New media literacy videos reinforce 19th century thinking

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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.

Media Mindfulness: Mozilla issues web literacy standards

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Antonio Lopez‘s insight:

The folks at Mozilla (makers of the Firefox browser) have been hard at work developing a web literacy standard. It was released today. In Program or Be Programmed, Douglas Rushkoff called for a basic literacy in computer programming. I believe the web literacy standard can fulfill that mission in a more accessible way by encouraging basic literacy of not only the nuts and bolts of the web, but also cultural and political aspects as well, such as sharing and privacy. The Mozilla site is really worth exploring.

See on webmaker.org

Media Mindfulness: 57 Cognitive Biases that deceive us

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“From attentional bias — where someone focuses on only one or two of several possible outcomes — to zero-risk bias — where we place too much value on reducing a small risk to zero — the sheer number of cognitive biases that affect us every day is staggering.

Understanding these biases is key to suppressing them — and needless to say, it is good to try to be rational in most cases. How else can you have any sort of control over investments, purchases, and all other decisions that you make in your life?”

 

Antonio Lopez‘s insight:

This article is a bit simplistic, but it is a good introduction to some typical cognitive biases that impede clarity and conscientious decision making. These biases are also deeply embedded in technological design and media.

See on www.businessinsider.com

Media Mindfulness: design thinking for educators

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Design Thinking is a mindset. Design Thinking is the confidence that everyone can be part of creating a more desirable future, and a process to take action when faced with a difficult challenge. That kind of optimism is well needed in education.

Antonio Lopez‘s insight:

I downloaded this free design thinking toolkit for educators and would  recommend it to anyone doing media education. Here’s an idea: instead of a media literacy workshop, create a pop-up design studio in which students envision a healthy media ecoystem.

See on designthinkingforeducators.com

Media Mindfulness: Bill Moyers interviews Sherry Turkle about her book Being Alone Together

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Psychologist Sherry Turkle talks to Bill about why we expect too much from technology and not enough from each other.

Antonio Lopez‘s insight:

I often distrust anti-social media polemics, but Sherry Turkle is an exception. As a clinical psychologist she performs empirical research that deals with the psychological consequences of our device usage. She discusses the three promises of technology that are driving our addiction: we can always be heard, we can be where we want to be, and that we are never alone. On the last point she fears the loss of the capacity for solitude  Indeed, it seems that it is harder for people to just be. The solution calls for moderation, but it seems like when it comes to our gadgets, moderation is impossible. We are vulnerable to its seduction.

See on billmoyers.com

Media Mindfulness: An argument for a radical change in media ethics

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“Responsible media practitioners remain committed to general principles, such as seeking the truth and reporting independently. But beyond this general level, the media revolution has undermined a previous professional consensus on the best forms of practice, and the norms that guide them. Our media revolution creates multiple and conflicting interpretations of journalism.

Media ethics, like media, is in turmoil.”

Antonio Lopez‘s insight:

An insightful approach to rethinking media ethics. It’s interesting to see how some of this article’s commentators fear the loss of objectivity, but as this article points out, we need to evolve past the idea of objective fact. One of the key problems of this legacy perspective is that it leads to false equivalency, so that in the case of human-caused climate disruption, news outlets still give a platform to climate change deniers despite the scientific consensus that it is human caused. Under the rules of “objectivity” and “fairness” one could justify a news report that would include someone who believes the earth is flat. At a certain point judgements have to be made by the journalists and editors, and the more we know where these journalists are coming from (as opposed to those articles written in the “voice from nowhere”) the better we stand to understand the decision about what were included or excluded in a story. Moreover, under the guise of “objectivity,” the perimeters of an issue will often include a “balanced” discussion which only represents Republicans or Democrats, but excludes a wide range of alternative perspectives.

See on www.pbs.org

Awesome new (free) digital book on journalism’s future

See on Scoop.itMedia Mindfulness

“Searchlights and Sunglasses” is a digital expedition that draws on everything from Ancient Greece to science fiction writers to place the industry’s evolution in perspective. It also pushes journalists and educators to better blend traditional journalistic values with digital age platforms. It urges them to go beyond comfort news, to take advantage of new tools to both inform and engage the public, and to make sure today’s journalism students are ready for tomorrow’s digital jobs.”

Antonio Lopez‘s insight:

The book exists as both a web site with an awesome "learning  layer" with lessons to go with the text and as a downloadable e-book.

