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The multiple faces of Media Literacy

I attended the informative “Your Media, Your Tools” dissemination event at Leicester’s De Montfort University run by the Community Media Association (CMA) last Friday. It included a presentation by Ofcom talking about their media literacy agenda, as well as radio and video groups from across the UK showcasing the results of their involvement in CMA’s media literacy project.

It has always struck me just how slippery the term ‘media literacy’ is, with a different emphasis depending on the agenda of the person talking about it. I used to get frustrated by what I saw as a watering down of the notion, wanting the literacy aspect to acknowledged as the critical pedagogy that resides in community media activity, and that was me wearing my personal agenda on my sleeve. I now feel however it would be more useful to slow my judgement and analyse each different face of media literacy in its own right, as each interpretation of the term contains pragmatic, theoretical and/or ideological meaning for each different type of user, so that is worth looking at without undue dismissal.

In future articles I will be exploring the idea of media literacy in the nine predominant guises that I have seen it discussed within the community media sector, media education events, published research and academia. As with all identities of phenomena there is some overlap different contexts, though they will be analysed from the perspective of emphasis, and therefore argue that the identities described here are valid. Notions described in the future will be:

–  Media Literacy as media savvy
–  Media Literacy as semiotics
–  Media Literacy as creative activism
–  Media Literacy as cross-curricula engagement
–  Media Literacy as IT support
–  Media Literacy as media sector training
–  Media Literacy as process
–  Media Literacy as informed media consumption and media use

Interestingly, given this fractious identity, the actual definition of media literacy itself is, with slight variations, mostly settled in a broad consensus without too much debate. It is the interpretation of the accepted definition which is the cause of the majority of debate. Even though there is not one single definition, in loose terms it is widely acknowledged as being about;

– the right to have access to media platforms & tools;
– the need for people to be empowered to understand the media and its ever changing nuances;
– the ability to create media communications if so desired.

Some example of this are;

Ofcom’s definition is; “the ability to access, understand and create communications in a variety of contexts.” They acknowlegde they are mostly concerned with media literacy as applied to digital technology and that people should be able to use the equipment to get the most out of it. (Media Literacy as Media Savvy / Media Literacy as IT support).

According to The Media Literacy Task Force:
“If people are to participate fully at work or in their community, or communicate effectively with family, friends and colleagues globally, or consume media intelligently they need to be media savvy. They need to understand how media works and to feel comfortable questioning what they watch and read. They need a sense of who knows or owns what, and to what extent what you see is really what you get. And, very importantly, they need to become confident in using and exploiting the possibilities of new devices and media channels.”
(Media Literacy as Media Savvy / Media Literacy as informed media consumption and media use / Media Literacy as semiotics / Media Literacy as IT support)

The Center for Media Literacy‘s view is: the ability to communicate competently in all media forms as well as to access, understand, analyze, evaluate and participate with powerful images, words and sounds that make up our contemporary mass media culture. Indeed, we believe these skills of media literacy are essential for both children and adults as individuals and as citizens of a democratic society.
(Media Literacy as Media Savvy / Media Literacy as creative activism / Media Literacy as process)

At some point in the not-to-distant future I will expand on these ideas in a case by case basis in future blog articles, and also write this up as a full academic referenced paper.

Until then, thanks for popping by. Comments always welcome.

Shawn

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WiFi Radiation investigation – Response to Panorama, BBC1, 21st May 2007

Summary of programme: WiFi is bad for you. The radiation may give you cancer and is on par with mobile phone masts, but potentially more harmful due to plans to have WiFi in every school in the UK. Children’s skulls are softer and thus are more prone to serious harm. The government are ignoring research from WHO which suggests harm and are pressing ahead regardless.

– —
The War on drugs. War on junk food. Smoking bans. Binge drinking awareness campaigns. It seems whatever is bad for us that we choose to consume in our own bodies is being outlawed or stigmatised by government. But advances in technology that MAY also be bad for us, but are external to our bodies and that we have no control over, are being embraced, if not enforced by government.

We are discouraged to consciously consume harmful substances, but are being forced to unconsciously be exposed to potentially harmful radiation. There’s some tricky ethics at play there.

I use WiFi when I’m in the city centre, but I know for sure that the only reason I don’t have it in my house is because I was never comfortable about the levels of radiation. I didn’t ever know what the levels would be, but I knew I wasn’t comfortable with whatever they were. Of course I use a mobile, etc so am a hypocrite – but in this day and age all a city person living in the West could be described as someone just trying to juggle their lives as best they can considering the environment and fair trade and healthy eating and equality issues and work/life balance and ethical banking and free-range and all the other small print in modern living. We are all hypocrites, and it would be a hypocrite who says any different. It’s not really about our individual carbon footprints, as that is too selective. It really about our Footprint in totality, but that is too unwieldy and unpalatable to comprehend.

We love new technology because it is convenient and makes things faster. For example: MP3 players are popular because you can store your whole record collection on them and each new version of player allows you to access each track slightly easier/quicker than the previous model. Mobile phones, computers, digibox, HDTV, the list goes on. Once we’ve got them it’s damn difficult to give them up. So if mobile phones prove to be harmful. And WiFi, and bluetooth and Sky dishes and god knows what else is pumped across our airwaves. Who will be the ones to unplug, switch off and consign these “bright idea but harmful” gadgets into the locked drawers? And who will be the ones to continue using, in the same way that many still smoke, knowing it is bad for their health and others, but they like it and in it’s own way keeps them sane. If I didn’t have my mobile phone and email and the Internet I too would go slightly potty I’m sure.

Hypocrites the lot of us but what can we do?

1) Accept things as they are without questioning.

2) Embrace things (technology). All this talk is just scare mongering.

3) Pretend we’ve never heard anything and carry on regardless.

4) Move to the countryside and live like the Good Life.

5) Pray.

6) All of the above.

I don’t know where this article is going just in the same way I don’t know where I’m going.

Actually that’s a lie. No matter how much I love the Internet and other modern trappings, I now need to turn them all off and go to bed. When all said and done we are nothing but flesh and bone and are not invincible. We would do well to remember that.

See> Schools want urgent wi-fi advice

See comments and opposing opinions at Debate on Possible Health Risk from Wireless

If you missed the programme you can watch again here

Coming to a desktop near you……?

Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Burma/Myanmar, China, Ethiopia, India, Iran, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, UAE, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Yemen.

Fpr your info, these are a list of guilty countries that filter (aka censor) the internet.

To read the full article click here.