Civic Perspectives | Insight for the Pandemic
 

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MIT SHASS MEDIA PUBLICATIONS

At-A-Glance | List of external media publications
 

Research-based insights, for policy and public understanding of the Covid-19 pandemic, from the MIT-SHASS academic community

Prof Buyandelger in a protective mask

THE MEANINGS OF MASKS

Masks can reveal new possibilities
Manduhai Buyandelger | Anthropology

 

"In shamanic rituals and in computer-mediated virtual reality, a mask conceals one identity to reveal new possibilities. Seen in this light, virus protection masks offer an opportunity to replace a visage of fear with a public expression of strength as a community." — Manduhai Buyandelger, MIT Associate Professor of Anthropology

Portrait of MIT Historian Emma Teng

THE MEANINGS OF MASKS

The Mask as Public Spiritedness - 公德心
Emma Teng | History
 

"Norms in East Asian countries support the notion that 'doing something for the community good is good for me also.' It would be unthinkable to discuss sacrificing older people to the pandemic using a cost-benefit analysis. It is also considered a social responsibility to do one’s part in controlling the pandemic to ensure that schools remain open for the younger generation."

voting booths

ELECTION 2020 | VOTING BY MAIL

Ten recommendations for conducting a healthy and trustworthy 2020 election
 

In Lawfare, ten recommendations from MIT election expert Charles Stewart III and Nathaniel Persily of Stanford Law. "The Covid-19 pandemic...requires an extraordinary commitment at all levels of government, and from the media, political parties, campaigns and voters. The country can meet this challenge if Americans begin to prepare immediately."

portrait of Professor Heather Hendershot

CIVIC PERSPECTIVES

3 Questions: Heather Hendershot on media coverage of the pandemic
 

MIT comparative media expert discusses the stark differences in pandemic reporting and coverage across US media platforms.

Man in pandemic mask

Series | The Meanings of Masks
 

As The Washington Post has reported, "at the heart of the dismal US coronavirus response" is a "fraught relationship with masks." With this series of commentaries, MIT faculty explore the myriad historic, creative, and cultural meanings of masks. One common denominator: that in this pandemic era, wearing a mask means: "I care about you."

portrait of Professor Eric Klopfer

THE MEANINGS OF MASKS

The mask is a badge of honor | Eric Klopfer
Comparative Media Studies
 

"In this pandemic era, what a mask really says is, ‘I care about YOU.’ The mask indicates that you are protecting the health of others during a crisis."

Protest Mask: I Can't Breathe

THE MEANINGS OF MASKS

A collective cry for justice | Graham M. Jones
Anthropology
 

"The mask is one of the most important human artifacts in all of anthropology. It is a tool of transformation that allows its wearers to transcend themselves, taking on timeless roles in ritual dramas, and as actors in a broader social drama."

detail, balcony illustration by Maria Medem, The New York Times

DAILY LIFE

An ode to the humble balcony
 

In The New York Times, Bernardo Zacka writes: "[A balcony] is private, yet public; exposed, yet secluded. It offers company without the demands of intimacy, and we should never take it for granted again."

Photo of an American state capitol building

RESEARCH

J-PAL North America | Covid19 Evidence Portal
 

The new Covid19 Evidence Portal synthesizes rigorous research across health, education, and the social safety net to provide recommendations to state and local leaders responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

DAILY LIFE

What the pandemic tells us about personal identity
 

Kieran Setiya writes in The New Statesman: "We have become more used to seeing others through screens and software, but we are embodied beings and digital communication can feel lacking. What effect will this have on us?" 

Photo of Dr. Jim Walsh

CIVIC PERSPECTIVES

Will the Covid-19 pandemic change national security strategy?
 

At MIT’s Starr Forum, experts consider if the coronavirus crisis will catalyze savvier 21st C. security strategies: e.g., to include health care, aid for workers and communities, protection for democracy, and increased international collaboration to manage novel pathogens.

illustration of an app

CIVIC PERSPECTIVES

The tension between privacy and coronavirus contact-tracing
 

KSJ Fellow Anil Ananthaswamy writes in The Boston Globe that "We have to ensure that contact-tracing methods that compromise our privacy don’t become the norm."

Detail, etching of Isaac Newton

DAILY LIFE

The truth about Isaac Newton’s productive plague
 

In The New Yorker, MIT Professor of Science Writing Tom Levenson writes that the idea that the plague woke the brilliance in Newton is both wrong and misleading.

photo of Adam Berinsky

ELECTION 2020

3Q with political scientist Adam Berinsky
Impact of the pandemic on U.S. political life
 

SHASS Communications interview "As they do in wartime "people are willing to give the government broader latitude, even to curtail civil liberties, to address this pandemic crisis. But this effect is also short-lived. People are willing to give up some civil liberties for months, but not years."

photo of Hon. James E. Baker

CIVIC PERSPECTIVES | HEALTHCARE

It’s high time we fought this virus the American way
 

The administration has all the authority it needs to produce medical supplies and prepare for a potential vaccine, argues James E Baker in a recent New York Times opinion piece.  

ELECTION 2020 | VOTE BY MAIL

More voting by mail would make the 2020 election safer for our health.
 

Writing in The Washington Post, MIT election expert Charles Stewart III writes why it’s not clear whether “at-home voting” can be ramped up nationwide by November.

DAILY LIFE

The virus is a reminder of something lost long ago
 

In The Atlantic, MIT Professor of Writing Alan Lightman observes that the pandemic may force "many of us to slow down, to spend more time in reflection, away from the noise and heave of the world. With more quiet time, we have an opportunity to think about who we are, as individuals and as a society."

Vote by Mail, mailbox

ELECTION 2020

Election officials scrambling to meet pandemic voting challenges
 

In National Memo, MIT Professor of Political Science Charles Stewart III, analyzes the scramble for voting materials, machinery, and manpower — all the behind-the-scenes actions following the seemingly simple decisions by 10 states and territories to postpone primaries until June.

ELECTION 2020 | VOTING BY MAIL

Voting by mail is the hot new idea. Is there time to make it work?
 

In The New York Times, MIT Professor and electoral expert Charles Stewart III discusses how the U.S. states are searching, rapidly, for ways to protect democracy’s most sacred institution.

Portrait of Institute Professor Daron Acemoglu

CIVIC PERSPECTIVES | DEMOCRACY

The Coronavirus exposed America’s authoritarian turn
 

In Foreign Affairs, MIT economist and Institute Professor Daron Acemoglu comments on the slow, inadequate U.S. federal response to the coronavirus threat, noting that independent expertise always dies first when democracy recedes.

portrait of Professor Heather Hendershot

CIVIC PERSPECTIVES | OPINION

The virtuous life of MIT Professor John G. Trump
 

In an opinion piece at The Washington Post, MIT media scholar Heather Hendershot delves into the life of President Trump's erudite and charitable uncle, Dr. John Trump '33, who taught at MIT for 40 years.

American military troops

CIVIC PERSPECTIVES + ECONOMIC IMPACTS

How coronavirus will affect the US military
 

Yes, modern armies rely on equipment and training — and a healthy fighting force. Rachel Tecott and Erik Sand, MIT Political Science PhD candidates, comment on US military readiness in The Washington Post.  

CIVIC PERSPECTIVES

The attempt to rebrand the coronavirus
 

In The Atlantic, Author and Professor of Science Writing Tom Levenson writes that the non-scientific term "Wuhan virus" was intended to label Covid-19 as a Chinese scourge — ignoring, and stirring up, an ugly history.