Analysis of Civic Engagement Artifact

Definition of civic engagement: According to Schudson, “people are citizens insofar as they do not seek their own comfort, insofar as they serve the nation, and insofar as they hold beliefs beyond themselves”. We also engage in civic actions by joining others in a common activity, a “rekindling of communal feelings, a reaching out to friends, neighbors, and strangers”.

Introducing the artifact: Penn State Habitat for Humanity website Purpose of this organization: an organization, a Penn State chapter of Habitat Humanity, that participates in activities and service projects around the community. Build houses to reduce homelessness and poverty.

Description of the artifact:

  • An aesthetically pleasing website
  • Easy to read print
  • Bright colors
  • Warm, approachable

Visual Aid? Display the website for Penn State Habitat for Humanity:

How the club can be seen as civic: Gathers students for a common activity (Schudson’s third definition of civic engagement), and these students are all doing something beyond themselves, for strangers. They certainly are doing an act for someone else, someone they may not know. They are not seeking their own comfort, but perhaps the comfort of having the satisfaction of giving aid. Opportunities for rhetorical interaction: Persuading students to join, through aesthetically advanced website, cool graphics (FIREWORKS). Quote gives ethos, and also gives the viewers some food for thought: “You cannot dream yourself into a character; you must hammer and forge yourself one. – James A. Froude” You feel like, “damn, I really need to forge myself a good character, a character who actually did something good for the community”. You will feel good about yourself after participating because you’ve made a difference, and created a good character for yourself. Develops a pathos argument. Especially with the video under the Spring Break tab, the video invokes the desire to participate. The emotional desire and drive to be a good person fuels certain individuals.

Civic commonplaces contained in or assumed by the artifact: helping the homeless is an act of charity that is admired (perhaps another culture or group of individuals hold different views).  Building houses is an effective way to help others.


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4 Responses to Analysis of Civic Engagement Artifact

  1. Matt Swatski says:

    Sarah, this is exactly how I hoped to design my project, but you articulated it much better. You approached service through Schudson’s definition, and it works perfectly. Habitat for Humanity is the ideal example of selfless service and active civic engagement. I think you correctly identified the website’s most captivating quality in James A. Froude’s quote about “forging your own character”. Obviously, people who were not interested in service would not visit the Habitat for Humanity website and this quote only serves to attract the visitors. Visitors to the website would usually desire to become civically engaged, however they may not have the idea that Habitat for Humanity is right for them. You did a really good job discussing how the site captures the audience. I’m looking forward to the presentation next week!

  2. Sarah Summers says:

    Amy’s comment made me think that we don’t always see homeless people as citizens. You probably won’t have time to address it in your speech (and that’s okay!), but it’s something worth thinking about. Often our notions of citizenship are tied to place and ownership. Since those things are impermanent for homeless people, we often don’t consider them as being part of the civic. Thanks, Amy and Sarah, for helping me think about this!

  3. Sarah Chang says:

    Do a design plan, CHANG.

  4. Amy Ketcham says:

    This is a great idea for your artifact. This artifact exemplifies the perfect way to be civic: by helping people who are without homes and are unable to build homes for themselves. I think you can really do a lot with this artifact by demonstrating how it exemplifies being civic, but I also think you can talk about how this artifact is using rhetoric to persuade others to be civic in their definition of the term. I like that you included that helping the homeless can sometimes not be viewed as being civic, but many people do view this as being civic. You might be able to elaborate on this more during your speech.

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