Imagining our Social Connections with a

Larger Community

We see the imagination as central to the formation of collective identities, imagined/imagining communities, and shared histories.

The “Step into the Looking Glass” workshop invites participants to engage with shared popular culture content worlds to build social connections and begin imagining community. We define content worlds as the the narrative universes contained in books, TV shows, movies, comic-books, and other popular culture or fan spaces. The workshop opens with a brainstorm style discussion surfacing content worlds that participants know and like. Participants then divide into smaller groups based on content world preference; each participant should be familiar with their group’s selected content world. Working in their smaller groups, the facilitator invites participants to “enter their content world” by stepping through the metaphorical “looking glass.” A series of written prompts and branching question trees guide participants through a ‘tour’ of their chosen imaginary content world and gives them guidance in imagining a situation or an encounter with a fictional character that would help them come up with an unfinished (cliff hanger style) short story that they can bring back to the “real world” as a provocation that could be used to inspire thoughtful dialogue.


The facilitator then has the groups rotate so that they each receive another group’s provocation. They they move through an exquisite corpse-like exercise, completing several cycles of exchange, working with and adding to each others materials. The prompts for these rotations include: 1. Finish the story, 2. Identify a lesson learned from the story, 3. Name the real world issue contained in the story, and 4. Come with a call to action that responds to the issues this story covers. Through this iterative process, the participants all collectively engage with each others stories through a process that starts to model participatory practices linked to networked civic communities, where in each group contributes to the project, but does not exert control over its evolution.


The workshop surfaces practices that are crucial to imagining communities through popular culture