Public Engagement

  • Faculty


    Nitin Sawhney is Assistant Professor of Media Studies at The New School. He is currently a Faculty Fellow for the Graduate Institute for Design, Ethnography and Social Thought (GIDEST), supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (2018-2019). His current research, teaching and creative practice engages the critical role of technology, civic media, and artistic interventions in contested spaces. He examines social movements and crisis contexts, though forms of creative urban tactics, participatory research, performance and documentary film. Website:

    Nitin completed his Ph.D. at the MIT Media Laboratory in 2003, where he conducted research on distributed collaboration for sustainable design and developed audio-based wearable computing platforms. He also taught at the MIT Program in Art, Culture and Technology (ACT) in 2010-2011. He co-founded Akaza Research, a startup software firm, to develop open source tools and online repositories for public biomedical research with support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and directed new product development at Cytel, Inc. for statistical simulation tools to support adaptive clinical trials.

    Nitin was a research affiliate with the MIT Center for Civic Media, where he co-founded the Department of Play, a research collaborative, to design participatory mobile video, mapping and pedagogical tools to support creative expression and civic agency among marginalized youth. Nitin was awarded a Visionary Fellowship at MIT in 2008 with the Jerusalem 2050 Project, conducting research on urban renewal and civic engagement through the media arts in divided cities such as Belfast and Jerusalem. In 2011-2012 he developed OccupyData Hackathons at The New School, NYU and CUNY to facilitate participatory data-driven activism and a collaborative online platform, MikroAct, to support urban tactics and civic action in neighborhoods of Moscow and NYC. He also conducted workshops in Moscow examining Invisible Borders in the city.

    Since 2006 Nitin has conducted research and digital storytelling initiatives (Voices Beyond Walls) with Palestinian youth in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. He co-directed the award-winning documentary film, Flying Paper, about the participatory culture of kite making and flying among children in Gaza from 2011-2013 with support from National Geographic. He established the Engage Media Lab as a program at The New School for students to design and conduct participatory media-based learning and assessment with youth in New York City. Nitin organized and co-chaired the International Conference on Interaction Design and Children (IDC 2013) at The New School in partnership with Sesame Workshop in June 23-27, 2013, with over 400 international participants. 

    Nitin established Guatemala Después, a curatorial research project and digital archive examining contemporary artistic practices with collaborative exhibitions in Guatemala and New York in 2014-2015. He also co-directed the documentary film, Zona Intervenida, examining historic memory through site-specific performance interventions in Guatemala. In 2016-2017 he devised Sacred Soundwalks, a sensory media project and sound installation exploring narrative memory of “sacred sites” in Kathmandu, Nepal and along historic pilgrimage routes to Mt. Kailash in Tibet. In June 2018 he presented research on Audio Journaling for Self-Reflection and Participatory Assessment among Teens at the International Conference on Interaction Design and Children in Trondheim, Norway. He is currently preparing a book chapter “Invisible Lives, Visible Determination” for Children, Youth and War, to be published by University of Georgia Press.

    Degrees Held:

    Ph.D., MIT Program in Media Arts and Sciences, MIT Media Laboratory, May 2003

    MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY, Cambridge, MA  M.S., MIT Program in Media Arts and Sciences, MIT Media Laboratory, May 1998   GEORGIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY, Atlanta, GA M.S., Information Design and Technology with Certificate in Management of Technology, May 1996   GEORGIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY, Atlanta, GA Bachelor of Industrial Engineering, School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, May 1993

    Professional Affiliations:

    Member, Editorial Board, International Journal of Child Computer Interaction, 2014 – 2018.

    Member, Organizing Board, ACM Conferences on Interaction Design and Children, 2013 – 2018.

    Member, Association for Computing Machinery, 2011 – 2013 and 2018 – 2019.

    Member, International Sociological Association, 2011 – 2013.

    Recent Publications:

    Sawhney, N. Forthcoming, 2019. Invisible Lives, Visible Determination. In Children, Youth and War, Edited by Heidi Morrison, University of Georgia Press.

