Civic Media: Collaborative Design Studio 2019
'Hacking Hackathons' & organizing radically inclusive design events

Image: “DiscoTech,” flyer by Detroit Digital Justice Coalition, in the DiscoTech Zine.

Comparative Media Studies 362/862, Spring 2019

Course site:

Day/Time/Location: Wednesday evenings, 7-10pm, E15-344 - MIT Center for Civic Media

Class email list: codesign19 AT mit DOT edu


Sasha Costanza-Chock, Associate Professor of Civic Media, MIT
Pronouns: they/them/their or she/her/hers | schock AT | twitter: @schock | 607 351 5559
office hours:

Prereqs: One subject in CMS or MAS, or permission of professor

Short Description: The Civic Media Codesign Studio is a service-learning, project-based studio course in collaborative design of civic media. Students partner with community-based organizations to create civic media projects grounded in real-world community needs. Covers theory and practice of codesign, including methods for community participation in iterative stages of project ideation, design, prototyping, testing, launch, and stewardship. In the Spring of 2019, this course is organized as an advanced practicum around the theme of "hacking hackathons," with a goal of developing shared knowledge and best practices for organizing radically inclusive design events. Projects may be team-based.

Enrollment: limited to 16. Open to both graduate and undergraduate students.

Table of Contents
Community partners in Spring 2019
Course Goals
Learning Tools and Activities
Student Assignments & Evaluation/Grading:
Course Schedule
Week 1 (Feb 6): Welcome, Overview
Week 2 (Feb 13): Foundations
Week 3 (Feb 20th): Design Events (Hackathons, Design Jams, & DiscoTechs)
& Assembling Teams
Week 4 (Feb 27th): Values & Accountability
Week 5 (March 6): Begin By Listening
Week 6 (March 13): Making the Breast Pump Not Suck
Week 7 (March 20): Design brief presentations
[March 27: Spring Vacation]
Week 8 (April 3): Undesigning the Redline
Week 9 (April 10): Guest Karilyn Crockett
Week 10 (April 17): Speculative Design
Week 11 (April 24): Validate, Iterate
Week 12 (May 1): Sustain & Grow
Week 13 (May 8): Narratives
Week 14 (May 15): Final presentations
End of Term
Notes & Additional Resources

“No one knows everything and no one knows nothing; no one educates anyone, no one educates himself alone, people educate each other, mediated by the world and history” — Paulo Freire

This project-based studio focuses on collaborative design of civic media. In the Spring of 2019, this course is organized as an advanced practicum around the theme of "hacking hackathons," with a goal of developing shared knowledge and best practices for inclusive innovation events. Projects may be team-based.

The Civic Media Co-design Studio provides an opportunity for students interested in working with community-based organizations to develop civic media projects that connect to grounded strategies for social transformation. We typically build teams with diverse skillsets, including (for example) storytellers, designers, artists, media-makers, developers, researchers, and community organizers, and support the teams through an iterative project development process. We provide design teams with template working agreements, and strive to connect successful projects to the support networks they’ll need to grow and thrive. The co-design studio is also a space for shared inquiry into the theory, history, best practices, and critiques of various approaches to community inclusion in iterative stages of project ideation, design, implementation, testing, and evaluation.

Civic Media Co-design Studio approaches communities not as (solely) consumers, test subjects, or objects of study, and instead imagines them as co-designers and coauthors of shared knowledge, technologies, narratives, and social practices. Our goal is twofold: to develop an understanding of the ways that media and technology design processes often replicate existing power inequalities, while at the same time, moving beyond critique to travel as far down the path of community co-creation as possible, within the constraints of any given project. In the current version of the course, we want to 'hack hackathons.' We'll partner with community based organizations in the Boston area and beyond to develop radically inclusive design events.

Community partners in Spring 2019
TBD Based on Student Interests. This semester, students are responsible for developing proposals (indvidually or in teams) with community partners.
We have a running list of potential partners, upcoming 'design events,' and 'design sites, here.

