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Volume 7, Issue 1
December 2014

Our Michigan Avenue Corridor Project Builds Strong Community Connections

  • John Monberg, Ph.D.
  • Assistant Professor, Department of Writing, Rhetoric and American Cultures
  • College of Arts and Letters
Picture for Our Michigan Avenue Corridor Project Builds Strong Community Connections

The rapid rise of technology is dramatically affecting how people learn, work, and function in their everyday lives. These developments are occurring in a relatively brief amount of time as it relates to historical perspective. The World Wide Web celebrated the 25th anniversary of its founding in March 2014. Facebook celebrated its 10th anniversary the month before. Twitter is eight years old. Instagram is not yet four.

John Monberg conducts engaged research that addresses the impact of technology in society. This includes new media and public deliberation, globalization and the creative economy, and practices of research design.

"My work focuses on new resources and the new kinds of infrastructures needed for community deliberation adequate to meet the challenges of globalization," said Monberg.

Since 2009 he has integrated research, teaching, and service in a longstanding collaboration with business owners and residents along the Michigan Avenue Corridor.

Cultivating a Sense of Community and Connectivity

The Corridor Improvement Authority was created by Michigan Public Act 280 of 2005, establishing a joint board representing the cities of Lansing and East Lansing, and Lansing Charter Township. The goal is to unify the look and function of the Michigan Avenue corridor for visitors, residents, and businesses, with an end result that creates and maintains the commercial corridor that connects downtown Lansing, the State Capitol, downtown East Lansing, and Michigan State University.

Monberg and students in his professional writing classes worked with businesses, community agencies, and individual stakeholders to plan, develop, and sustain an online collection of multi-vocal narratives that illuminates how important this corridor is to its community members. It incorporates the research and integration of ideas that Monberg identifies as social ecology.

Picture of John Monberg, Ph.D.

Students conduct field research; interview entrepreneurs, residents and local activists; create social media strategies; and incorporate web designs and analytics that can boost visibility and advance efforts for those who live and work along the Corridor.

The result is a website affectionately known as "The Ave" that reflects the shared vibrancy of the greater Lansing area, and cultivates a sense of community and connectivity.

"He has done a terrific job engaging with the Michigan Avenue stakeholders so that he can understand the community's challenges," said Lori Mullins, community and economic development administrator in the City of East Lansing's Department of Planning, Building, and Development.

Monberg's research focus is the intersection among rhetorical theory, digital humanities, and science and technology studies. He sees a growing importance for digital and cultural infrastructures that support public deliberation and decision making for community development. Monberg frequently poses questions to his students: "How is the new media environment we live in shaping us? How can we have a voice in shaping the community we live in?"

Students are an integral part of the process. Monberg designs the project experience so that students are involved with nearly every aspect, including identifying research questions, gathering data, compiling analysis, reporting findings, generating strategies and solutions, and learning how to connect with community stakeholders. His latest project, East Lansing 2030 (http://sites.cal.msu.edu/el2030/), uses visions from architects at an Eli & Edythe Broad Art Museum exhibit to provoke community thinking about the future of East Lansing.

"The project is a wonderful example of engaged scholarship that seeks to improve the relationships between members of disparate communities along the Corridor by engendering and supporting possibilities for creative collaboration," said Donnie Johnson Sackey, assistant professor of English at Wayne State University.

During Sackey's graduate work at Michigan State University he undertook an independent study in environmental rhetoric and science and technology studies with Monberg. "John's continued emphasis on the need for our scholarship to be outwardly focused influenced my dissertation work and the way I approach my career," said Sackey.

  • Written by Carla Hills, University Outreach and Engagement
  • Photograph of Dr. Monberg by G.L. Kohuth, MSU Today
  • Photograph of Michigan Avenue by Paul Phipps, University Outreach and Engagement