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Communicating with Power


Edited By Cherian George

Communication is ubiquitous and information is abundant. Political and economic markets are more open than they have ever been. Yet, there is no escaping the fact that communication continues to flow across fields where power is distributed unevenly. This collection of articles analyzes and responds to asymmetries of power in a diversity of contexts. They are drawn from presentations at the 2016 Annual Conference of the International Communication Association, held in Fukuoka, Japan. The conference theme presented an opening for scholars from various disciplines and academic traditions to engage with the questions of power at different levels of analysis—from micro sites of power like a doctor’s consultation room, to the geopolitical arenas where nations wage war, make peace, and spy on one another. The resulting collection straddles different methodologies and styles, from survey research to essays. Leading scholars and junior researchers have combined to create a volume that reflects the breadth of communication scholarship and its contemporary concerns.

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Chapter Eleven: Academic-Community Collaboration through World Building (Nicholas Busalacchi / Sonia Jawaid Shaikh / François Bar / Ann Pendleton-Jullian)


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Academic-Community Collaboration THROUGH World Building


The scene opens in a Downtown Los Angeles makerspace. A community organizer from Black Lives Matter, an urban planner, and a communication PhD student passionately converse next to a paper-covered wall. With markers in their hands, they go back and forth trying to find a way to weave together the themes scribbled on the wall: inclusive politics, freedom, exchange economy, free Paulo Freirian education, quality healthcare for all, and transformative justice. Suddenly, there’s a spark. The community organizer steps to the wall and begins covering it in ones and zeroes. The other two follow suit and soon the wall is covered in colorful binary numbers. Stepping back, they reveal their artifact: “the code,” a universally accessible information network connecting individuals to an equitable ecosystem of cultural, economic, political, and social opportunities. As the camera pulls back, we see a room full of small, eclectic groups enthusiastically workshopping their visions of the future.

This was the scene at one of the three world building workshops hosted by the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Innovation Lab in partnership with The Reef’s Maker City LA makerspace in winter 2014–2015. Months earlier, researchers had kicked off the Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA) World Building project to answer two interrelated questions: (1) how can a network of multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral stakeholders be brought together...

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