Course Goals
Students who take this course will be able to:
• Understand and articulate key principles of co-design and design justice.
• Demonstrate knowledge of the history, actors, trends, and critiques of co-design methods
• Apply theoretical and practical tools of co-design in a real-world partnership with a community-based organization
• Effectively choose and use project management tools to facilitate collaborative work in diverse teams
• Make concrete contributions to the development of a real-world media project that is grounded in the needs of a community partner

Learning Tools and Activities
In addition to their core project, participants in this course will engage with a series of texts and activities, discuss them together, and share reflections on the course blog about the progress of their projects in the context of the history and theory of co-design.

Learning activities may include:
Attend a hackathon
Work with community partner on a weekly basis
Document and share the co-design process
Engage with class texts and discussions
Create a working agreement with project partners
Transformative media project planning
Interview community members
Create paper prototypes, storyboards, and/or mockups
Conduct peer review of each others' work
Present detailed project plans;
Complete multiple project iterations;
Project presentation at the end of the term (public presentation by design teams, including community partners)
Project reflections.

Course Blog:
Mailing list: codesign19 AT mit DOT edu

Student Assignments & Evaluation/Grading:

By default, this course will be graded Pass/Fail, with an emphasis on self-evaluation and peer evaluation. If you prefer to receive a letter grade, please notify the instructor. Evaluation/grading is organized as follows:
20% texts & discussion: you are responsible for engaging with all texts for the class, and coming to all course meetings prepared to discuss the week's texts.
50% ongoing process documentation. Expect to spend time (approx. 1-2 hours) each week on ongoing reflection / documentation of process. Reflections should focus on your experience working on the co-design project, and may also tie in the week's theme, assigned texts, and/or workshop. Process documentation may use any media you choose (text, photo, video, audio, drawings, maps, etc) to document progress. Blog posts must be up by no later than noon (12pm) on Wednesdays, to receive full credit. Posts will include at least the following, with additional reflections assigned as we go.
Personal introductory post (due Feb 13)
Working agreements post (due March 6)
Design brief post (due March 20)
First Hackathon reflection post (due within two days after the hackathon you attend, & not later than March 27)
Final case study post (due May 15)
10% design brief (March 20)
20% final case study (May 15th)
5% Extra credit: Second design event (or site) reflection post (can be done at any point in the semester, due by May 15th)
Evaluations by the community partner will also be taken into account.

A note about the Writing Center
The Writing and Communication Center offers free one-on-one professional advice from published writers about oral presentations and about all types of academic, creative, and professional writing. More information is available at

A note about blogging and anonymity
All participants in the course are expected to post regular blog entries on a publicly accessible site (the course blog at You may, however, choose to remain anonymous (actually, pseudonymous) by publishing under a pseudonym not easily linkable to your real name.

Required Statement on Plagiarism
Plagiarism - use of another's intellectual work without acknowledgement - is a serious offense. It is the policy of the CMS Faculty that students who plagiarize will receive an F in the subject, and that the instructor will forward the case to the Committee on Discipline. Full acknowledgement for all information obtained from sources outside the classroom must be clearly stated in all written work submitted. All ideas, arguments, and direct phrasings taken from someone else's work must be identified and properly footnoted (or linked). Quotations from other sources must be clearly marked as distinct from the student's own work. For further guidance on the proper forms of attribution, consult the style guides available in the Writing and Communication Center and the MIT Website on Plagiarism located at:
Course Schedule
Each week the studio will be split into two parts: discussion and a hands-on lab. We will begin with a check-in and a review of progress, followed by discussion of the assigned texts for the week. After a short break, we'll switch to a hands-on lab. Lab activities will vary each week and depend on projects but include: learning to use collaborative project tools; project sprints; production of documentation; comparison/evaluation of competing solutions, and so on.

Please feel free to add in articles, blog posts, talks, videos, podcasts or other references you like on an ongoing basis! Crowd-sourced course readings/references:

Week & Topic
Readings & assignment
Week 1 (Feb 6): Welcome, Overview

Name that Tech (as shared introduction & the projects people are hoping to work on)

This week we meet for the first time. We’ll provide an overview of the course, an overview of the theory & practice of Design Justice, and learn a little bit about each other and the projects and community partners we hope to work with.

