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Practicing Futures

A Civic Imagination Action Handbook

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Gabriel Peters-Lazaro and Sangita Shresthova

The real world is full of challenges and the sheer weight of problems facing us can stifle the genius of our collective human creativity at exactly the time when we desperately need imaginative and innovative solutions. Responding to this, Practicing Futures: A Civic Imagination Action Handbook harnesses our connections to popular culture and taps the boundless potential of human imagination to break free of assumptions that might otherwise trap us in repetitive cycles of alienation. Utopias and dystopias have long been used to pose questions, provoke discussions, and inspire next steps and are helpful because they encourage long view perspectives. Building on the work of the Civic Imagination Project at the University of Southern California, the Handbook is a practical guide for community leaders, educators, creative professionals, and change-makers who want to encourage creative, participatory, and playful approaches to thinking about the future. This book shares examples and models from the authors’ work in diverse communities. It also provides a step-by-step guide to their workshops with the objective of making their approach accessible to all interested practitioners. The tools are adaptable to a variety of local contexts and can serve multiple purposes from community and network building to idea generation and media campaign design by harnessing the expansive capacity for imagination within all of us.

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Recommended Readings

Extract

in each category are by no means exhaustive. Rather we try to highlight key texts that have been useful to us, and that we believe will provide excellent foundations or jumping off points for readers.

Jenkins, Henry, Sangita Shresthova, Liana Gamber-Thompson, Neta Kligler-Vilenchik, and Arely Zimmerman. 2016. By Any Media Necessary: The New Youth Activism. New York: NYU Press.

Jenkins, Henry, Gabriel Peters-Lazaro, Sangita Shresthova, editors. 2020. Popular Culture and the Civic Imagination: Case Studies of Creative Social Change. New York: NYU Press.

We enter into civics and politics through cultural engagement, specifically practices associated participatory cultures. Drawing on Henry Jenkins’ et al. (2006, v) seminal work on New Media Literacies we define participatory cultures as those with:

1. With relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement

2. With strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations with others

3. With some type of informal mentorship whereby what is known by the most experienced is passed along to novices

4. Where members believe that their contributions matter

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