Public Writing on Social Action and Change

Designed to develop the capacity of the students in public writing on social action and change.

Researchers and practitioners in the field of development and social change are keenly aware of the influence of media on society. The role of media in social change has been studied from a variety of perspectives and for different objectives. These led to theories of media and democratization, theories of development communication and social learning, theories of participatory communication and a few others. Notwithstanding such interpretations, practitioners engaged in social action feel the need to communicate the process, outcomes and learnings to a larger public. The motivation for such communications arises from the need for advocacy, inform public discourse, and also for cross learning. To that purpose, the practitioners use mass media. Media, in turn, influence people’s aspirations for change. Jurgen Habermas saw media as an essential constituent of the public sphere which allows people within a society to exercise their capacity to arrive at a common understanding of their best interests. This view, still widely endorsed by social scientists and communication theorists, sees the public sphere as restructured and dominated by mass media.

This course derives its rationale from this deepening and ever-expanding impact of media on social action. Students of MA-Development programmes are expected to work in the social sector in various capacities. Broadly speaking, they will engage in various forms of local and not so local interventions of welfare, development and social justice. For them, acquiring the skills of public writing, whether for traditional media or for newer forms of media can be of great importance for several reasons. First, media help individuals and
collectivities engaged in social action to gain visibility and voice. Second, media narratives flag newer questions and concerns for inclusion in public discourse. Third, often such writing generates and widens the hope and urge for social change. Fourth, when social actions are sustained over a significant length of time, media can bring changes in attitude and behavior. Finally, claiming media space for public reason and participatory dialogue can be a way of countering polarized content and hierarchical models of communication.

The course starts with the basic understanding of the context, relevance and impact of public writing towards social change. Thereafter, it moves on to identifying the principles, methods including analysis of selected media content the gaps in such media contents. Finally, the students work to develop a media content themselves. The latter is done by actually doing a practicum in pairs through close guidance of the faculty, to develop a publishable media piece in a step by step process. Overall the thrust of the course is on developing practical competencies.