Category: Media Literacy

New media literacy videos reinforce 19th century thinking

[video link]

Canada’s MediaSmarts media literacy hub has recently put together a series of videos (episode one posted above) to teach people about their six basic principles of media literacy. MediaSmarts is one of the organizations I analyzed in my dissertation, which in general seems to be ahead of most other North American media literacy organizations in terms of shifting their paradigm towards digital media. However, when it comes to these basic principles, I think they are still stuck in 19th Century thinking.  The videos are fairly simplistic–perhaps too simplistic–reducing media literacy to a formula that loses a lot of nuance. In essence, this is media literacy for a short attention span audience.

I’m also a little suspicious of the organization since MediaSmarts receives a lot of funding from major media corporations (check the sponsor links at the bottom of its homepage). While I don’t know if that has a direct influence on their methodology, I can’t imagine big media corporations backing a curriculum site that would be contrary to their interests.

I’ll break down why I don’t believe some of these principles serve us anymore. In short, the general problem is how they reinforce mechanistic thinking based on industrial-era science and technology, which inhibits ecological thinking about media. Mechanism views the world as a machine composed of reducible parts and is foundational for the view that nature is a thing that can be exploited for human use. As Einstein is oft quoted, we can’t solve problems with the same thinking that created them. For this reason, I don’t think this approach to media literacy will help us solve the great challenges that face us in the 21st century.

Media Minute Introduction: What is media anyway?

One of the biggest problems with media education is the metaphor we use for media. Here it is used in the singular form, which implies that media are some kind of entity. By using the singular form they really mean “mass media.” The video strongly reinforces the one-to-many paradigm of mass media, which elliminates a whole set of practices that involve media making by individuals, activist groups and non-traditional organizations, essentially denying the role of people to “be the media.” My perspective is that media are an ecosystem… an environment that grows culture. Viewing media as a thing reinforces a mechanistic view that media are a kind of machine that programs us. As an ecosystem, media comprise a habitat in which we are members with rights and responsibilities.

Media Minute Episode 1: Media are constructions. 

The construction metaphor reduces media to a mechanical collection of parts. This reflects 19th Century ideas about communication in which messages are transmitted through space. In contrast, media are more like nonlinear conversations, a series of “utterences” that refer to other communications. While I do see the value of learning the “nuts and bolts” of message construction, ultimately media are always contextual and cannot be analysed in isolation from the environment they are embedded in.

Media Minute Episode 2: Each medium has a unique aesthetic form

This is an important point, one that is often neglected. It is very important that people understand that all media have different characteristics. However, the way it is framed in this video reinforces the “content delivery” model of media, presenting each media technology as a kind of medium-specific channel as opposed to different ecosystems that afford possibilities.

Media Minute Episode 3: Media have commercial implications

This principle is my least favorite and always irks me when I see it taught. Media do not always have commercial implications. Though it is true that a vast majority of what we engage in is produced by or within commercial platforms, this principle negates all the media that have no commercial implications. It reinforces a market-view of media that all media are relegated to the laws of consumerism.

Media Minute Episode 4: Media have social and political implications

This is a principle I basically agree with. It essentially argues that media are a kind of socio-politcal education. I would extend this to say that media are also environmental education–they teach us how to act upon the environment.

Media Minute Episode 5: Audiences negotiate meaning

This is probably the best insight from these principles. It goes without saying that all communication is negotiated.

Remembering Bob McCannon

I was saddened and shocked to learn that media literacy pioneer and consummate activist, Bob McCannon, passed away. One of the founders of the New Mexico Media Literacy Project (NMMLP, now renamed the Media Literacy Project), he was a mainstay in numerous media literacy debates going back the past 20 years. On the national stage he promoted media education like an evangelist, making it more visible to professional fields like health and psychology. On a local level he was a staunch critic of the Albuquerque Journal and vociferous activist against Walmart.