Design Justice
Principles to guide us, as well as your team work (for example: one diva, one mic; move up, move up; and so on).

Note: We are creating accounts for everyone on You will receive an email with an invitation; please use that to log in and set up your account. We can also take care of any remaining login issues in class on Wednesday.

Assignment: First blog post to Introduce yourself! Use your Name That Tech image as the featured image for the post. Post about the work you are hoping to do in the codesign studio. Community, project partner, early ideas about what the work is going to focus on.

Week 2 (Feb 13): Foundations

Collaborative Timeline of the History of Participatory Design

History of different philosophies of design
Critiques of Design Thinking
Personal reflections on Design Justice principles


Everyone’s introductions on the course blog ( That way, we'll all get to know each other a little bit bitter.

Design Justice Network principles:
Design Justice Zine issue #3 (“10 ways designers can support social justice,” and “Notes on Design Justice and Digital Technologies”)
Staton, Kramer, Gordon, & Valdez. “From the Technical to the Political: Democratizing Design Thinking.”


Sign up to attend an upcoming hackathon, design jam, or similar event. It should be a design event that positions itself in the 'social good' space. It must take place prior to March 27th, when your blog post analyzing the event through the lens of the design justice principles is due.
Review and update the information about upcoming events and possible community partners, here: If you are a point person for a possible community partner, add your info and whether you are looking for others to join.
Reach out to possible community partners to discuss potential for collaboration; take notes to present back to class.

Week 3 (Feb 20th): Design Events (Hackathons, Design Jams, & DiscoTechs)
& Assembling Teams

Design events
Assembling teams & partners

Costanza-Chock, Sasha. "Ch 4. Design Sites: Hackerspaces, FabLabs, Hackathons, and DiscoTechs." In Design Justice, MIT Press, forthcoming.

How To DiscoTech Zine:
Irani, Lilly. "Hackathons and the making of entrepreneurial citizenship." Science, Technology, & Human Values 40, no. 5 (2015): 799-824.

Optional reading:
Gloria Lin, “Masculinity and Machinery: Analysis of Care Practices, Social Climate and Marginalization at Hackathons.”
Charlie deTar, “Hackathons Don’t Solve Problems:”
Henry, Liz. “The Rise of Feminist Hackerspaces and How to Make Your Own.” Model View Culture. February 3, 2014.

Assignment for next week

Post a short blog post with your reflection about a design event or space you have participated in. Which Design Justice principles do you see most present in the project? Which ones could have been more engaged?

Week 4 (Feb 27th): Values & Accountability

Accountability in Design
Defining Shared Values & Goals
Privacy & Consent
Incentives & Participation in Design Activities (roles/decision making)
Partnership & Working Agreements

Winner, Langdon. "Do artifacts have politics?." Daedalus(1980): 121-136.
Christopher Frauenberger, Judith Good, Geraldine Fitzpatrick, Ole Sejer Iversen. “In pursuit of rigour and accountability in participatory design” International Journal of Human-Computer Studies Volume 74, February 2015, Pages 93-106
Kuhn and Winograd, 1996. "Participatory Design: Profile," in Bringing Design to Software. Addison-Wesley, 1996.
Project working agreement templates:
CoDesign Studio -
Emerson Engagement Lab -

Later on, you will be developing something like this with your community partner. For now, contact your community partner, confirm point person, and consider scheduling regular meetings


Using the question prompts in the article "In pursuit of rigour and accountability in participatory design," write a short blog post about what you are hoping to achieve with your community partner for your project in this class.
Begin to conduct background research on your partner in preparation for your first meeting (mission, history, projects, communities they work with). Identify 3-5 key texts that provide context for the work your partner is doing. Create a folder for your project in the shared Drive folder for the class and add these references to your folder.

Schedule a meeting with with your partner organization, if you have not already done so.
[optional]: Copy this outline/guiding questions to your project folder, then edit it, to structure your meeting Take notes in this doc during the meeting and/or immediately after the meeting.

Week 5 (March 6): Begin By Listening

Contextualize, Research, Empathize & Discover

Workshop: Listening Methods.

