Monday, June 27, 2016

Report from #2ndEURMIL Digital ecosystem; Media Literacy; Propaganda

The Second European Media and Information Literacy Forum opened this afternoon in Riga, Latvia. I was chairing the first session. I also spoke in the first plenary session. As I was on the platform being in full liveblogging mode would look impolite, so these are just (belated) brief notes of the speakers with who I shared a platform. Mr Toms Meisitis, Member of the Board of Latvian Information and Communications Technology Association (LIKTA) was talking about the development of the new digital information eco-system, talking about the radical changes in distribution of TV, Video etc. He noted how formerly separate industries were merging, as people were able to consume different types of content on the same device. He felt that to be media and informaton literate you had to be digitally literate, as everything transitioned to digital form - though here the emphasis was on media rather than information more broadly. Meisitis also noted the impact on local industry structures, as stakeholders in the process were no longer restricted to a specific geographic region, although local content was still very important. He felt that regulation lagged behind industry and technological development. He raised an interesting issue of whether Europe could (or should?) aim to regulate what is an increasingly global market.
Meisitis finished by identifying the need for people of all ages to develop digital skills, the need to fight piracy, and the need for more proactive application of regulation, amongst other issues.

The second speaker was Ms Mari Sol Pérez Guevara, Policy Officer responsible for Media Literacy, European Commission, who started by defining media literacy, stressing in particular the importance of critical thinking. She identified the need for media literacy because: "A healthy democracy requires the participation of well-informed citizens"; it is "Response to a changing and increasingly complex media landscape resulting from the digital revolution" and "Media literacy [is] a tool to support democracy". She elaborated these points, including a Brexit example (that a survey had shown there was strong correlation between people using specific newspaper advocating remain or leave the EU, and the way the reader voted: possibly indicating a lack of examination of alternative sources). Another issues she used was the use of social media to fight against radicalisation and counter propaganda.
Pérez Guevara moved on to outline the role of the European Commission: to "Discover, bring to light, document and extend good practices in the field of media literacy"; "Facilitate networking between different stakeholders" and "Explore synergies between different EU policies and media literacy initiatives". One of their initiatives is the Expert Group on Media Literacy. She described their engagement with specific EC directives and initiatives and also talked about the EP Pilot project "Media Literacy for all". There was apparently recently a debate in the European Parliament about media literacy: an indication of increased concerns. Finally talked about the European Council's "Conclusions on developing media literacy and critical thinking through education and training"
The Media Literacy website is

After my talk (which I will blog separately) the last speaker in the session was Renee Hobbs, Professor of Communication Studies, Harrington School of Communication and Media, University of Rhode Island. Her topic was Media Literacy and Contemporary Propaganda. She noticed the rise of apathy and anger, expressed via social media, resulting in increased polarisation. She had asked teachers why they were not doing more to integrate news and current events into the classroom. Reasons or anxieties included that students were not interested, that it was too controversial, that teachers were not well informed enough or that they had different views to the managers at their school. She had created which enabled people to discuss and engage with propaganda issues. She identified how propaganda could be found in all sorts of area of life (including education) and noted key characteristics of propaganda - in particular how it taps into our own hopes and fears. On the Mind over Matter website people are encouraged to create galleries of propaganda, which you can rate on a scale from beneficial to harmful.
Hobbs felt that evaluating propaganda in this way can help stimulate curiosity and counter apathy. She identified MIL as a civic literacy, so that people were enouraged to engage in social change.
Photo by Sheila Webber: Latvian National Library, the conference venue

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