Bob was my “gateway drug” to media literacy. It was through initial contact with him that I become exposed to the power of media literacy and it was under his tutelage that I became a media literacy educator. After taking one of NMMLP’s catalyst trainings (by far the best media literacy training I ever got) I continued to work with Bob on a number of projects, including developing the first ever media literacy curriculum in Spanish. He was mindful to expand the audience for media literacy, making the effort to reach out to Latinos, Native Americans and incarcerated youth.

Admittedly Bob wasn’t easy to work with. He and I engaged in a number of “pissing contests” (his words, not mine). I wanted to include him in my dissertation research but he made several demands that were impossible to meet. Yet it was this principled, dogged approach that set him apart from other media educators. For example, when he felt that the mainstream media literacy movement was getting too cozy with the media industry, he organized with other like-minded media literacy activists to form Action Coalition for Media Education (ACME). While researching the media literacy movement in North America, ACME stood out as the most principled and independent media literacy organization. As I analyzed ACME’s documents I continuously heard Bob’s deep, booming voice forming a barricade against media corporations. He continuously affirmed the importance of media literacy that is independent of corporate influence.

Bob was larger than life–physically and morally. His huge presence commanded rooms and filled pubic space. It’s hard to imagine that such a force of nature is no longer with us. In his honor, I hope that all of us will continue to keep up the good fight and do our best fill his massive shoes.

To read the Media Literacy Project’s response and memorial, follow this link.


What media literacy can do to combat climate enemies

Which future will BP fuel? One that ends civilization as we know it? [video link]

“The Earth is not dying – she is being killed. And those who are killing her have names and addresses.” Utah Phillips

If you haven’t read it yet, Bill McKibben‘s recent Rolling Stone article, “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math,” is absolutely required reading. To summarize, he points out that the carbon industry–mainly the globe’s major oil and gas companies like ExxonMobil, Chevron and BP–have valued their stock based on the extraction and burning of enough fossil fuels to raise global temperatures by 11 degrees celsius. What that means is that if they do what they promise for their investors, civilization is over as we know it. It’s hard to imagine such perverse and short-sighted thinking, but such is the state of our current economic system.

So what can media literacy advocates do about it? McKibben argues that there is power in identifying the enemy. If we can target and discredit their operations, the perceived value and reasons for continuing business as usual can be crippled. Such was the case with Apartheid and how a global movement made the cost of doing business with the South Africa regime bad for business. And as media literacy advocates know, Big Tobacco was severely hampered by educators and media campaigns that countered their nefarious messaging.

Right now the major oil companies are able to dominate the discourse around climate change. Moreover, they deploy sophisticated communications strategies to greenwash their operations. One example is the BP “Fueling the Future” ads (see above video clip) and the Team USA ad running in the US during the Olympics. Shame on the Olympics for partnering with BP, which should have gotten the corporate death penalty for trashing the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem. Instead, the Olympics give a veneer of legitimacy for a shady corporation that is doing little to prevent the global catastrophe that is ingrained into its business plan.* Instead BP offers up a “target neutral” strategy for corporations to engage in unsustainable, shallow ecology.

The Climate Reality Project has already produced several videos aimed at linking the climate deniers with the PR strategies of the tobacco industry. Likewise, I believe that media educators should put deconstructing and challenging the oil industry at the center of their projects. The same skills that we use to critically engage alcohol or tobacco marketing can be applied to the way in which the carbon industry dominates discourse around climate change.

* I’ll need to comment in a separate post about the incredible integration of Olympics media coverage on NBC and the corporatist agenda. Suffice to say that there is a seamless fusion between patriotism, branding, corporatism and sport. Add to this the amazing capacity for the Olympics to transform any host site into a police state.

What does it really mean to be media literate?

My media literacy instincts are so engrained I rarely think about them. Sometimes, though, they become visible, like the time I was at the Bonnaroo music festival in Tennessee. I was there working on a documentary about the festival’s recycling and green efforts (which are extraordinary) and had free run of the place. One evening I was munching away in the food court when a college-aged fellow sat down across from me. In the background I could hear Tom Petty perform a live version of his greatest hits CD (the difference between the two was nominal). The young man, who was from a Southern state (Alabama or Georgia–my memory fails me), started a friendly conversation. At some point–I don’t know why–I launched into a diatribe about the culture industry, noting the various sponsorships, marketing opportunities and corporate presences throughout the festival and in the music world in general. I talked about how his demographic is targeted and that the illusion of choice hid the fact that media corporations had consolidated power and were engaging in ethnographic research to get into his mind.