    Sawhney, N. March 2019. Zona Intervenida: Performance as Memory, Transforming Contested Spaces. In Rethinking Peace Studies: Translation, Memory, and Dialogue, Edited by Jeremiah Alberg, Alex Hinton and Giorgio Shani, Rowman & Littlefield International.

    Fernández, D. and Sawhney, N. Forthcoming, 2019. Experimenting with Butoh-based Performance: An Artistic Inquiry into Translation, Memory and Dialogue. Rethinking Peace Studies: Translation, Memory, and Dialogue, Japan ICU Foundation.

    Sawhney, N., Graver, C., and Breitkopf, E., 2018.  Audio Journaling for Self-Reflection and Assessment among Teens in Participatory Media Programs. In Proceedings of the 17thInteraction Design and Children Conference (IDC '18),Trondheim, Norway. ACM.

    Sawhney, N., de Klerk, C. and Malhotra, S., 2015. Civic Engagement through DIY Urbanism and Collective Networked Action. Journal of Planning Practice & Research30(3),Special Issue: Using Social Media and Mobile Technologies to Foster Engagement and Self-Organization in Participatory Urban Planning and Neighbourhood Governance, Taylor & Francis, pp. 337-354.

    Malhotra, S., de Klerk, C., and Sawhney, N. 2015. Mobilizing Collective Urban Actions through MicroActs. In Civic Media Project, MIT Press.

    Sawhney, N. and Hill, R. 2014. Children long for kites, not bombs, in Gaza skies. Op-ed with 7-minute video short and photography by Anne Paq/Activestills, +972 Magazine, August 26, 2014. 

    Hourcade, J.P., Sawhney, N. and Reardon, E.(Editors), 2013, June. Forward. In Proceedings of the International Conference on Interaction Design and Children (IDC 2013),Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), New York City. 

    Sawhney, N. 2012. Making Sense of Participatory Video: Approaches for Participatory Content Analysis. (Chapter 11). The Handbook of Participatory Video, Edited by E-J Milne; Claudia Mitchell and Naydene de Lange, AltaMira Press.

    Dougherty, A. and Sawhney, N. 2012. “New Directions in Participatory Video: Emerging Digital Technologies and Practices.” (Chapter 28). The Handbook of Participatory Video, Edited by E-J Milne; Claudia Mitchell and Naydene de Lange, AltaMira Press.

    Sawhney, N., Yacoub, R. and Norman, J., 2009. Jerusalem and Belfast: Envisioning Media Arts for Cultural Identity and Urban Renewal in Divided Cities. Jerusalem Quarterly Journal, Institute for Jerusalem Studies39, pp.62-80.

    Sawhney, N., 2009, June. Voices Beyond Walls: The Role of Digital Storytelling for Empowering Marginalized Youth in Refugee Camps. In Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Interaction Design and Children (pp. 302-305). ACM.

    Sawhney, N., Prestero, T., Maguire, Y. and Griffith, S., 2008. ThinkCycle: Supporting Open Source Collaboration and Sustainable Engineering Design in Education. Engineering Education in Sustainable Development (EESD), pp.24-25.

    Sawhney, N., Wheeler, S. and Schmandt, C., 2001. Aware Community Portals: Shared Information Appliances for Transitional Spaces. Journal of Personal and Ubiquitous Computing5(1), pp.66-70.

    Schmandt, C., Marmasse, N., Marti, S., Sawhney, N. and Wheeler, S., 2000. Everywhere Messaging. IBM Systems Journal39(3.4), pp.660-677.

    Sawhney, N. and Schmandt, C., 2000. Nomadic Radio: Speech and Audio Interaction for Contextual Messaging in Nomadic Environments. ACM Transactions on Computer-Human interaction (TOCHI)7(3), pp.353-383.

    Sawhney, N., Balcom, D. and Smith, I., 1997. Authoring and Navigating Video in Space and Time. IEEE Multimedia Journal4(4), pp.30-39.

