What was the path that brought you to CMAP?
Last May I graduated from UMass-Amherst. In my third year there, I switched my major from Political Science to Communication, which was a challenging transition. Initially, I was particularly fascinated by film and how it frames narratives and influences people’s ideas and ways of perceiving the world. Later my interest expanded to many other media forms, and the ease with which they tend to spread in this digital age. I was drawn to CMAP because I felt that it could teach me how to use the power of media as a means of telling stories and fighting against social inequalities.
I was drawn to CMAP because I felt that it could teach me how to use the power of media as a means of telling stories and fighting against social inequalities.
What does civic media mean to you?
We constantly consume as well as create pieces of media, and hence we should hold ourselves accountable by knowing their impact. To me, civic media considers diverse voices and experiences. Civic media is created by people who are aware of its influence, who strive to engage and help communities advance by working directly with them.
What is one change you would like to see in the world?
Empathy, rather than apathy. I believe that art and media play such instrumental roles in representing people’s identities and thoughts. We have agency in the media that we produce, and I think it is vital to be empathetic toward one another and to understand the experiences that shape our views and the things we create and share.
What would you want the civic media community to know about you?
I’d like for the civic media community to know that I am extremely driven and care deeply about our roles in using media responsibly, especially in the processes of narrative formation and circulation. I truly hope to start helping to bridge gaps within communities by making media, art and technologies accessible to all.
Are there any specific projects that you’ve done in the past that intersect with your studies now?
At UMass, I took two classes with Professor Demetria Shabazz, an absolutely brilliant mind who taught me so much about questioning and critically analyzing media that we consume, with a focus on film and TV. Her classes led to some of the best conversations I’ve ever participated in, and some very thought provoking assignments. One that really stood out to me was a group project wherein we worked with our classmates to design a game based on a children’s story. We chose Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, and this work really pushed us to think about how literary adaptations (whether movies or games, etc.) shape the minds of youth. We learned that it is so important for those that have the power to reach widespread audiences, to create human-centered media that take into consideration aspects such as historical contexts, social identities, representation and mental health.
How do you define engagement? What does being engaged mean to you?
To me, being engaged means being extremely deliberate and active while participating in anything. For human beings to have meaningful conversations and drive change, we need to really immerse ourselves rather than be passive observers.
What are some of your favorite pieces of media?
I love film, literature, TV and music. In terms of recent film, Get Out, The Big Sick and Lady Bird are brilliant movies, each of which really resonated with me in different ways. I think the TV series Black Mirror is an excellent instance of civic media. Its stories really push viewers to consider the reach and ethics of technologies and how we use them. Stranger Things is a great example of how existing media still draw from past media, while still creating unique and compelling stories. At present, my favorite book is The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. Lastly, my favorite music album at the moment is the soundtrack for the film Stuck in Love.
What’s one fun fact most people don’t know about you?
I am bilingual currently (I speak English and Hindi), but over the course of my life I have learned a total of five languages! I hope to re-learn Spanish, German and Arabic someday.
About the Author
Aakanksha Gupta holds a B.A. in Communication from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Having lived in three countries, she is intrigued by the ways in which media travel across different cultures, societies and histories. She is passionate about using media to convey narratives, especially ones that are often misrepresented. Music and film have really influenced her growth and self-expression. She is excited to learn how to use art and media technologies to help elevate the voices of marginalized communities and to work toward solving social issues. In her free time, Aakanksha writes and has a penchant for movie quotes, trivia and puns.
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