What seemed so perfectly obvious to me–the big corporate take over of the cultural commons–came as a total shock to this poor dude. He wondered out loud if I was some kind of wizard–he didn’t use this term, but I think that’s what he meant. No, I said, it’s quite simple. It’s media literacy. Then I realized how dangerous to the status quo media literacy is, and that without these basic skills corporations will run amuck.

I don’t want to presume that this particular kid didn’t have agency or free thought. In fact, he seemed quite interested in what I had to say, albeit his shock was palatable. I offered him my card and said that if he ever wanted more information about the things I had ranted about, he could contact me. He thanked me and we parted ways.

I never did hear from him again. However, that short experience had a big impact on me. How many of these kids are out there? That is, kids who are curious but not to the point of seeking information outside what is available to them in their immediate environment. Or what it is that enables me to see the pervasive system of manipulation, whereas he doesn’t. I’m not saying this to be superior, but I’m trying to understand the skills that enable some people to see beyond the veil of hegemony. Is it just media literacy, or is there more to it?

Naturally, as a media literacy educator I spend lots of time thinking about what it is that makes students media literate. But it occurred to me that I rarely turn the table on myself. What is it that makes me a media literate person? What tools and thought processes do I use on a daily basis that enable me to “read” media critically? Rather than postulate about students in abstract terms, perhaps by examining my own practices it will help me design a better educational environment. So what does media literacy look like when practiced by a “pro”?

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NY Times article wastes time with false digital literacy argument

This NYTimes article, “Wasting Time Is New Divide in Digital Era,” is currently making waves in the media ecosystem. I find it troubling, but maybe not for the reasons that others have written about. It basically reports on new research that suggests poor, young people are wasting more time with digital media than their more affluent counterparts, and that policy makers need to ramp up their digital literacy funding.

I’m bothered by the metaphor of “time-wasting” being used without qualification–it’s a metaphor about how the net is used that has some implicit biases–even class bias. Whereas the educated and affluent don’t waste time, poor people do. Are they somehow supposed to be more productive, but are not because they are not intellectually active members of society? I think the article alludes to the problem of why poor young people lack supervision (overworked parents)–but why is it that their activities are considered inherently time-wasting? Do we really know how and why they are using media? This reminds me of Gramsci’s discussion of the organic intellectual: “All men are intellectuals, one could therefore say: but not all men have in society the functions of intellectuals.”

The other problem I have for how the article is framed has to do with its uncritical use of the term “digital literacy.” While it is true that many advocates for digital literacy (such as governments and mainstream educators) see it as a path to greater participation, there are other people who see digital literacy as requiring a dimension of critical engagement that leads to cultural citizenship. I think critical digital literacy makes more sense in this situation. This way, rather than encouraging the further “waste of time” of uncritical engagement with media technology, young people can be encouraged to become active, reflective cultural citizens of their media environment. Here is one example of how it could be done. But don’t expect such solutions to come from corporate funders who prefer young people not think too critically about issues like social justice and ecology.

I think the solution advocated by the Times article is essentially a neoliberal response by encouraging an unobtrusive private sector literacy approach that reinforces preexisting power relations in which youth are encouraged to “waste time” with a corporatized Internet through a semi-passive, uncritical form of literacy.