    Wilcox, L.D., Schilit, B.N. and Sawhney, N., 1997, March. Dynomite: A Dynamically Organized Ink and Audio Notebook. In Proceedings of the ACM SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 186-193). ACM.

    Sawhney, N. and Murphy, A., 1996, April. ESPACE 2: An Experimental Hyperaudio Environment. In Conference Companion on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 105-106). ACM.

    Sawhney, N., Balcom, D. and Smith, I., 1996, March. HyperCafe: Narrative and Aesthetic Properties of Hypervideo. In Proceedings of the Seventh ACM Conference on Hypertext (pp. 1-10). ACM. 

    Performances And Appearances:

    Soundscapes of Kora: Soundwalks in Mt. Kailash and Kathmandu. Sound installation for Kailash Cartographies Exhibition curated by Sreshta Rit Premnath, hosted in conjunction with the Mountains and Sacred Landscapes Conference, India China Institute, Arnold and Sheila Aronson Gallery, The New School, March 9 – April 3, 2017. 

    Guatemala Después. Mixed-media exhibition and digital archive co-curated with Anabella Acevedo and Pablo José Ramirez, showcasing works by over 40 Guatemalan artists, scholars, and indigenous community practitioners. Exhibitions and public programming hosted at the Arnold and Sheila Aronson Gallery, The New School (April 9-29, 2015), Ciudad de la Imaginación, Quetzaltenango (June 6 – July 3, 2015), and the Spanish Cultural Center (CCE/G), Guatemala City (September 2015), Guatemala.    #SEARCHUNDEROCCUPY. Mixed-media exhibition co-curated with New School faculty, including public performances, teach-ins and hackathons, Arnold and Sheila Aronson Gallery, Sheila C. Johnson Design Center, The New School, March 1 – April 1, 2012. 

    Research Interests:

    Participatory media technologies, collaborative learning platforms, creative DIY cultures, civic media and artistic intervention in conflict and crisis, responsive media and tactical design in urban public spaces, mobile video and speech/audio interaction, hybrid documentary film practice, digital storytelling and resilience among marginalized children and adolescents in global contexts, creative activism and civic agency among youth in the Middle East.

    Awards And Honors:

    Graduate Institute for Design, Ethnography and Social Thought (GIDEST) Faculty Fellowship for Research and Creative Practice, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and The New School, 2018-2019.
      Best Documentary (Feature-Length) Award for Flying Paper, 7th International Children’s Film Festival (ICFF), Lucknow, India, April 2016.
      Best Youth Feature for Flying Paper, Harlem International Film Festival, New York, USA, May 2014.
      Jury Prize Winner, Human Images Competition for Flying Paper, Baghdad International Film Festival, Institute of Fine Arts, Baghdad, Iraq, October 7, 2013.
      Award of Excellence, Best Documentary Feature for Flying Paper at International Film Festival for Peace, Inspiration and Equality, Jakarta, Indonesia, September 12, 2013.  

    Flying Paper Awarded Best Documentary (Foreign), The Indie Gathering International Film Festival, August 2013.

    Seed grant for documentary film “Flying Paper” awarded by the National Geographic All Roads Film Project, May 12, 2011

    Jerusalem Visionary Fellowship awarded by the MIT Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning and the Center for International Studies, 2008-2009

    Dedication to Activism through the Arts awarded for the Boston Palestine Film Festival (co-founder) by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, May 31, 2008

    Martin Fellow for Sustainability awarded by the Martin Family Foundation and the MIT Laboratory for Energy and Environment, 2002-2003

    First Douglas Engelbart Best Paper Award at the ACM SIGWEB Hypertext Conference for “HyperCafe: Narrative and Aesthetic Properties of Hypervideo,” March 1996 

    Current Courses:

    Participatory Media Research (Spring 2019)

    Thesis Supervision (Spring 2020)

    Thesis Tutorial Lab (Spring 2019)

    Urban Media: Tactics & Perform (Spring 2019)