About Us

In the summer of 2018, the Civic Life Lab (CLL) opened at the Mississippi State University Social Science Research Center. The CLL is committed to interdisciplinary research that identifies the barriers to democratic participation and potential solutions for rebuilding vibrant civic life.

Two of the most pressing problems jeopardizing democratic communities today are polarization and distrust, as communities are increasingly at odds over conflicting political views, contentious policy-making processes, and scarce resources. The CLL facilitates research that seeks to explain how our civic affiliations have eroded to their current state and to use research-based interventions to create more resilient civic communities.

Its current work focuses on democratic deliberation, a communication practice that aims to facilitate public discussion of issues of common concern through inclusive dialogue and decision-making. The CLL team has designed a community intervention that takes the form of a group board game called “Rebuilding Main Street.” The game provides a simulated democratic deliberation experience, and the CLL’s current study measures whether training in mindful civic communication practices can improve the quality of deliberation that allows communities to cooperate in the interest of the common good.

The CLL was founded by Dr. Melanie Loehwing, Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication, and Dr. Brian Shoup, Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration. Read more about the current research team here: Meet Our Team.