Media for Creative Change: The Role of Popular Media in Advancing Social Change

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Resource Details
Publication Date: 
December 2010
Sarah Ingersoll
Number of Pages: 
Animating Democracy resource
PDF icon SIngersoll Trend Paper.pdf394.09 KB

Popular media—film, television, celebrity, online games, and online videos—is a powerful way for the creative community to depict critical social issues and engage people in contributing to social change.  This paper focuses primarily on popular media examples that combine social message, narrative, and outreach tactics into intentional strategies to influence behavior and support broader-systems reform. Emphasis is on for-profit media in partnership with nonprofits.  Examples include:  Bono’s (U2) Product Red fundraising effort to benefit the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; Participant Media’s and Active Voice’s partnership on a social action campaign around immigrant detention issues related to the film, The Visitor; and online games and video such as Darfur is Dying and The Meatrix. Common current issues addressed in popular media are the environment, voting, education, children, health (especially cancer), war, and emergency relief, with the goal of “doing well and doing good;” in other words, earning money and having a social impact. Popular media’s potential for huge reach creates opportunities to provide information and education, resulting in increased awareness and knowledge of, and discourse around issues. The most common strategy is through a message: what actors or celebrity spokespeople say about an issue. Another way popular media can address social issues is through narrative, how the story—fictional or documentary—frames the issue.  Tactics implemented in relation to creative media, such as use of social media, fundraising for causes, or strategic outreach campaigns, can effectively influence action.

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