See on www.knightfoundation.org

Free e-book with journalism curricula by UNESCO

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UNESCO has launched ten new specialized syllabi on journalism education to fill the gap for specialized literacies required by journalism educators to respond to new challenges. Such specialized journalistic literacies include those relating to media sustainability, data mining, intercultural dialogue, global communication, humanitarian crisis, human trafficking, community participation, science and bioethics, as well as gender inequality. Titled Model Curricula for Journalism Education: A Compendium of New Syllabi, the new publication builds on the original UNESCO Model Curricula developed in 2007 and adapted, since then, in over 60 countries.

Antonio Lopez‘s insight:

This is an excellent free resrource for anyone teaching journalism and/or ethics. In particular it has an international focus that addresses the needs of diverse kinds of commuities.

See on www.unesco.org

Media mindfulness tool: The Media Addict’s Handbook

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Restoring the Quality of Life in the Great Age of Mediation

Antonio Lopez‘s insight:

A new book to help us grapple with media addiction and attention. The downloads page has some useful templates for logging media usage. I use something similar in my own courses. Definitely a good way to develop media mindfulness.

See on mediaaddictshandbook.com

24 Hours Of Reality media event: “The Cost Of Carbon”

See on Scoop.itGreening the Media Ecosystem

Join us October 22 & 23 as we travel around the world, identifying the costs of carbon pollution, and the solution that can change the course of our future.

Antonio Lopez‘s insight:

24 Hours of Reality has been Al Gore’s most recent attempt to communicate through the media. It has an interesting "glocal" strategy by combining up-to-date climate data with regional themes. You can "travel" around the world to see how climate disruption is affecting different parts of the world with dymamic multimedia presentations. In past  years it was a pretty interesting and innovative media strategy. Hopefully this year it will continue in the same vein.

See on www.24hoursofreality.org

Fake news just got fakier: New Fox News’ flight deck on the aircraft carrier USS Disinformation

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Air traffic controller of the propagandasphere… flight deck of the USS Disinformation…

With “information specialists” commanding BATS–big area touchscreens–the new Fox News Deck invites the hilarity that comes with the mistaken belief that fancy media technology legitimates misinformation. But Boing Boing’s headline said it best, “Fox News hires tiny little humans to work on gigantic iPads,” which conjures images of Oompa-Loompas slaving away in Rupert Murdock’s wanker factory. The weirdest part of the video is when Vice President of the News says they’re doing this because “people aren’t so linear” anymore. Could have been Tim Leary himself saying that.

My dissertation: Greening the Media Literacy Ecosystem

Note: an older version of this post was accidentally published. The updated (and intended version follows).

My long absence periodic presence on the blog was mainly caused by the intensity of this past year in which I managed to write and defend my dissertation, while also maintaining a full time teaching position and being a parent of young children. The good news is that I’ve through the other end of it and can now share with you the results of my research. The title of my final dissertation is, “Greening the Media Literacy Ecosystem: Situating Media Literacy for Green Cultural Citizenship.” My PhD is in sustainability education but my passion is media education. The whole point of embarking upon my adventure was to try to understand why there was so little environmental discourse in media education as a whole. To do so I performed a discourse analysis of documents and web sites of leading media literacy organizations in North America. I also interviewed major practitioners. The results were quite interesting, and can be summarized in the abstract:

Media literacy is touted as a necessary life skill for cultural citizenship, yet as it is generally practiced there is little engagement with sustainability issues. In order to gain insights into why this is the case, this research investigated how media literacy practitioners use metaphors to frame both the role of media education in the world and how it affects green cultural citizenship. This involved analyzing web site documents and teacher resources of seven North American media literacy organizations as well as interviewing nine key practitioners within a bounded system called the media literacy ecosystem. Drawing on an ecocritical framework, I analyzed the discourses of the media literacy ecosystem by using multi-site situational analysis, qualitative media analysis and critical discourse analysis. This research explored how media literacy practitioners participate in meaning-making systems that reproduce pre-existing environmental ideologies. The findings show that media literacy education is grounded in a mechanistic worldview, thereby perpetuating unsustainable cultural practices in education. By problematizing the mechanistic discourses of media literacy education, the aim of this research was to raise awareness and to offer potential solutions for changing the nature of those same discourses. As such, I theorized a model of media literacy that incorporates green cultural citizenship, called ecomedia literacy, and outlined a path forward so that sustainability becomes a priority for media literacy educators.

