Author Archives: cblsunset

Zach and Bridgit’s Authoritarian Passport


When Zach and I began working on the authoritarian passport, we tried to start with a blank slate, do away with ideas of what a “passport” should be, and build up based upon the supposed priorities of an authoritarian government.

We determined that one of the priorities of an authoritarian passport would be surveillance. Why give citizens a closed book passport? Passports should be open and visible like a badge so citizens can be easily identified. Passports should also have gps tracking and eavesdropping capabilities. Citizens would be required to check in at an embassy upon arrival in a foreign country.

The second priority for an authoritarian passport is controlling access. Citizens would have restricted access to travel based upon their good or bad behavior. If a citizen had incidents of bad behavior, that would restrict their travel privileges and perhaps they wouldn’t be to travel at all. Passport badges would display the level of access a citizen currently possessed. Anyone could report bad behavior so citizens were always at risk of having their privileges revoked.

The results were pretty scary!

Theory of Change: Patience

My theory of change is patience. I love the excitement of ideas and the spirit of experimentation, but I worry about jumping to conclusions. The world and the people in it are very complicated and just because answers don’t immediately emerge doesn’t mean that they aren’t coming or that they aren’t worth the wait. There is value in the process of refinement that can only be captured if people are willing to endure the discomfort of uncertainty.

The thing that I appreciate about Disney Channel is that they believed in Good Luck Charlie and invested in its ability to grow beyond its first quarter ratings. Disney Channel, unlike cable networks, never cancels shows after one season. The first season of the show didn’t have the strongest viewership, but it continued to build. Now it is a show that other writers try to emulate when they are coming up with new ideas for TV.

Make the World Better With a Sweater

The Project:

I was a part of a Save the Children fundraising campaign called Make the World Better with a Sweater. The campaign centered around a contest to win a holiday party with me in the hometown of the winner. Fans could enter to win by donating $5 on Prizeo and increase their chances by posting a photo on instagram in a holiday sweater. As inspired by the Ice Bucket Challenge, the intention was to get fans to circulate the contest online and go viral.

Advantages and affordances:

The advantages afforded to this project were in in the strength of my fanbase as well as the network of Save the Children and Prizeo. This campaign could be assured to get at least a certain degree of exposure. The more people were exposed to the contest, the more people were expected to make a donation and enter.

The Right People:

Prizeo had a history of successful fundraising campaigns and Save the Children was a well-regarded charity. I have a large following on social media, and the demographic we were targeting used social media actively. This demographic, pre-teens who love pop culture, had a history of spending money readily on contests with artists they admire.

To have the project work:

We needed Prizeo to record donations as expected and we needed my posts appear on Youtube and Instagram. Aside from functioning web platforms, we needed people to engage with the contest. We launched the contest with the expectation that news about the contest would spread and people would donate, also necessary components for the project to work.

Blind Spots:

Fans engaged with the photos online, but the ask to donate to win and the ask to post holiday sweater photos were confusing. The objective to go viral competed with the objective to get donations. We needed to take extra time and effort to clarify our plan and not enough posts went up. Another way we could have clarified the contest is through media coverage but we didn’t prioritize getting that.

Also, I think the creators of the challenge downplayed what the funds would be raised for. Plenty of charity campaigns are successful without divulging much information about the cause, but I think young people want more context now about what they are giving their money to. As Ethan described in his article, New Media, New Civics, there is “an interest—perhaps a need—for participants to see their impact on the issues they’re trying to influence.”

Gage of Success and Needs for Success:

This idea of seeing impact is related to the gage of success. The contest was set to end on a given date. I was never told what the target goal was or how close we came to reaching it. Obviously neither were my fans. For people of my generation, I think the satisfaction isn’t just in winning the contest, but having some tangible information about the impact you made.

The other gage of success is virality. Again, a target level of engagement wasn’t made known to me, but since I followed my instagram feed enough to be familiar with it’s behavior, I could detect whether it was surging from engagement or not.

Bridgit Mendler intro


I am a Director’s Fellow and student at the Media Lab as well as a recording artist and actress. I worked on a Disney series followed by an NBC series while studying anthropology at USC. I had a successful pop music career, but my label didn’t want to experiment with other sounds and styles, so I was dropped and began my independent music career. Through working in independent music, I developed a passion for the business of entertainment and the anthropology of the digital space where I now conduct most of my interactions with fans.