Friday, June 5, 2009

Media Conversations Begun

So, we're off to a good start with our Media Conversations 6 conference on media literacy and media education, with a very nice turn out last night, something on the order of 75 people. We began with a presentation by Eric Goodman aka Thus Spoke the Spectacle, the subject of a couple of previous posts here on Blog Time Passing (Thus Spoke the Spectacle and The Spectacle Speaks Again). And we had the premiere New York City screening of Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood, a new documentary by the Media Education Foundation, which you can read about, see a preview of, and order by clicking here.

Then we had a keynote presentation by Tom de Zengotita, who argued for an expanded and deepened notion of media literacy, going beyond the standard political/ideological analysis and critique of commercialism. He talked about the underlying ideology of funism, as he put it, that kids live in a state of entertainment. I kind of like that, because he is essentially saying that entertainment is an environment, and his argument is very much from a media ecology perspective reminiscent of Postman, and McLuhan, both of whom Tom cited in his talk.

So, television is fun, videogames are fun, and so is the do-it-yourself culture--making your own media content is fun. Cable news punditry, blogs and blog comments are all about fun, in the sense of dueling or professional wrestling. There's nothing to be learned from any of those exchanges, it's just entertaining to see people have at each other.

The same is true for believing in whatever, as Tom put it, like ghosts, UFOs, the Mayan calendar, etc. It's fun to believe. And when challenged, Tom notes, people say that they have a right to believe what they want to believe, it's an entitlement, and no one has a right to question it, what you believe is a part of who you are, and who you are is a self-construction (here he points to postmodernist constructivism), and you are entitled to construct your own identity.

Tom's conclusion is that, to obtain a deeper sense of media literacy, we need to teach students about constructivism, and funism, and encourage students to be critical of these cultural currents, and the media that are responsible for them, and their own role in perpetuating them.

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