My media literacy wish list for Earth Day

Surviving Progress trailer [video link]

Just as every month is Black History Month, every day is Earth Day. To mark this year’s passing, features a fabulous review of nine environmental documentaries that bring ecology to the center of our cultural awareness. In particular it led me to Surviving Progress, a necessary critique of our current notion of “progress.” Based on the book, A Short History of Progress, this film has been called a mash-up of Koyaanisqatsi and The Corporation. I’m all for anything that problematizes our notion of technological evolution.* Moreover, I feel this is an area of critique generally lacking in media education. For one, youth media educators could problematize how mediamaking devices are produced and disposed of. Media lit educators focused on textual analysis could zoom in on how technology works as a trope for a variety of values associated with consumption and unlimited growth. Along these lines, here are some more suggestions for ways media education can be greened:

Discourse analysis: Media literacy has pioneered techniques for analyzing the way media frame and discuss issues, both visually and textually. Since discourse analysis can be applied to news and propaganda, green media educators can use this tool to examine how a critical issue like climate change is covered in the news, or how to detect greenwashing. Claims makers–from BP to GreenPeace–vie for public attention. What strategies do they use, and what systems enable some voices and not others?

Semiotics: Basic media literacy is a primer for the deconstruction of symbols. Often times semiotics is used for studying representation, in particular racial, gender, and cultural stereotyping. Animals and living systems are also used and stereotyped in a variety of ways. Why and for what purpose?

Marketing: Media literacy techniques have mastered deconstruction, drawing attention to nearly 30 different persuasion techniques used to manipulate and hook our attention. The primary technique, emotional transfer, is represented by how marketers (or propagandists for that matter) generate feelings in order to transfer those sensibilities to brands. But the various emotions generated by sex, fear, and humor are tied to more ancient needs related to our connection with living systems. Media literacy could point out that when advertisers are playing with our emotions, they are trying to tap into deeper experiences of authenticity and resonance that can be fulfilled by activities that don’t require consumption, and could even tie into our primary need to connect with humans and nature.

Ideology: This is usually applied in the form of critical media literacy, and aims to challenge the claims made by corporations and governments. In the age of Occupy, much attention will be applied to the way in which economic values are propagated through media. To this extent it is absolutely necessary to examine those discourses surrounding growth and consumption, and how they lead to debt on multiple levels: personal, social, and ecological. To what extent are both economics and ecology ultimately two sides of the same coin?

An additional dimension can be explored: different media promote a range of environmental ideologies–beliefs about how we act upon the world– spanning from anthropocentric to ecocentric perspectives. What implications do these different worldviews have for ecology? Moreover, given that most media literacy aspires to greater democratic participation, it would be good to examine the kind of democracy we believe in. Is it anthropocentric, or could we work towards what Vandana Shiva calls Earth Democracy, which incorporates living systems?

The Cultural Commons: Educators pushing for media justice can link the enclosure of the techno-communication system by telecoms and media corporations with the enclosure of culture. IP law, anti-piracy legislation, and corporate mergers all have the effect of limiting democratic participation and access to cultural resources. This process began with colonization and witch hunts, which eliminated indigenous and female participation in order to promote patriarchal control. Now these processes are extending to the enclosure of all ideas: it is the colonization of our interpersonal realities. This can be challenged by highlighting the importance of open culture, reformed copyright laws, and a less restrictive approach to sharing.

Intertextuality: People should not just think about ecosystems, but think like ecosystems. This means looking at our mental models and learning to think in terms of systems, relationships, and connectivity. Our social networks do this naturally, but what about media texts? Traditional media literacy tends to focus on single texts (like an alcohol ad), but what if we looked at texts as if they were a node in the media ecosystem? The way the web makes all texts open works does that for us. Consider how Kony 2012 became a dialog between many different texts produced by a vast range of critics and supporters. Or how a WikiLeaks document becomes linked to a Web of ideas and practices. Or look how we make sense of a film like Avatar, with its linkages to various genres and tropes from other films, and then how fans and activists remixed and spread various memes from the film.

Gadgets: As mentioned, media education programs rarely critically engage the tools used to make media. We should celebrate the creative process and promote the empowerment of media making, yet we should not take our eye off the fact that the gadgets we use have an increasingly negative impact on global ecology and social justice. Can we get away with making critical documentaries without also examining our own complicity within this production system?

