Case Study

Gov94CZ (From Voice to Influence: Understanding Citizenship in a Digital Age) is an undergraduate seminar course offered at Harvard’s Department of Government in fall 2016. Students discussed various topics on changing communication patterns, policymaking processes, and ethical issues in digital civic agency. Case study was a class project for Gov94CZ. Students chose a case (any group, any organization, or any single person) and investigated it using the Ten Questions. In fall 2016, Students brought cases from all different corners of the participatory politics terrain: VeganismReclaim Harvard LawsGet Out To Vote (GOTV), and Harvard Civics Program.

Veganism: Is Veganism Political? 

Source: Student Presentation Slides
In "Veganism: A Platform for Participatory Politics,” Alice Jeon and Sarah Wu tried to study how veganism is gaining ground along with the rise of digital technology (according to their research, the term vegan was first coined in 1941 by Donald Watson). Among the discussed topics were how social media played a role in community building, information sharing, and identity formation among vegans and, mostly intriguingly, whether or not veganism is political. Alice and Sarah made two interesting distinctions to delve into the changing notion of political in participatory politics dynamics: one distinction between intention vs. perception and the other between means-based vs. ends-based civic groups. Understanding veganism and its (non)politicality requires an understanding of the margins of the fast growing territory of participatory politics that is largely left undefined and unclaimed.  Read more.

ReClaim Harvard Law School: HLS responds to Inclusion in the time of Black Lives Matter. 

Reclaim Harvard Law Strike (Source: CNN)
Source: Student Presentation Slides
In “Reclaim Harvard Laws: Students Voices Reshape an Institution,” Gabbi Giotti, Michaela Murrow, and Kailash Sundaram studied Harvard Law School’s (HLS) activism organized for inclusion and diversity there, known as “Reclaim Harvard Law.” HLS was a hard-reach group, due to the high sensitivity and risks involved, but the three students managed to take look inside the activism (albeit on a limited scope). Gabbi, Michaela, Kailash focused specifically on how activists channeled their voice through actual change—what strategies and tactics by any media necessary––they used and how they managed to tackle with puspushbacks including discriminatory remarks under the First Amendment creed. This case study discovered the significance of sacrifice, which is necessary to achieve equity but often heavy to carry. Additionally, Reclaim HL has never meant to go on a national level. Because of the Harvard brand and of the national backdrop of Black Lives Matter, however, Reclaim HLS’s influence exceeded easily the parameters of local campuses. Read more.

GOTV: New Suffrage Movement in a Participatory Politics Era

GOTV: Rock the Vote vs. Mia Familia Vota
Source: Student Presentation Slides
Voting often seems be pushed on the sidelines in the participatory politics landscape, although is is one of the most important and oldest forms of political participaton. In “A Transmedia Perspective of Voting: How ‘Get Out the Vote’ Organizations Use Online and Offline Strategies to Encourage Participation,” Avika Dua and Jonah Hahn challenged this misconception and discussed how voting is reshaping itself as a core of participatory politics. In this case study, Avika and Jonah compared two Get Out the Vote (GOTV) organizations––Rock the Vote and Mia Famila Vota. Two organizations originated from different goals for voting and therefore nurtured different organizational visions. Avika and Jonah scrutinized how Rock the Vote and Mia Familia Vota developed different transmedia strategies according to their visions and goals. In particular, Avika and Jonah’s synthesis that places Rock the Vote on the structural change loop and Mia Famila Vota on the expressive change loop in the flow dynamics model is outstanding. Read more.

Harvard Civics: Teaching Civics is Political Action

Harvard Civics Program
Source: Student Presentation Slides
Teaching civics is important for young students, so they can get prepared for the changing political landscape and become responsible citizens. That mission is not only assigned to formal teachers but also to all of members of society. Lukas Petry and Carolina Portela-Blanco examined the Harvard Civics Program that places motivated undergraduates in classrooms throughout the Boston area, teaching civics and government classes to inspire students to grow into active members in our society. Carolina, as a devoted civics teacher in this program, and Lukas, a visiting student from Germany, studied the passion and motivation, as well as the challenges, among Harvard Civics Teachers (undergraduate students) in teaching young students. One of the most significant points about this case is that Carolina and Lukas frame teaching civics as political action using the Ten Questions. They said, “They are not merely talking about the problem of lack of civic instruction in K-12 schooling and how it affects participation in community, but they are doing something about it. The program takes teachers to the school––it acts upon perceived issues and intends to remedy it through education.” Read more.

