Presentation Title

New Views on Critical Media Literacy in the Digital Era

Biographical Sketch

Dr. James Hamilton is a Professor and Head of the Department of Entertainment and Media Studies at the University of Georgia.

Brittany Walker is a Ph.D. student at the Grady College, University of Georgia.

Jennifer Malson is a Ph.D. student at the Grady College, University of Georgia.

Type of Presentation

Panel submission

Brief Description of Presentation

The implications of the digital media landscape for the conception and practice of critical media literacy deserve to be more thoroughly examined. Panelists discuss key aspects of this new digital environment and it urges us to rethink critical media literacy to fully acknowledge both the shortcoming as well as the potentials.

Abstract of Proposal

Overview: This panel offers new questions and new ways of thinking about what difference digital media makes in the conception and practice of critical media literacy.

Rooted in long-standing practices of textual analysis and criticism, media literacy emerged in the wake of 1960s countercultural protest as a popular pedagogy of resistance to the industrial-strength professionalization of self-interested media advocacy engaged in by governments and corporations. In this generative context, the technologies and institutional barriers enjoyed by a handful of major media players greatly limited significant popular involvement in their operations. Thus, the need was recognized for fostering awareness of this self-interest and how it asserted itself through media. The emergence of critical media literacy sought to extend media literacy from simply an awareness of how media texts work, to a complementary awareness of how media institutions, processes and routines produced the media environment that was so restrictive to public good and democratic contributions.

While this general mandate of media literacy and critical media literacy remain active, panelists in this session contend that they must be subject to critical attention due to the invention and adoption of digital media and all the new means of media practice, institution and distribution over recent decades. These changes have produced a much more complex media landscape, one that is open to significant new popular involvement as well as significant new kinds of self-interested manipulation.

The implications of this new media landscape for the conception and practice of critical media literacy deserve to be more thoroughly examined. Panelists discuss key aspects of this new digital environment and it urges us to rethink critical media literacy to fully acknowledge both the shortcoming as well as the potentials.

------------

PAPER #1

“Challenging Mainstream Media Messages on the Environment in the Digital Age”

By: Brittany Walker

ABSTRACT: This paper discusses new opportunities for critical media literacy made possible through digital means. The greater availability of a wider range of discourses regarding environmental problems and challenges throws into much higher relief the limitations and boundaries of mainstream discourses about the environment.

In the pre-digital era, network television news and major urban newspapers were the dominant source of messages and discourse on the environment. Such accounts commonly overemphasized the role of individuals in creating environmental problems in comparison to the much greater impacts generated by industry, institutions, and government. In addition to a failure to appropriately assign responsibility, such accounts have also presented environmental issues as equivalent in importance, despite the reality that vulnerable populations are more greatly impacted by issues such as climate change and toxic waste dumping.

In today’s digital age, however, alternative environmental information, discourses, and social groups and movements are more readily available online. Several examples of alternative sources and messages and their implications for the environmental movement are discussed.

Despite the continued dominance of the long-standing representations summarized above, the online space provides new opportunities for environmental messages that are more socially responsible and just. Their greater availability makes them a more effective counter-narrative to the dominant, thus creating a new opportunity for democratic deliberation of these crucial issues as well as becoming a richer resource for the teaching and practice of critical media literacy.

---------------- PAPER #2

“Media Literacy vs. Digital-Media Literacy: A Necessary Separation?”

By: Jennifer Malson

ABSTRACT: This paper discusses the historical and theoretical transformation of media literacy into digital media literacy. It seeks to better understand the reason for their separation, and questions the need for separation.

While commonly distinguished from media literacy, digital media literacy seems to share more with media literacy rather than differ from it. Indeed, both emphasize the importance of developing the skills required to participate in media production and consumption, and those needed to engage in communication and social action. The only real difference in their definitions is the focus of digital media literacy on specifically digital tools and digital access to information and resources.

Media literacy also shares with digital media literacy general goals. One goal of both these literacies is to develop more robust abilities in audiences for interpreting messages. A second goal is to help an audience move beyond interpretation to better comprehend the determining relationships between medium, audience, and creator. These and other commonalities are explored in more detail.