Phenomenology: Most media literacy looks outwardly to ask questions about what media do to us. Sometimes the question is changed to focus on what we do with media. But what about the manner in which media influence our cognition–for better or for worse? How does media engagement impact our sense of space, place, and time? What are the “splaces” we are engaging? How might this experience of extending ourselves into media networks impact our sense of planet? How can we become more mindful of our attention so as to not lose ourselves in the dreamworlds of other people’s design (Kony 2012 seemed to be quite hypnotic in that sense)?

Alternative Cultural Practices: There is a tendency among many media educators to focus on the negative aspects of media. But we also need to support positive media practices. After all, media are a necessary means for solving problems. While I fully endorse critical approaches, I also would like to warn against too much negativity that leads to learners feeling powerless and victimized. We need to pull people towards aspirational solutions. This is a slightly different take on problem-solving pedagogies that focus on how to fix problems. Rather, we should encourages learners to create solutions. The difference is subtle but important. What we are aiming for is supporting lifelong learning skills that build towards sustainable cultural practices that can envision a positive response to a very wicked problem.

These suggestions are part of a larger project I’m working on to re-orient media education towards a green worldview. These points barely scratch the surface of what I’ve been developing. If you are interested in joining me or offering feedback, please comment below.

Happy Earth Day!

* For what it’s worth, to question technology is to not be anti-technology. Hopefully people will come to realize that thinking critically about technology is not a desire to go back to the Stone Age, but rather to consider the boundaries and limits that can be placed on how technology fits within the context of ecology and human experience, and not the other way around.

Open Media Literacy Manifesto

It’s time for a manifesto. Everyone should write one every once in a while, it’s a good way to blow off steam. Here we go:


Humans are learning creatures. We evolve through sharing. Everyone has something to contribute to the cultural commons. And the cultural commons must remain open.

Meanwhile we are being globally mindfraked by less than a handful of multinational corporations. Our education system is crumbling and being ripped to shreds. The public good is being put into debt slavery for the global banking and finance system. It is clear the enclosure of the commons cannot happen without corporate media’s complicity with the neoliberal agenda and its daily propagation of free market propaganda.

Most importantly, our planet cannot be sustained by further growth. That means consumerism as we know it must end. But corporate media won’t tell you that.

Yet there is hope. Participatory and open media are alive and evolving. People are sharing and doing stuff for free. They are giving time and creativity away because it feels good and it is fun. But enclosure always lurks behind our backs. We have to be vigilant.

So now our education practices should reflect the open culture. We can’t afford not to.

But when it comes to media literacy, we have some cultural barriers. Media education is as old as mass media, and therefore has modeled its approach on mass media.

The mass media of the industrial era has shifted radically. But media literacy has not. Often times media literacy is just anti-media, and still thinks the way industrial media thinks. Often it focuses on content and information, but not practice or lifelong learning.

We have content literacy, tool literacy, image literacy, information literacy. But what about open culture literacy?

Media literacy books, videos and tools are often copyrighted and locked behind walled gardens. A media literacy documentary should not cost $100. Media literacy curriculum should not cost $100. Media literacy education should not cost anything. It should be free.

Nor should we brand or market our materials for corporations.

We have no business with standards, we have no business with testing. We are in the business of freeing education and opening culture.

Therefore, it should be resolved that our resources be put on the Web for free; that we take down copyright barriers and prohibitive institutional pricing of our tools and give them away.

OK, that’s all folks. I know we need to earn a living, no doubt. But we can develop alternative models for generating income, such as consulting, customization, teaching, lecturing, designing, and writing. But our activities should ultimately be in service the planet and human evolution. Any suggestions? Is this position too extreme?

A new kind of media literacy: connected learning

Connected Learning map

I’m very excited about connected learning, a new venture launched by the MacArthur Foundation. By leveraging network technology, its pedagogical vision makes possible Ivan Illich‘s deschooled society of empowered learners. I’m hopeful that this model will be applied as a new form of media literacy that replaces the old school approach.

