The news plays a critical role in civic engagement today. Our existing knowledge of an issue, the ability to identify with a cause, or empathize with a group within civic movements, often depends on how the news educates us about these. To deconstruct the influence of news in order to construct public opinion, design media campaigns, and strategize advocacy is key to improving civic engagement.
Media Cloud is a big data, open-source platform designed to bring together media and civic engagement. Developed by the Center for Civic Media at the MIT Media Lab (where I work as a researcher on this platform) and the Harvard Berkman Klein Center, this web-based tool aggregates news stories daily from over 50,000 sources across the world, and delivers analysis and visualizations on media influence and attention.
Citizens, activists, journalists, and others interested in media can use Media Cloud to provide data-based answers to questions such as how much news attention a topic received, which sources were influential in driving a specific conversation, what impact a media campaign had, how liberal versus conservative sources, or online versus traditional newspapers differ in their framing of an issue, and so forth.
Media Cloud has been used to assess campaigns such as Black Lives Matter in the U.S. and Dalit Lives Matter in India, advocated to Indian news sources about coverage gaps around women’s issues, helped organizations like the Gates Foundation encourage local philanthropy in developing countries by mapping existing perceptions around the topic, identified strategic news partners for improved public health conversations, and mapped information availability around contraceptive use in Kenya and Nigeria.
Media Cloud has the potential for immense impact and can be used for various practices and in geographies around the world.