Guest: Kenny Bailey, DS4SI.

Topics: How to begin by listening; DS4SI.


Explore DS4SI:
In particular, the Social Emergency Response Centers:
Read "The Public: A Work in Progress." By DS4SI.
Explore listening methods, including:
Interviews; Contextual Inquiry/Shadowing; Ecosystem Map; Desk research on context & history; Project family tree / inspirational works. Resources:
IDEO Design Kit, IDEO method cards, 18f methods
Explore Design Briefs examples, including:
Zach Jama, “Design Brief: Racial Bias and Mass Incarceration,” and see page 2 for ecosystem map:
Jaleesa Trapp, “Infiltrating Spaces: Uncovering Hidden Pathways into STEM."
Design Justice Zine #2, "An exhibit of emerging design practices." Especially look for the listening methods used in various cases, and the way they synthesized key takeaways to inform the design:


Meet with your partner.
Prepare working agreements w/partner org (see examples at CoDesign Studio - / Emerson Engagement Lab - )
Select 3-5 listening methods. If at all possible, work with your partner to decide which ones to implement. Choose two and implement them over the next two weeks. At least one MUST involve participation by someone from the community you’re working with (e.g. your listening methods cannot only be desk research).
Immediately after your listening session/workshop, write up your key takeaways as a blog post. If you wait and do it later, you will forget a lot of interesting and relevant detail. You will later remix this post as part of your Design brief doc (for details see week 6)

Week 6 (March 13): Making the Breast Pump Not Suck

Making the Breast Pump Not Suck Hackathon & Policy Summit
Childcare hackathon

Speaking Our Truths: 27 Stories of What It's Really Like to Breastfeed and Pump in the United States. PDF available at
Hope, Michelson, D'Ignazio, Roberts, Zuckerman, Hoy, & Krontiris. hackathons as participatory design: iterating feminist utopias. CHI 2019, May 4-9, Glasgow, Scotland, UK. PDF link here.

Due noon next Wed, blog post summarizing your design brief.
Please place your brief, as a google doc, in the following folder, and make it editable by me (schock AT

Also please upload your slides to the same folder, and make them publicly viewable.
When you create your blog post, title it with the project name, choose a featured image, provide a short abstract, and link to your brief and presentation slides.

Week 7 (March 20): Design brief presentations

Presentation: formally present design brief. Peer critique.

N/A, use the extra time to work on your projects & presentations!

Design brief presentations:

This week, you will be formally presenting your design brief. Each person will have 15-20 minutes: 10 minutes to present, and the remaining time for feedback. When you present, please use a slide deck.

Outline of Design brief structure
Project Title Slide
Design Team - individual members & partner organization(s)
Context, Outputs of listening methods (5-7 slides)
Ecosystem Map
Anticipated Challenges
Next steps
Questions for the class

[March 27: Spring Vacation]


[Note that your blog post analyzing the hackathon you attended through the lens of the design justice principles is due by March 27th.]

Week 8 (April 3): Undesigning the Redline

This week, we'll attend the Undesigning the Redline event.

A conversation between April DeSimone and Katie Swenson, Designing the WE: Undesign the Redline: the Transformation of Race, Place and Class in America is an explorative and visioning framework for addressing systemic challenges. These challenges - inequalities in housing, education, income, criminal justice and health - are far from separate issues. These challenges are rooted in a deep and entangled history of policies, practices and processes that remain unrevealed and misunderstood. As new forces begin to transform cities and towns, decisions about interconnected challenges are, therefore, often made ‘in the dark.’

Project info:

Event info (RSVPs are closed, but they know codesign studio participants are coming):


Schedule a meeting with Sasha in the next two weeks for a mid-semester check-in chat!