What follows are connected learning’s embedded core concepts:

Learning Principles

  • Interest-powered
  • Peer-supported
  • Academically oriented

Design Principles

  • Production-centered
  • Openly networked
  • Shared purpose

Core Values

  • Equity
  • Social Connection
  • Full Participation

Unfortunately I don’t see ecology as a key component, so I’m hoping to develop a variation that will have it as an embedded principle. I do think the cultural practices supported by this model can be translated for sustainability. Media literacy that’s just based on deconstruction may not necessarily help learners develop important technical, cognitive and social skills that enable them to engage in participatory cultural practice. I’m still in the process of formulating my own model, and will post more about it as it evolves.

To support the evolving field of connected learning, a research network has been set up.

Greening a digital media course

I’ve been a media literacy educator for over a dozen years. And since participating in the punk movement during the early ‘80s, I’ve been a lifelong proponent of do-it-yourself media. Since entering the field of education I’ve worked in numerous arts programs with youths, spending considerable time in under-served communities. Consequently, working with Native Americans, Latinos and Afro-Caribbean youth has helped me to formulate a multicultural, multi-perspective approach to media literacy that has pushed me to reconceptualize cultural assumptions embedded in traditional media education.* Learners in those communities are under greater stress than mainstream Americans, and their particular needs call for attention to social justice, environmental issues and cultural citizenship, things that many privileged Americans take for granted.

While working on the rez, at one point a Native American elder said of the information highway: “any road can get you somewhere.” Unfortunately, many programs that embrace digital media tools are too enamored with the technology to think more critically about the “somewhere” we are moving towards. It was during the period when I worked on the rez that I realized the importance of appropriate applications of technology and the ethnocentrism embedded in the idea of “progress.” More importantly, I was forced to think more carefully about who or what I was ultimately serving in my work.

As a fellow media geek it might surprise you, then, to suggest that my approach since then has been to serve  the planet: humans and nonhuman alike. In particular I feel a strong calling to speak to the best of my abilities on behalf of our silent partner: nature. These days in my current role as a professor of media studies at an American university in Rome, I find myself in the unlikely position of having to argue for a greener approach to media. I have taken to heart the task of incorporating lessons I learned beyond the walled garden of academia to green the field of media studies. What follows, then, is a field report from my most recent effort, which was to green a digital media culture course.
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Media is… a short documentary

Media Is… from Lori H. Ersolmaz on Vimeo.

A few years ago I was interviewed by Lori Ersolmaz for a documentary project about media literacy. Here is a new video,”Media is…,” that she made featuring some sound bites from our original interview. I’m honored that she considers me an “expert”! The video is a nice meditation and I hope you will take a few minutes to watch it and support Lori’s work.

Media literacy as ecological homeopathy

Media literacy and ecoliteracy people are worlds apart. Media educators don’t prioritize sustainability because ecology is perceived to be the realm of the natural sciences. For example, education programs are often outdoors or garden oriented. Nothing wrong with those kinds of workshops, but if we continue to ignore the cultural and technological dimension of ecology, frankly we’re screwed, because the ecological crisis is a cultural crisis. We can add to that, of course, that it is also a spiritual problem. But a culture without a holistic spirituality is a dying culture, anways. So the issues are related.

Then there are the environmental educators who refuse to engage technology because of its perceived corrosiveness. At the Bioneers conference, for example, I met with anti-TV crusader Jerry Mander to discuss the possibility for incorporating media literacy into environmental education. He told me that it was a good idea but that he was against it because it would make media more interesting. But that is exactly the point: we want people to get more interested in media, not as passive consumers but as a means for understanding the “system” (however broadly we want to define it) and for learning how to be empowered practitioners.

I’m a fan of the idea that media are “institutions-to-think-with.” Play with and use them to understand human communications, technology, economy and perception. In this sense, media literacy can be a kind of homeopathy. By engaging it holistically, mindfully and holistically we stand to gain amazing insights. We can learn how the system thinks.

