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Taking Action and Building Social Ties: Benjamin Stokes on Media That Matters

stokesThe 2015 Media That Matters conference is right around the corner, so we decided to let our #MTMDC panelists to introduce themselves and explain in their own words how they engage with media that matters.

‘Games for Change’ co-founder Benjamin Stokes will participate at the Impact Design: From Production to Measurement  discussion.

"In my work, I seek to identify social practices that combine innovation with cultural grounding and group empowerment. For community empowerment, media is vital to how we build cohesion. New media can even be part of how we take action and build social ties!  

I study and build civic media that is interactive, from social issue games to participatory mapping with cellphones.  My emphasis is on local empowerment, especially at the neighborhood and city level.  My “new ground” concerns mobile technology and game mechanics, yet is more deeply focused on integrating deeply with established communities and struggles.  

In 2004 I co-founded ‘Games for Change,’ which has become the hub for social issue videogames. At the MacArthur Foundation I spent three years in the funding world, as an education program officer focused on digital media for informal and civic learning.  Then I rounded out my research side, obtaining a PhD in 2014 at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.  Currently I am a postdoctoral scholar at the UC Berkeley School of Information; next fall I will join the faculty at American University (AU) in the School of Communication.

Two projects I am currently working on: I am part of a design collaboration in South Los Angeles that is re-imagining the payphone booth as a “storytelling portal” for neighborhood culture.  (For more, ask about our Leimert Phone Company!). Also, the Packard Foundation has invested in a project to identify the “categories of impact” for social issue games.  (Compared to film, games can be embedded in daily social practices – for better and worse.)  

For a list of recent projects, see http://benjaminstokes.net/projects/

At the 2015 MTM I hope to connect with those unusual activists, makers and funders who are willing to innovate while staying deeply connected to existing communities.  From me, the audience can expect to learn how to borrow lessons from games, including notions of civic feedback loops and meaningful choices, and some implications for telling different stories with impact.

I can’t wait to meet everyone!"

Meet Benjamin and other innovative media makers at the Media That Matters conference this February. If you haven't signed up yet, visit the registration page.