The millennial generation is clearly conversant with the technical aspects of our information age but young people are among the most vulnerable to media misapplications. There is a tendency towards manipulation of data and information flow in the attention economy. Students need to acquire the knowledge and skills to distinguish between fact and fiction in our highly digitalized and mediatized world. Media literacy is becoming an essential component of education. It is not only of vital importance to develop critical thinking to recognize disinformation but also to harness the full potential of the media in a creative way.
What exactly is media literacy and how should it be taught most effectively? How can media literacy be used to nurture digital citizenship? How can young media consumers become creative innovators? In this selection of articles, specialists in this field bring their own insights and perspectives to the role of media literacy in the digital age.
Media Literacy’s Pivotal Role in a Disinformation Society
Ms Eva Van Passel
Media Programme Manager, Evens Foundation
Why is Media Education Critical in Today’s Attention Economy?
Mr. Paolo Celot
Secretary General, European Association for Viewers Interests (EAVI)
What is Media Literacy and How Should We Teach it?
Ms Tessa Jolls
President and CEO, Center for Media Literacy
Preparing African Youth for a Post-Truth World
Mr. Chido Onumah
Coordinator, African Centre for Media & Information Literacy
Diverse Discourse, Limited Action: Media Literacy in East Asia
Dr. Tzu-bin Lin
Associate professor, National Taiwan Normal University
Nurturing Young Citizens’ Creativity in Media Use
Deputy head, Research Department of JFF – Institute for Media Research and Media Education
We can however make sure that our attitudes and our actions are not completely determined by the media through becoming media literate citizens. Therefore, it is our aim at the JFF – Institute for Media Research and Education to empower young people to use the media in an independent and socially responsible way.
Media literacy is part of the concept of communicative competence which means to be an active member of society and to contribute to its development. Various factors influence how we use the media. Among those concerning children and young people are: social environment, cognitive development and media content.
Knowledge. In technical terms, this means having the skills of knowing how to access the media and understand how it operates. There is also an economic aspect of this which involves understanding the relations between big media companies and the commercial agendas behind their operations.
Reflection. It is necessary to consider one’s own media usage carefully in order to use it in a well-informed and appropriate way. For example, we need to think about whether it is necessary to use WhatsApp if there are other messengers that care more about personal data.
Action. Action combine knowledge and reflection and means how somebody uses the media to fulfill their needs as an individual and a member of society.
Knowledge, reflection, and action are important elements in the use of the media for orientation in a complex world, for active civic participation and for defining one’s position in society with all its cultural and religious rules, economic interests, and its basic values and behavioral norms and expectations.
The development of media literacy can best be nurtured if young people can experience themselves the potential and also the limitations of the media by using it in projects where they have the advice of experts. As an illustration of this, I want to introduce two current pilot projects of JFF.
The first is called “Plan North-East”. In this project, young people are encouraged to deal with the development of the city in which they live. The problem is that the urban population is increasing exponentially but there is not enough space for everyone. Young people think about solutions for this problem by using the media. For example, they install a talkbox where citizens can communicate their needs and ideas. By using the video game, Minecraft, they design new living quarters and create short video clips to explain the problem.
The second project is “Action Against Prejudice”. This project also involves young people from different cultural backgrounds dealing with the problem of prejudice in society and in their environment. Experts, teachers and youth workers assist students in producing video and audio clips against prejudice and for more tolerance.
The two projects show how the media can influence attitudes and development. Young people learn how to use the media in a literate way for their purposes as active digital citizens.