For those unfamiliar with homeopathy, it is a kind of healing practice in which people take small doses of the very thing that ails them in order for the immune system to learn how to adjust to the ailment. Granted, I am nervous about using medical metaphors for the “problem” of media. In many ways the kind of media literacy I’m opposed to is the kind that takes the medical approach by viewing “bad” media as a disease that needs to be excised like a cancer tumor. This is an industrial kind of medicine that views the body as a machine needing to get fixed. It lacks a holistic dimension that looks at illness from multiple perspectives, such as the mental and spiritual state of the patient. Nor does it take into account the person’s environment, including diet, pollutants and stress.

Media literacy as homeopathy has the same unintended consequence of a college degree. We forget that an education is not just about learning the liberal arts, but its also learning how the system wants us to think and what is appropriate intellectual practice. In my Peace and Conflict Studies program at Cal, the best undergrad course I ever took was on epistemology. In it we read Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions and studied how the university mirrored the global economic infrastructure.

It is so meta. You can walk around UC Berkeley’s campus and see the embodiment of the world system (by this I mean the economic, political and military design mechanisms of neoliberalism). There’s the law school that trains the lawyers who draw up the biz contracts; the engineering school (named after Bechtel) that trains the dam builders; the physics department that works on weapons systems; the ROTC that prepares military officers; and so on. You can also see how the UC regents have deep ties to the military industrial complex and global petroleum oligopoly. All of a sudden the university’s image as a bastion of “free speech” becomes a misleading ruse. Sure, in a university with over 40,000 students there is a niche for peace studies, but when I graduated, there were only 12 of us in my class. There’s always a space to keep the dissidents happy.

The point is, I learned more than I bargained for when I got my degree. I learned not just the content and grammar of the liberal arts paradigm, but its form as well. This is not to say that most well-meaning university professors and administrators don’t believe in the enlightening benefits of the liberal arts. Indeed, there are many good aspects to the democratic and humanistic traditions of education, but can this structure as it exists today adequately confront the challenges of a structure encountering its material limits, poisoning its living system and gutting its social fabric? Is the university up to the task of challenging the prevailing “wisdom” that education should be reduced to a business paradigm that views itself as a factory that manufactures students to reproduce the same destructive logic that has brought us to the brink of ecological catastrophe?

Going back to the discussion of media literacy as homeopathy, what I’m getting at is that there is tremendous benefit to learning media’s “cultural form” (to barrow from media educator David Buckingham). Being a literate media practitioner enables us to be “bridgers.” After all, “media” really mean something “in-between”: they mediate. To bridge a sustainable world, we will need to mediate the past with the future. Media education, in my view, is one technique for doing so for it enables us to map paradigms in order to change them.

A manifesto for greening media education

There’s a new Website publishing media education manifestos. It includes some excellent missives by the likes of Henry Jenkins, David Buckingham and David Gauntlett. They have posted my own entry on the site, Greening Media Education. I’m honored to be included among the giants of the field.

I’m posting here the complete text of the manifesto. It is a very simplified version of my current research project. More on that on a later date. Please let me know what you think.

Greening Media Education

Though there is increasing interest to guide education towards sustainability issues, so far there are very few examples of green approaches to media education. In spirit, though, many of the goals and aspirations of media education are in perfect alignment with the cause of sustainability. As John Blewitt argues, media literacy and environmental education have in common the goals of participation, action and critical engagement.

But in order to truly green media education there needs to be a radical rethinking of many underlying premises that have lead to a deficit in sustainability discourse among media education advocates (for example, take a look at the tag cloud of this Website). Part of the problem has been the lack of a sufficient bridge between ecoliteracy and media education. In important ways their approaches are epistemologically different. For example, the traditional divide between the biological sciences and the social sciences and humanities is well-reflected in the history of media studies. With the exception of Raymond Williams and the newly emerging field of environmental communication, the problems of the environment generally have not been linked to the other social justice issues taken on by media studies and cultural studies. So though racism, sexism, homophobia and postcolonialism have been tackled by media education, the environment has not received similar attention.
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Please support my Mediacology: Green Media Education Website!

