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
Diverse Discourse, Limited Action: Media Literacy in East Asia
Dr. Tzu-bin Lin
Associate professor, National Taiwan Normal University
Media Literacy: A Key to Digital Citizenship
Dr. Lesley Farmer
Professor, California State University Long Beach
Preparing African Youth for a Post-Truth World
Coordinator, African Centre for Media & Information Literacy
It is in this new milieu of what Ralph Keyes, author of The Post-Truth Era, refers to as the “routinization of dishonesty” that young people around world must operate. Whether in Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana, Egypt or Kenya, young people in Africa are up against a phenomenon that is increasingly taking on a life of its own and clearly difficult to contain.
Considering the challenge above, what must young people in Africa do in the digital and Post-Truth Era? How do we help them to understand the deeper meaning of information and assist them in processing them? How prepared are African youth in dealing with “fake news,” hate speech, and the Post-Truth phenomenon? The way forward is to develop competences that can help them wade through the fog of information overload. Herein lies the value of media and information literacy (MIL).
Canadian media educator, Rick Shepherd, defines media literacy as “an informed critical understanding of the mass media.” It is this critical understanding that is at the core of why media and information literacy is so important. According to Shepherd, “it involves the examination of the techniques, technologies and institutions that are involved in media production, the ability to critically analyse media messages, and a recognition of the roles that audiences play in making meaning from those messages.”
Media and information literacy provides a strong platform for young people around the world to understand what is happening in other places, share experiences, promote intercultural and interreligious dialogue, enhance development and democracy, and work collectively for a better world. Young people in Africa cannot afford to isolate themselves from these lofty goals.
In this, everyone - governments, teachers, students, parents, caregivers, research institutes, libraries, the media, and civil society organisations - has a role to play. Across the continent, we need to develop model strategies to determine the quality of media and information literacy and the level of access to MIL amongst the various stakeholders, particularly young people.
We need to embrace the potentials and threats of the Internet and social media. Young people in Africa need to brace up to the challenges of the digital age. MIL can help them achieve this goal. But it calls for commitment and sustained injection of resources, both human and material, as well as institutional support for agencies and programmes that enhance MIL.