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Global Voices Co-Founder to Head MIT's Center for Civic Media

Ethan Zuckerman. Photo by Joi Ito (CC-BY-2.0)

Global Voices co-founder and long time fellow at Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Ethan Zuckerman, has been named director of MIT's Center for Civic Media and a principal research scientist at MIT's Media Lab. He begins on 1 September, 2011. We've been congratulating Ethan internally at Global Voices, and all hope to learn from and contribute to the research ahead!

The research center (formerly known as Center for Future Civic Media) was founded in 2007 with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to explore the opportunities and challenges of news and information in a digital age. On Wednesday, the Knight Foundation announced an additional investment of $3.76 million for the Center to expand its work and reach.

In an interview with Andrew Phelps published Wednesday morning by Harvard's Nieman Lab, Ethan explains that the Center will be looking beyond citizen journalism to investigate how communities communicate more broadly, and how they make decisions about becoming “civically active.”

He says:

Civic media can be all about mobilization. It can be all about community documentation. It’s sort of journalism and more. It’s a very, very broad remit. It’s basically as broad as this question of how do communities make decisions based on information? Within that incredibly broad swath, there are a couple of areas that I’m excited about focusing on.

A lot of my work the last couple of years has been on trying to help us listen to voiceless, marginalized people. So you can read the Global Voices project in that way. It’s an attempt not just to give people in the developing world a chance to speak, but also give them a better chance of being heard. And that’s an issue that’s really front and center to some of the past work at Center for Future Civic Media.

On his own blog, Ethan says he is excited that the Center will work on a combination of practical and theoretical projects:

The Center is housed between MIT’s Media Lab and the Comparative Media Studies department, which puts an interesting challenge in front of researchers: work both to create new tools and to develop the thinking and theory behind the civic media field.

On GigaOM, Matthew Ingram reacted to news of Ethan's appointment, by asking whether MIT will be helping to re-invent local media, as news media struggle to survive in the digital age.

Ethan's appointment comes hot on the heels of Joichi Ito taking over as director of MIT's Media Lab in April. Joi Ito is an influential internet entrepreneur and former chariman and CEO of Creative Commons. Joi also sits on the board of Global Voices.

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