Week 9 (April 10): Guest Karilyn Crockett

Guest: Karilyn Crockett

Topics: TBD, &
Generating and Prioritizing User Personas
Ecosystem maps

Ongoing listening methods & validation of highest priority user personas with your partner

Optional user persona readings:
Miaskiewicz, Tomasz, and Kenneth A. Kozar. "Personas and user-centered design: How can personas benefit product design processes?" Design Studies 32, no. 5 (2011): 417-430.
Chapman, Christopher N., and Russell P. Milham. "The personas' new clothes: methodological and practical arguments against a popular method." In Proceedings of the human factors and ergonomics society annual meeting, vol. 50, no. 5, pp. 634-636. Sage CA: Los Angeles, CA: SAGE Publications, 2006.

Lock in the date for your low fidelity prototyping/feedback workshop and finalize all the materials you’ll use to run the session.

Week 10 (April 17): Speculative Design

Transfeminist Speculative Design Deck
Guest: Joana Varon, Coding Rights

Speculative Design
Values Sensitive Design
Identifying and validating assumptions
User testing

Transfeminist Tech:
Value Sensitive Design Envisioning Cards
18f Lean Product Design
18f Validate Methods
Overview of UX Methods
Design Principles FTW

Yoo, D., Huldtgren, A., Woelfer, J. P., Hendry, D. G., and Friedman, B. (2013). A value sensitive action-reflection model: Evolving a co-design space with stakeholder and designer prompts. Proceedings of CHI 2013, 419-428. New York, NY: ACM Press.

Complete your first feedback session with partners and write a blog post documenting the workshop (include a link to your workshop guide), key takeaways and how you will incorporate what you’ve learned.

Gretchen Coombs, Care for Care: Studio REV-’s strategies of engagement.
Byproduct: on the Excess of Embedded Art practices, Pages 7-21

Week 11 (April 24): Validate, Iterate

Guest: Marisa Jahn, Studio REV-


Gretchen Coombs, Care for Care: Studio REV-’s strategies of engagement.

Week 12 (May 1): Sustain & Grow

Peer skillshare (TBD)

Alternative models for funding and sustaining work

“Platform Cooperativism vs the Sharing Economy,” Trebor Scholz:
Browse; choose one article to share back/summarize in class

Meet w/Project team to test latest iterations and reflect on plans for sustainability if relevant. Integrate feedback.

Week 13 (May 8): Narratives

Workshop: Analyzing Design Narratives

Project working time

Guest: Dayna Cunningham, CoLab

Documentation & narratives
What artifacts will be helpful to partners?
How to craft and tell stories about the work?
Who gets to tell the story?
How is the story framed?

Design Narratives draft chapter from Design Justice book (sent to class email list)
Co-op City:

Finalize project presentations and case studies!

Week 14 (May 15): Final presentations

Project presentations (by the whole design team!)

Final project presentation

Blog post: Project case study.

In class: Course evaluations
Prepare a formal 20 minute presentation for the final class. You must use audiovisual materials for your presentation (ex. slides, prezi, a video). If you’re unclear about that, please ask. Your presentation must include:
The title of your project;
All team members, including community partner(s);
Background on the issue(s) you are addressing. You must include: 1. the larger context (historical, national, local), 2. the partner organization’s role or approach to this larger issue (give concrete examples), 3. how your project fits in. Write about this as if you’re addressing someone who knows nothing about the issue. Be specific, give details, and cite scholarly research where appropriate.
The goals of your project;
The project possibilities you explored, and how you chose between them;
Discussion of co-design methods you employed and sessions with partners
Design evolution: walk us through the iterations of your project; what feedback did you get from partners/users and how was it integrated?
Challenges you faced during the process and how you addressed them.
Next steps: what is going to happen next with your project?

Due 5pm Wed, team blog post including your final presentation materials as an attachment. Your blog post MUST INCLUDE:
Your final project title
A strong project image
Your project abstract
A link to your final presentation (embed it if you can!)
A link to your COMPLETED CASE STUDY AS A GOOGLE DOC (see previous years case study examples), and see the case study template:
For those registered in the course for credit:
For those not taking the course for credit:
Please send an email with your thoughts about what worked, what didn't and what could be improved in future versions of the codesign studio!

Final Project Presentations, 20 min presentations + 10 min questions. No computers except for the livestream! URL TBD.

End of Term

Syllabus for Civic Media: Co-design Stu…