I think it will be controversial because it challenges old ideas about media and communication. You can access a PDF from my Academia.edu page (posted under “thesis drafts”) or from Proquest.

Promoting neurodiversity

As a mildly dyslexic, right-brained kind of guy, I appreciate the perspective offered by this video. It calls for neurodiversity recognizing that we have various cognitive orientations and those that are not statistically “normal” shouldn’t be marginalized. This is one of my biggest gripes when it comes to education standards: there are many in the population who do not fit the profile that tests are designed for. For example, in my own personal experience I have consistently bombed standardized tests, yet I could still earn a PhD and have a successful academic life. Brains, like life, are diverse. Let’s keep them that way.

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.

 

Ad mocks So-Cal Edison’s rooftop solar policy

See on Scoop.itGreening the Media Ecosystem

Visit http://www.SaveRooftopSolar.com to take action. The big utilities in California like Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric, and San Diego …

Antonio Lopez‘s insight:

Pretty funny attempt to expose Southern California Edison’s anti-solar power policy. In my personal experience satire and irony are not great communication strategies because often people don’t get the joke. But times change, and with the real news being fake, and the fake news being real, maybe this is the gestalt of our era.

See on www.youtube.com

Documentary deals with financial crisis as a spiritual and cultural problem

Money & Life Trailer from Katie Teague on Vimeo.

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If you really want to understand how the world system works, you must understand money. The amazing documentary, Money & Life, is just the right kind of introduction to comprehend the globalization’s circulatory system. The documentary asks: can we see the economic crisis not as a disaster, but as a tremendous opportunity?

The film hits all the right notes, including using excellent biological metaphors to explain how money works, discussing money as a spiritual phenomena, showing the connection between the ideology of growth and ecological disaster, and proposing concrete alternatives. A must watch.

In their effort to promote the gift economy, you can watch the film online for free here. I encourage you to make a donation to support their work.|

New Century Global Center in Chengdu resembles WALL-E dystopia


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I’m fascinated by the utopian, highly mediated character of the New Century Global Center in Chengdu captured in this promo video. It’s ripe for some postmodernist deconstruction; it’s also a perfect clip for analyzing the ideology of globalization. The video’s animation situate the complex in a highly idealized, clean climate, but the reality is far different (check out the footage of the haze-covered Chengdu). Indeed, it’s hard to imagine what the ecological footprint of the world’s largest building might be; moreover it would seem to be an exaggerated escape pod from a degraded ecology in the surrounding environs. I can’t help but notice the uncanny parallel between the New Century Center and the dystopian shoppingmall spaceship in WALL-E that houses the last remaining humans in the universe (see clip below).


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REPORT: CNBC’s Climate Denial Is Bad For Business

See on Scoop.itGreening the Media Ecosystem

The majority of CNBC’s coverage in the first half of 2013 cast doubt on whether manmade climate change exists. However, denial is not prudent for the business professionals viewing CNBC, who can reduce risk and increase profits by analyzing how climate change is impacting their industries.

Antonio Lopez‘s insight:

The report’s findings are not surprising. More interesting are the footnotes which document how many major corporations see climate change as a threat to their business model. Apparently corporate media hasn’t gotten the message.

See on mediamatters.org

The world gets smaller with local storytelling app


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An innovative education and citizen journalism project, Small World News, has just released a storytelling app that has built into it all the tools necessary for scripting, shooting and editing a short news video. StoryMaker (demonstrated in the above video) walks through all the steps to put together a short video that can easily be uploaded to the web. It has editing features, compositional suggestions, story formats and many ways to link and share the final piece.

The app draws on the long experience of Small World News. In his TEDx talk (posted below) co-founder, Brian Conley, describes his work in a variety of war zones and revolutionary situations to help people tell their stories. The Small World News web site features their multiple storytelling projects that are happening around the world.

This tool will be handy for media educators. Students can learn rather quickly the basic storytelling structure of news and produce their own within a meaningful amount of time without a major investment in technology or funds. My only concern is that the app could potentially be too formulaic: its templates may restrict creative possibilities. On the other hand, it is simply doing what teachers normally do, which is to model a boilerplate that scaffolds to more advanced forms of production. I look forward to the opportunity of giving this app a try.

Update: Niels ten Oever writes: “One small correction: the Storymaker app is jointly developed and published by the Guardian Project, Small World News and Free Press Unlimited.”