, Converge

Traditional academic research is about to get a digital makeover.

The Graduate Center at the City University of New York (CUNY) is mixing social justice research, activism and digital media in an effort to connect research with broader audiences. Leaders of a project dubbed JustPublics@365 hope to change academic conversations about what research looks like and connect research to wider audiences through social media.

"We're really thinking about what are new ways that we could connect these pieces: the research, the engagement with social media and wider publics through that, and also this focus on social justice," said Jessie Daniels, professor of public health and sociology at The Graduate Center and a project leader.

With a $550,000 research grant from the Ford Foundation, researchers at the center will study how digital media can connect inequality research and activism that's happening on the ground. Faculty and students were involved in or inspired by recent activism including Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Sandy. But research is not always informed by activism, and activism is not always informed by research, Daniels said.

The project will supplement traditional peer-reviewed articles and books with data visualization, podcasts and short digital videos. In some ways, this is a big shift because it's different than traditional methods. But at the same time, these types of conversations have been happening in higher education for 10 to 20 years.

"Academia, and graduate education in particular, is really wedded to systems of knowledge production and peer review that are really steeped in at least last century if not many centuries ago," Daniels said.

With a Twitter account of @justpublics365 and seven full-time project members, leaders desire to reach the 150 to 175 graduate faculty, as well as the approximately 7,000 CUNY faculty. A series of workshops will show faculty and graduate students how to approach social media and could involve collaboration with the School of Journalism.

Daniels said she would like to see 1,000 people from the media, research and activism sides of things participate in the workshops. That way, people in these areas who don't normally talk to each other can dialogue together.

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Source: (c)2012 Converge Distributed by MCT Information Services

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