Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Media Conversations Concluded

So, on the afternoon of the third day of the Media Conversations VI conference, continuing the Saturday program at Fordham's Lincoln Center campus, we had a special presentation on the part of The LAMP (Learning About Multimedia Project) (and yeah, go click it or you can stick it... never mind). It was a screening and discussion, and it was just sensational, not surprising since it involved Katherine Fry of Brooklyn College, who is The LAMP, along with D. C. Vito, who proved to be no slouch himself. Their emphasis in media literacy is on family, so they deal with youth, parents, and teachers, and get them involved in both making and gaining critical insight into media. As an interesting example, they showed us a video documenting a media scavenger hunt that families took part in, that had family groups walking around and recording every example of media that they saw, with quite revealing results.

They have their own YouTube Channel, which I linked up for you, and which I recommend checking out. But I'll embed some of the videos they showed us here for you to see more easily. For example, they've had several Talking Back commercials, and if you go look at them on YouTube, you'll see they've drawn quite a few heated comments. Here's one that, appropriately enough, involves a lamppost:

Cute, huh? Here's another for Bratz:

Here's an adorable example of LAMP Kids News Show:

And here's an example of The LAMP Family Videos, where families get a chance to make their own video:

And everyone was very impressed with this kid-made documentary about gender stereotypes:

All of the above and more were screened at the conference, but one they didn't show that I just found on their YouTube channel is a video poem "Mammals v. Robots" and I just had to include it here as well:

Anyway, you can check them out on YouTube, on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, and of course explore their website, The LAMP.

The final session of the day, a panel discussion titled Mapping the Media, had a general semantics orientation. Renee Hobbs of Temple University, one of the leaders of the media literacy movement, spoke about the differences between the map and the territory in relation to copyright and fair use, and also in regard to the differences between what teachers and kids mean by the internet. She also discussed the concept of news literacy, noting that the emphasis there seems to be on recognizing good journalism and quality sources of information, as opposed to also attending to the political and economic context of the news industry; in other words, Renee suggested that they are concerned with the ideal as opposed to the real and the critical.

Martin Levinson, president of the Institute of General Semantics, also talked about journalism as an effort to map the territory of real events. He discussed the noted communication scholar John C. Merrill, whose book, Journalism Ethics, includes a chapter entitled "Korzybski to the Rescue" which makes perfect sense, when you think about it, general semantics being an ethical system in many ways. Interestingly, I was recently asked by Tom Cooper of Emerson College if the IGS would be willing to be one of the sponsors of Media Ethics magazine, and this certainly makes the decision an easy one. And I hope to see Merrill at the Media Ecology Association's annual meeting next week.

Bill Petkanas of Western Connecticut State University, and editor of ETC: A Review of General Semantics, also got into the old map and territory, noting that different people have different maps for the same territory, and posed the question of who is news a map for? Of course one good answer is enlightened citizens, that's what journalists assume, although consumers is another answer that comes up quite often, especially among audiences. Bill also talked about the problem that people nowadays tend to see the news media as biased and self-serving, that there's a tendency to encourage a cynical view of news in the classroom, under the guise of being critical, and that this is exacerbated by news organizations attaching one another.

Dan Latorre, a social media consultant who worked for Scholastic Magazines for a time, talked about social media as an ecosystem, drawing on the perspective of Edward T. Hall, an important foundational scholar in the media ecology intellectual tradition. I particularly liked the point he made about how different people play different roles in the context of social media, one for example collecting information, another filtering, a third being creative, while a fourth acting simply as a spectator. I am sure that researchers in the area of group communication, like my friend Larry Fry (see my previous post, The Fragile Community) have already applied their sophisticated taxonomy of group roles to social media. Anyway, Dan stressed the idea of social media as an ecosystem, and the need of media litearcy to be associated with social literacy and cultural literacy.

And Thom Gencarelli of Manhattan College (and Vice-President of the Media Ecology Association, as well as a Trustee of the Institute of General Semantics), who was the moderator of the session, talked about the challenges that exist in mapping the media when they keep changing the borders. He talked about different models of communciation, including the media environments model that media ecologists tend to use, and posed the question of whether digital technologies represent a new revolution, or a continuation of the revolution associated with electric and audiovisual technologies (I think it is very much a continuation, with electric technologies coming into full fruition only with the advent of the digital).

A lively discussion with the audience ensued, a fitting and quite pleasurable way to finish off an exciting and stimulating three days of conversations about media, education, and youth. My thanks to David Walczyk of Pratt Institute, and Meir Ribalow and the Players Club, for their contributions--together we put together an outstanding event!

But best of all, Media Conversatons VI has been successfully concluded! Over and done! Whew!

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