Friday, May 21, 2010

Article note: On extending media literacy

Citation for the article:

Nijboer, Jelke and Esther Hammelburg, "Extending Media Literacy: a New Direction for Libraries." New Library World 111. 1/2 (2010): 36-45.

Read via Emerald.

This article is mostly a call to arms in terms of teaching about media literacy and the role libraries need to take in this endeavor. This is a challenge given the common view that the Internet is replacing libraries. While I do think the Internet has had some impact, I do not believe it is totally replacing libraries. If anything, given the current economic climate, we may need libraries more than ever. Even if it is for people just using computers, those people still need some education on information and media literacy, and if they are doing job seeking, they need additional help as well. But I am briefly digressing.

The authors go on to argue that fast and easy seem to be the most important criteria when it comes to searching for information online. Reliability of that information is less of a concern to the average person. Consistent with other articles I have read (like this one, or this one, or better yet this one), the authors also note that users often are not aware of their own gaps in media literacy, or in information literacy for that matter. The authors also note that teaching faculty often do not have a clue in terms of evaluation criteria of search results or what students select to use in their assignments. Information literacy and instruction librarians are then not going away anytime soon. The authors do advocate for the library taking a more active role and collaborating with those in the field of education and media production. After all, the library is already a place involved in education, culture, reading, and social spaces.

My notes and comments:

  • Opening questions, which I think are questions we, in general, should be thinking about: "How can the library position itself within the field of media literacy? And is the library suitable for implementing policies concerning media literacy?" I need to think about the first one, but I would answer in the affirmative to the second one.
  • The definition of media literacy for purposes of the article: "Media literacy can be defined as the sum of knowledge, skills, and attitude which citizens need to act in a conscious, critical and active way within a complex, changing, and fundamentally medialised world (RvC, 2005)" (qtd. in 37). The citation goes to this website.
  • This note on the notion of citizenship caught my eye: "Citizenship is usually interpreted in the political sense of the electorate. Citizenship then means being informed and participating in debate within a public sphere. Within this traditional discourse of citizenship, media are predominantly appreciated for their function to inform and criticize" (37). The reason this caught my eye is because it seemed way too idealistic. The media, especially in the United States, has pretty much abdicated any pretense at a function to inform and criticize anything. See Pierce's book Idiot America for some examples of what I mean. Here is my book note on the book for anyone interested.
  • The authors cite H. Jenkins of MIT who "claims that the focus of literacy has shifted from individual expression to community involvement" (qtd. in 38). I am not sure how much of this is true. I think there is still plenty of room for individual expression, but yes, there has been a move to community involvement online. Jenkins writes on participatory culture. You can find one of Jenkins's papers here; the new media literacy project over here.
  • Link to the European Charter for Media Literacy cited in the article. The item of interest for our purposes is their list of media literacy competencies, which is here. See item #2 on their list regarding what a media literate person should be able to do. Not only does it overlap things we say in information literacy, but it also highlights how bad the media in the United States is failing in this area, let alone our educational institutions in teaching people about media literacy.
  • Nice UNESCO statement cited in the article, which I think is something we need to work on more: "Everyone should be able to analyse and critically reflect upon the media. People must be competent to interpret messages and values provided by the media. All citizens should have access to the variety of media available for both consumption and production. Citizens also need the skills to create media messages, and select appropriate media platforms for telling their stories and communicating with others" (39). We have a long way to go on this.
  • Another thing that is rarely taught. And this is definitely something that librarians teaching information literacy can (and should) be teaching more in their classes: "Addressing the issue of media ownership--who produces the content that we use--helps you to judge media content" (40). For example, when I worked as Instruction Librarian in Houston, I provided instruction on issues of media ownership and helped students do research as part of a unit some of the English Comp. professors did on Clear Channel using Project Censored as a starting point. This is the kind of stuff we need to be teaching more.
  • A good point, but not as applicable in the U.S. at least as long as we continue to have the big digital divide we have. The statement: "Broadband and the further development of the internet and the phenomenon of social networking means that an ever-growing number of passive media consumers turn into media producers, making use of interactive opportunities of the internet to create independent content" (41). And without some education, some of those "producers" will just be adding to the clutter and misinformation already out on the internet.
  • While I bristled a bit at the idea of "old fashioned" information skills (print is not going away anytime soon no matter what Steve Jobs or the Amazon guy say), this is a good point and one libraries need to embrace: "Social networking offers the library and others opportunities to create new media literacy programmes and to move away from their traditional role in teaching only 'old fashioned' information skills and textual literacy to a broader competence based training and coaching in the proper use of the various media available. This role has to be expanded" (42).

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