Public Engagement

  • Faculty

    Nitin Sawhney

    Assistant Professor of Media Studies

    Office Location:

    79 Fifth Avenue


    Nitin Sawhney is an Assistant Professor of Media Studies at The New School. 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.

    Nitin completed his doctoral degree at the MIT Media Lab, where he conducted research on networked collaboration for sustainable product design, ubiquitous and wearable computing, speech/auditory interfaces, and responsive media in urban community spaces. 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 is 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 at the Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning and the Center for International Studies, conducting research on urban renewal and civic engagement through the media arts in divided cities such as Belfast and Jerusalem. His current work includes OccupyData Hackathons to facilitate participatory data-driven activism, and developing a collaborative online platform and place-based initiative, MikroAct, to support urban tactics and civic action in neighborhoods of Moscow and NYC. He recently conducted workshops in Moscow examining Invisible Borders in the city.

    Since 2006 he has conducted research and digital storytelling initiatives (Voices Beyond Walls) with Palestinian youth in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. 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 participants from around the world attending and presenting at the conference.

    Nitin recently completed a documentary film, Flying Paper, about the participatory culture of kite making and flying among children in Gaza, with support from National Geographic. Nitin is currently developing a participatory media project, Zona Intervenida, focusing on genocide, memory and body through site-specific performance interventions and documentary film in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala.

    Recent Publications:


    Christo de Klerk, Nitin Sawhney, and Shriya Malhotra. MikroAct: Designing to Mobilize Collective Urban Action. Using ICT, Social Media and Mobile Technologies to Foster Self-Organization in Urban and Neighborhood Governance, Delft University, The Netherlands, May 16-17, 2013.

    Nitin Sawhney. Making Sense of Participatory Video: Approaches for Participatory Content Analysis. The Handbook of Participatory Video, AltaMira Press. August 2012.

    Nitin Sawhney, Raed Yacoub, Julie M. Norman. Jerusalem and Belfast: Envisioning Media Arts for Urban Renewal and Cultural Identity in Divided Cities. The Jerusalem Quarterly Journal, Institute for Jerusalem Studies, October 2009, Issue 39. pp. 62-80.

    Nitin Sawhney. Voices Beyond Walls: The Role of Digital Storytelling for Empowering Marginalized Youth in Refugee Camps. International Conference on Interaction Design and Children, Workshop on Digital Technologies and Marginalized Youth, June 3–5, 2009, Como, Italy.

    Nitin Sawhney, Saul Griffith, Yael Maguire and Timothy Prestero. ThinkCycle: Sharing Distributed Design Knowledge for Open Collaborative Design. International Journal of Technologies for the Advancement of Knowledge and Learning (TechKnowLogia), Jan 2002, Vol. 4 Issue 1. pp. 49-53.

    Nitin Sawhney, Sean Wheeler and Chris Schmandt. Aware Community Portals: Shared Information Appliances for Transitional Spaces. Springer-Verlag Journal of Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, February 2001, Vol. 5, Issue 1. pp. 66-70.

    Nitin Sawhney and Chris Schmandt. Nomadic Radio: Speech and Audio Interaction for Contextual Messaging in Nomadic Environments. ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction with Mobile Systems (TOCHI), Sept. 2000, Vol. 7 Issue 3. pp. 353-383.

    Nitin Sawhney, David Balcom and Ian Smith. Authoring and Navigating Video in Space and Time. IEEE Multimedia Journal, October-December 1997, Vol. 4, Issue 4. pp. 30-39.


    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:

    • 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:

    Engage Media Lab

    Particapatory Research

    Engage Media Lab

    Co-Lab: Urban Tactics &Perform

    Independent Study

    Thesis Proposal

    Thesis Tutorial

    Thesis Supervision