"Own Your Knowledge"

We want students to create their own meanings from their experiences both in and beyond class. Lecture and readings are important, of course. But they are not the best way to own knowledge. Connecting theories, knowledge, and practices you hear from the class to your lived experiences begins with an authentic question that matters to you. Simply, what do you care about? And why does it matter to you? It does echo the first principle of the ten. Then, how do you proceed to the next steps? You engage in the inquiry cycle originally drawn from John Dewey. Inquiry Cycle

Once you come up with an essential question that connects with your life, you can investigate through multiple methods, sources, and media. Any tangible products can derive from investigation––the tangible product in our class will be your case study. Note that your creation is inseparable from other steps, especially discussion and reflections. You need to discuss meanings and lessons of your creation with others and then go back to previous steps, namely investigation and creation, and tinker with your creation.

In the end, you­ and your audience––now your instructors and peers but beyond that down the road––are all invited to a broad vista to “look back” at the whole inquiry process and generate further meanings together. These five steps, of course, are neither linear nor discrete. Rather, they are embedded in one another. The point here is that this inquiry cycle can break down your inquiry processes––typically complicated and less articulate––into small pieces and monitor your own meaning making experiences. In completing this process you claim the ownership of knowledge. Though the knowledge is provisional and tentative, you can own it for a moment. Please see the related posts: “The YPP Action Frame with Inquiry-Based Learning II: "Small Inquiry" and "Big Inquiry"” and “The YPP Action Frame with Inquiry-Based Learning I: An Inquiry Cycle” from the YPP Action Frame site.

[Case Study] How Students Conduct Case Study?


Team up with your peers (2 or 3 students in one group) to conduct a case study. What kind of case study? You could start by writing a captivating story around the case. We will discuss several real world cases during class, and you can imagine emulating one of them. The case study can be like a journalistic report in which the story can be situated in particular theories and perspectives we discuss in class. The cases we address there are quite lengthy, but you are not necessarily required to write such a long paper. What matters most is the content and message you want to deliver through the case; this project is an exercise both to express your creativity and practice research skills. It is broken into small pieces (P1, P2, P3-1, P3-2, and P3-3) to help you complete the end project (P4) effectively.


[Case Study] P0

P0 [Not Graded]. Please consult with Chaebong ( regarding the case selection by September 29, 2016.

[Case Study] P1


P1. “Why it matters to me/us”

  • Choose your case––any case that matters to you and is safe enough to share with others. These first two elements already echo YPP Action Frame’s principle 1 (“Why does it matter to me?”) and principle 2 (“How much should I share?”).

    • The case can be any group, any organization, or any single person in connection with a large theme of the course: Youth, media, and participatory politics. Be creative and flexible in choosing your case.

    • Introduce the case, explaining why the case matters to you, what you want to talk about in the case, spelling out main issues you would want to explore.

    • Try to situate the case in one or some of theoretical perspectives discussed in class.

      • You are welcome to challenge the existing viewpoints and values, as well as defending them. For instance, we see the three values––equity, efficacy, and self-protection­­––as “timeless but not dogmatic” (quoted from Tom Hayden’s reflection about the Port Huron Statement at 50 (Links to an external site.)). If you find other ideas and values pertain to your own case, please bring them to our class through your own inquiry-cycle.

    • Describe briefly a general plan about how to investigate your issues:

      • What sorts of data would you need to understand the case?

        • Who would you want to talk with you?

        • What would you observe?

        • What existing data would you want to explore?

        • How do we analyze them?

      • What is your position in the case?

    • Due: Week 5 (A 6 to 8 page statement, or longer if desired)

    • Please talk with Chaebong beforehand


[Case Study] P3 (P3-1, P3-2, and P3-3)

P3-1. Presentation: Week 12

P3-2. Add Discussions and Conclusion based on feedback from the presentation

P3-3. Individual reflection note. This portion is spared for individual reflection about the collaborative research-learning activities. As members on the same team, you share a common ground for the case, but that does not necessarily mean that you share exact thoughts with others. Thus, this individual reflection paper gives you an opportunity to flesh out your own thought­­ or ideas around your case or your collaborative thinking activities.

[Case Study] P4



  • Compile P1 to P3-3

  • Submit by due date: By 5 pm on December 17, 2016