This is the info page for Mediacology. For information about my newest book, The Media Ecosystem, please click here.
Mediacology: A Multicultural Approach to Media Literacy in the 21st Century (Peter Lang Publishing – May, 2008)
“Antonio Lopez is devoted to opening the minds of young people to the perils and possibilities of our multimedia world. His work on media permaculture, influenced equally by Native American concepts and Marshall McLuhan, opens up the holistic and pedagogical possibilities of the new peer-to-peer networks that are transforming culture and society.”
Erik Davis, author of The Visionary State and Techgnosis.
“As a fellow happy mutant, Antonio Lopez offers DIY expertise for understanding media education.”
Mark Frauenfelder, co-founder and co-editor of BoingBoing.net
“Media literacy’s role, according to Lopez, is to bring together all aspects of media. Rather than equipping students to do battle with media, Lopez wants teachers to help their students make the stories cohere, to help their students participate actively in new media communities, and to aid in the creation of new media. The “mediacologist” uses the Hopi symbol of the cross within the wheel as a talisman to bring together the logical, linear with the holistic and integrative. Antonio Lopez dares educators to think differently about media literacy. This book provides us with the theoretical foundation to begin the journey.”
“López’s rich writing draws on indigenous and philosophical ways of thinking and knowing. Drawing on Gregory Bateson, he argues we are both human individuals, and part of the environments in which we live. This view of media literacy education is one of relationship and process. I recommend this book to anyone teaching media literacy-related courses at the undergraduate or graduate level.”
Bridging media literacy with ecoliteracy, Mediacology seeks to redefine media education so that it harmonizes with ecological design principles.
Mediacology proposes a design-for-pattern approach called “Media Permaculture,” which restructures media literacy to be in sync with new media practices connected with sustainability and the perceptual functions of the right brain hemisphere. In the same way that permaculture approaches gardening by establishing the natural parameters of its ecological niche, Media Permaculture explores the individual’s “mediacological niche” in the context of knowledge communities. By applying bioregional thinking to the symbolic order, Media Permaculture redresses the standard one-size-fits-all literacy model by taking into account diverse cognitive strategies and emerging convergence media practices.
Drawing on his extensive experience as a grassroots mediamaker and time spent teaching media at Native American schools, Antonio Lopez applies a practical knowledge of alternative media, crosscultural communication and ecology to build a meaningful theory of media education.
Introduction: Media Permaculture
Applying an ecological model to media literacy requires switching perspectives by moving from the analysis of design objects, such as advertising, to the study of system design. This means not only studying the economics of production and ideology, but also understanding that media have innate cognitive designs as well. “Media Permaculture” is a novel media literacy tool that utilizes a “design for pattern” model, meaning that media literacy pedagogy takes into account the diverse environments that users are living in, including non-Western and indigenous cultural ecologies.
Chapter One: War of the (Mediated) Worlds
This section explores an alternative epistemology inspired by a Native American interpretation of paradigms. By exploring the deep roots of our dominant thinking, we learn how media are tools of consciousness and cognitive processing. Here “GridThink” and “HoloGrok” are introduced as new concepts that describe differing media mentalities/modalities. GridThink represents Cartesian thought, which is founded on the alphabet and print, and HoloGrok is based on holism and distributed networks.
Chapter Two: Mediaspheric Niches
Symbols comprise the semiosphere, the communications equivalent of the biosphere. Likewise, just as river systems traverse different topologies and ecological niches, media flow through divergent cultural environments. This chapter explores how symbols function in different systems, or “semiotic domains,” and can be better understood by applying ecological paradigm tools like bioregionalism and permaculture.
Chapter Three: Mapping Mediacological Niches
If maps help us understand the geography of space, then the geography of maps can be utilized for understanding mediacological niches. Because maps reflect the mapmaker’s inner landscape and cultural subjectivity, a map becomes a worldview, a chart of the cartographer’s universe. Maps are literal examples of translating space into media. This chapter surveys why thinking about maps is important for our understanding of media education.
Chapter Four: Reality 2.0
Having discussed the problem of cartographers translating spherical space into two-dimensional maps, we learn that Western mapping itself is a kind of mediaspheric domain that biases Cartesian space and GridThink. But how does this all translate in a networked world that transcends traditional notions of time and space?
Chapter Five: Lost in Splace
The television series Lost is examined as a case study of how pop culture is grappling and changing with the new digital environment. This chapter investigates how various mediaspheric niches are utilized in one program to break traditional notions of media production and space.
Chapter Six: Age of Feedback
A media loop oscillating out of control without being checked by negative feedback is like being locked in a hall of mirrors with our extended image fragments spinning off into infinity. This chapter discusses McLuhan’s concept of anti-environment/environment and the importance of utilizing negative feedback to transform the symbolic landscape for sustainability.
Chapter Seven: The Meme of Memes
By critiquing the concept of memes, information is shown not to be an object, but works in relationship with environments. This chapter delves into the “epidemiology of belief” to understand how ideas spread and in what respect media education can function with an information-as-environment perspective.
Chapter Eight: Media Lit’s Mediacological Niche
From fundamentalist Christians to anarchists, media literacy is a common tool to educate about ideas distributed through commercial media, such as messages about body image, addiction, the petrol economy, war, violence, misogyny, etc. But can media literacy be an antibody within education and serve as a kind of immune system booster? Are media a kind of disease that requires medical treatment? This chapter explores and challenges commonly held assumptions of the media literacy movement.
Chapter Nine: Community as Text
Paulo Freire’s connection between “word and world” recognizes that education is embedded within larger cultural environments. By examining the effort to apply standard media literacy practices in Native American communities, this chapter expands Freire’s argument to argue for local adjustments to media education.
Chapter Ten: Traduttore, Traditore— Translator, Traitor
Though McLuhan was heartened by the re-tribalizing aspects of new media, a global village and tribal village are vastly different concepts, just as a community is not necessarily a demographic either. Thus, the danger remains that we will flatten culture through translation. Because culture is inevitably transformed when translated, this chapter explores some of the pitfalls of designing a multicultural epistemology.
Conclusion: Mending the Media Wheel
As has been demonstrated by the resourceful harnessing of media by Australian Aborigines, communications technology should ultimately be in the service of self-determination, sovereignty and empowerment. The Mediacologist is bilingual, but in the perceptual sense: one must know how to operate harmoniously with both brain hemispheres. By uniting divergent cognitive and cultural approaches to media education, Mediacology’s pedagogy mends the misapplication of right-brain approaches to right-brained media consumption/production practices.
Appendix: Redesigning Media Literacy
This section presents a number of practical tools that transform standard media literacy practices into a Media Permaculture approach.
Seeded by his experience as an old school punk zine publisher, Antonio Lopez cultivated a career in grassroots community media activism, citizen journalism, media education and blogging. His essays about media and culture are featured in numerous newspapers, magazines and book anthologies, most recently in the MacArthur Foundation’s series, Digital Learning in the 21st Century. Antonio was content provider for a groundbreaking Spanish language media and health CDROM, Medios y Remedios, and designed a multicultural media literacy curriculum, Merchants of Culture. He lectures, writes and trains in outreach, media production and digital media literacy throughout the world.