Free Range Studios (the folks who made Story of Stuff) are having an open competition to give away free design services. I’m in the process of developing my dream media education Website (see description below) and would receive a tremendous boost from these very talented designers. I’m asking for help with identity development. Please click on the link below to vote (it only takes a few minutes, really).

Thanks for all the love and support, and if you are so motivated, please share with likeminded folks in the network. Peace! Antonio

Mediacology: Green Media Education Website:

The Mediacology: Green Media Education Website connects media literacy with ecoliteracy. By filling a gap between media and environmental education, this resource offers sustainable and ethical media education tools for educators, community activists and cultural citizens engaged in transformative planetary change. In the spirit of sustainable communication, the final product will be open source and freely available to the global community via a Website portal. The resource will consist of free downloadable curricula, community space, online multimedia lessons and access to online trainings. This project requests help in developing a unified identity for all its materials: logo, print and Website.

Media literacy and cultural citizenship

The above work is the product of two my star students, Wanda and Sara Gabai. This summer they did an intensive media literacy seminar with me, creating the above video as part of their coursework. I’m impressed by the quality of the script and how they contextualized it with their own mash-up of Web imagery. It was the first video they have ever made or posted to YouTube. If you like it, please to go the video’s YouTube page and post a comment or give it a thumbs up.

Conflict (mineral) resolution

In my efforts to be more holistic with my media literacy approach I’ve been moving in the direction of not just looking at the content of media, but their entire production process, from the making of content to the production of gadgets. There’s a good book,Doing Cultural Studies: The Story of the Sony Walkman, which takes the “circuit of culture” approach by looking at how representation, identity, production, consumption and regulation are recursive. We need to update this model to incorporate a sense of social justice, as the above video is pushing for, and also the ecological dimension of production. It’s not just that conflict minerals are a problem in the supply chain, there is also disposal and externalization of the toxic byproduct resulting from built-in obsolescence (you know, what happens to your computer or iPod after you upgrade it).

Drugged out butterfly hates bad publicity

The Lunesta ad parody that has survived fair use on YouTube (not the one I posted)

Apparently that cute little Lunesta butterfly flapping around in a corporate induced stupor is a rather pissy drug shill. I posted the Lunesta ad on my YouTube channel because I used it for teaching purposes in my courses. Accompanying the video I posted the following comment: “Corporation is a butterfly, replaces nature.”

To my chagrin YouTube users made lots of positive comments about the commercial, one stating that it was her four-year-old daughter’s favorite ad and thanked me for posting it. In fact, this has been a common trend: I post an ad for the purposes of criticism, and the commentators end up loving it. Go figure.

Anyhow, Sepracor, the maker or Lunesta, decided that an open media system is more than it can take. Too bad for them, because ultimately I made the one mistake of culture jamming: through my efforts to critique corporate brands, I end up giving them even more attention than they deserve, and hence more “mind share.”

Hey Sepracor, didn’t you learn anything from PT Barnum, who said there’s no such thing as bad publicity?

This, too me, is what I have been fearing about the future of the Web, and particular for those of us who teach media literacy. So far there has been a “hands off” approach from advertisers when it come to us using their work as part of our teaching materials. Either the Fair Use provision has kept them away, or we’re too few to care about. But you know the saying, you have free speech as long as no one listens to you.

Or put differently, does a copyright violation happen when a deconstruction takes place in the forest?

For what it’s worth, this is what the take down notice said (click here to see the rest):
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New media literacies

An alternate take on media literacy that goes beyond the standard anti-media rant. It’s from Henry “Convergence Media” Jenkins’ program at MIT. They run through a mouthful of terms at the end, but I find them useful because they acknowledge that these days the line between consumer and producer is bleeding the old definitions of literacy to death.

Digital fly on the wall

Multi Mandala

One of my most favorite human beings and a media lit colleague, Kathleen Tyner, organized a really cutting edge media literacy conference at the University of Texas at Austin in June. Thanks to the new tools available to us, we can all be digital flies on the wall. We can be there now by clicking through to the conference Website, which offers vodcasts and powerpoints of the presentations, including the super awesome Multimedia Mandala above.