A less-beneficial commonality between both, however, is that research on both literacies commonly confines its relevant venue to either an educational or a practical setting. The opportunity missed by doing so is to address the extension of media and digital literacy from an educational to a practical setting. Thus, rather than regard these two settings as separate, this paper proposes a transformational perspective, which extends the skills learned in a classroom into their application in everyday activity.

---------------

PAPER #3

“Toward Critical Media Literacy 2.0”

By: James F. Hamilton

ABSTRACT: This paper seeks to recognize a) the determinations of current conceptions and practices of the emancipatory project of critical media literacy, b) key ways in which it has been refracted and called into question by the proliferation of digital/social media. It concludes by contributing to a retheorization of critical media literacy that more successfully grapples with the challenges presented by digital/social media.

Critical media literacy is a recent iteration of media criticism, which itself dates in the U.S. as an explicit practice from at least the early 20th Century. Instead of being concerned largely with messages and their interpretation, critical media literacy has sought to build an understanding of the need for new kinds of media institutions and work. It focuses as much if not more on the defects of commercial and statist institutions themselves, and advocates for progressive-democratic alternatives.

Digital/social media present great theoretical and practical challenges to the conception and practice of critical media literacy. Among them is the ambivalence of their position. They are used both as a means of manipulation as well as a means of critically responding to it.

One way of gaining greater clarity on what digital/social media bring to critical media literacy is to rethink what critical media literacy might be in relation to digital/social media. Some recent example remap critical media literacy from the teaching of tools to “correctly” interpret messages (thus creating a relation of dependency between the teacher and students) to empowering the user herself in exploring how digital media institutions and networks operate in relation to strategic media campaigns of obfuscation and deception. One such example is StopFake.Org, a project of Kyiv Mohyla (Ukraine) Journalism School lecturers, graduates and students along with the KMA Digital Future of Journalism project (stopfake.org). Rather than present itself as the arbiter of what is true or not (a dependent relationship between it as the authority and those who rely on it as its subjects), it presents various means and strategies by which individuals might usedigital media itself to investigate the propagation, substance and spread of doctored accounts. Such activity builds individual abilities instead of dependencies while it makes room for individuals to explore and draw their own conclusions.

While projects such as these have yet to fully socialize such inquiry or to sufficiently extend it to a consideration of new modes of media institution and work, they provide new directions for thinking about what critical media literacy might be and what it might yet become.

Start Date

2-24-2018 1:10 PM

End Date

2-24-2018 2:40 PM

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Feb 24th, 1:10 PM Feb 24th, 2:40 PM

New Views on Critical Media Literacy in the Digital Era

Overview: This panel offers new questions and new ways of thinking about what difference digital media makes in the conception and practice of critical media literacy.

Rooted in long-standing practices of textual analysis and criticism, media literacy emerged in the wake of 1960s countercultural protest as a popular pedagogy of resistance to the industrial-strength professionalization of self-interested media advocacy engaged in by governments and corporations. In this generative context, the technologies and institutional barriers enjoyed by a handful of major media players greatly limited significant popular involvement in their operations. Thus, the need was recognized for fostering awareness of this self-interest and how it asserted itself through media. The emergence of critical media literacy sought to extend media literacy from simply an awareness of how media texts work, to a complementary awareness of how media institutions, processes and routines produced the media environment that was so restrictive to public good and democratic contributions.

While this general mandate of media literacy and critical media literacy remain active, panelists in this session contend that they must be subject to critical attention due to the invention and adoption of digital media and all the new means of media practice, institution and distribution over recent decades. These changes have produced a much more complex media landscape, one that is open to significant new popular involvement as well as significant new kinds of self-interested manipulation.

The implications of this new media landscape for the conception and practice of critical media literacy deserve to be more thoroughly examined. Panelists discuss key aspects of this new digital environment and it urges us to rethink critical media literacy to fully acknowledge both the shortcoming as well as the potentials.

------------

PAPER #1

“Challenging Mainstream Media Messages on the Environment in the Digital Age”

By: Brittany Walker

ABSTRACT: This paper discusses new opportunities for critical media literacy made possible through digital means. The greater availability of a wider range of discourses regarding environmental problems and challenges throws into much higher relief the limitations and boundaries of mainstream discourses about the environment.

In the pre-digital era, network television news and major urban newspapers were the dominant source of messages and discourse on the environment. Such accounts commonly overemphasized the role of individuals in creating environmental problems in comparison to the much greater impacts generated by industry, institutions, and government. In addition to a failure to appropriately assign responsibility, such accounts have also presented environmental issues as equivalent in importance, despite the reality that vulnerable populations are more greatly impacted by issues such as climate change and toxic waste dumping.

In today’s digital age, however, alternative environmental information, discourses, and social groups and movements are more readily available online. Several examples of alternative sources and messages and their implications for the environmental movement are discussed.

Despite the continued dominance of the long-standing representations summarized above, the online space provides new opportunities for environmental messages that are more socially responsible and just. Their greater availability makes them a more effective counter-narrative to the dominant, thus creating a new opportunity for democratic deliberation of these crucial issues as well as becoming a richer resource for the teaching and practice of critical media literacy.

---------------- PAPER #2

“Media Literacy vs. Digital-Media Literacy: A Necessary Separation?”

By: Jennifer Malson

ABSTRACT: This paper discusses the historical and theoretical transformation of media literacy into digital media literacy. It seeks to better understand the reason for their separation, and questions the need for separation.

While commonly distinguished from media literacy, digital media literacy seems to share more with media literacy rather than differ from it. Indeed, both emphasize the importance of developing the skills required to participate in media production and consumption, and those needed to engage in communication and social action. The only real difference in their definitions is the focus of digital media literacy on specifically digital tools and digital access to information and resources.

Media literacy also shares with digital media literacy general goals. One goal of both these literacies is to develop more robust abilities in audiences for interpreting messages. A second goal is to help an audience move beyond interpretation to better comprehend the determining relationships between medium, audience, and creator. These and other commonalities are explored in more detail.

A less-beneficial commonality between both, however, is that research on both literacies commonly confines its relevant venue to either an educational or a practical setting. The opportunity missed by doing so is to address the extension of media and digital literacy from an educational to a practical setting. Thus, rather than regard these two settings as separate, this paper proposes a transformational perspective, which extends the skills learned in a classroom into their application in everyday activity.

---------------

PAPER #3

“Toward Critical Media Literacy 2.0”

By: James F. Hamilton

ABSTRACT: This paper seeks to recognize a) the determinations of current conceptions and practices of the emancipatory project of critical media literacy, b) key ways in which it has been refracted and called into question by the proliferation of digital/social media. It concludes by contributing to a retheorization of critical media literacy that more successfully grapples with the challenges presented by digital/social media.

Critical media literacy is a recent iteration of media criticism, which itself dates in the U.S. as an explicit practice from at least the early 20th Century. Instead of being concerned largely with messages and their interpretation, critical media literacy has sought to build an understanding of the need for new kinds of media institutions and work. It focuses as much if not more on the defects of commercial and statist institutions themselves, and advocates for progressive-democratic alternatives.

Digital/social media present great theoretical and practical challenges to the conception and practice of critical media literacy. Among them is the ambivalence of their position. They are used both as a means of manipulation as well as a means of critically responding to it.

One way of gaining greater clarity on what digital/social media bring to critical media literacy is to rethink what critical media literacy might be in relation to digital/social media. Some recent example remap critical media literacy from the teaching of tools to “correctly” interpret messages (thus creating a relation of dependency between the teacher and students) to empowering the user herself in exploring how digital media institutions and networks operate in relation to strategic media campaigns of obfuscation and deception. One such example is StopFake.Org, a project of Kyiv Mohyla (Ukraine) Journalism School lecturers, graduates and students along with the KMA Digital Future of Journalism project (stopfake.org). Rather than present itself as the arbiter of what is true or not (a dependent relationship between it as the authority and those who rely on it as its subjects), it presents various means and strategies by which individuals might usedigital media itself to investigate the propagation, substance and spread of doctored accounts. Such activity builds individual abilities instead of dependencies while it makes room for individuals to explore and draw their own conclusions.

While projects such as these have yet to fully socialize such inquiry or to sufficiently extend it to a consideration of new modes of media institution and work, they provide new directions for thinking about what critical media literacy might be and what it might yet become.