How do Digital Media & Learning (DML) and Media Literacy Communities Connect? Why is it important that these communities work together towards common goals?
Henry Jenkins and Tessa Jolls on the meaning of Media Literacy and the need for a strong coalition of advocates regardless of the name.
This conversation first appeared on Henry Jenkins’ blog Confessions of an Aca-Fan then in CML’s newsletter Connections (Oct/Nov. 2014).
Henry: When I and other researchers from MIT wrote the 2006 white paper, Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century, we were very aware of building on the foundations of the Media Literacy movement as it had taken shape in North America over the prior several decades. We made a number of gestures across the paper, which were intended to pay tribute to what had been accomplished, to signal the continuities as well as differences to our vision for the "new media literacies." For example, early in the paper, we emphasized that the newer skills and competencies we were identifying built on the foundation of traditional print-based literacies, core research skills, core technical skills, and media literacies. We wrote, "As media literacy advocates have claimed during the past several decades, students also must acquire a basic understanding of the ways media representations structure our perceptions of the world; the economic and cultural contexts within which mass media is produced and circulated; the motives and goals that shape the media they consume; and alternative practices that operate outside the commercial mainstream...What we are calling here the new media literacies should be taken as an expansion of, rather than a substitution for, the mass media literacies." (20). Later, in the document, we do challenge whether some of the core frameworks of the media literacy movement have been adequately framed to acknowledge and take account of instances where young people are themselves producing and circulating media, rather than consuming media produced by others, but these were intended as fairly local critiques in recognition of the need to continually reappraise and reframe our tools to reflect new developments and new contexts. This same passage flags what we saw as some of the core virtues of those same conceptual frameworks: "There is much to praise in these questions: they understand media as operating within a social and cultural context; they recognize that what we take from a message is different from what the author intended; they focus on interpretation and context as well as motivation; they are not tied up with a language of victimization...One of the biggest contributions of the media literacy movement has been this focus on inquiry, identifying key questions that can be asked of a broad range of different media forms and experiences." (59)
If we flash forward to the current moment, it seems that there remain many mutual misunderstandings between advocates for media literacy (who come from these rich traditions) and newer researchers who have entered the field through the Digital Media and Learning tradition.
Tessa: I remember well the excitement that I felt when you published your white paper in 2006 (Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century) -- it was (and is!) a profound and and a document that contributed great advances to understanding significant examination of the new media emerging from the technology advances of our time, and media literacy skills needed in our society. Personally, I’ve always embraced your work because I see the added-value to the field and how it builds upon and is compatible with what has come before, and I’ve been puzzled as to why there seem to be rifts when it is far more beneficial to acknowledge our commonality and to leverage it to gain traction in the bigger world of education.
I agree that there are mutual misunderstandings between media literacy advocates who have long practiced in the field and newer researchers who have entered the field through the Digital Media and Learning tradition. BUT because media literacy education has been ignored and neglected in schools through the years, there was no foundation laid for why media literacy is important, for its foundational concepts and for how to deliver the pedagogy (more on the foundation needed later). There were few if any troops to call on to be able to deliver media literacy education — very few had been taught, and no one could then teach it on the mass scale that is needed. And efforts to penetrate the education system in the U.S. meet with resistance since the system itself is based on a 20th century approach emphasizing content knowledge over process skills and a factory model that is incompatible with the collaborative networks and new curricular approaches needed today.
One response to the frustrations of dealing with the education system was — and is — to put technology in the hands of the youth and have faith that they will figure it all out. Using the technology approach, the iPhone is the “school” and anyone who uses it adeptly is the master and anyone over 30 is, well, handicapped at best. New technologies enable this approach because now, hardware and software are available and production has been democratized — everyone is a producer, a collaborator, a distributor and a participant. While experiential and project-based learning is truly exciting and an important component of media literacy, it is not synonymous because the outcome of the technology approach is often limited to technical proficiency without critical autonomy. Whether using an iPad, a pencil or a videocam, pressing the right buttons is important but not enough! This is where many media literacy advocates, including myself, feel that the train has left the station because some researchers, educators and parents, too, think that just learning to use the technology is enough (they probably don’t know about or have access to alternatives) and they pursue technology projects with no credible media literacy components.
Henry: MacArthur Foundation (Digital Media & Learning Initiative) was pretty committed to the phrase, New Media Literacies, so we worked hard to try to figure out what kind of meaning to attach to it. I did want to signal continuities with the Media Literacy movement, so it did not seem altogether a problematic term, but I was also worried about the connotations you describe here. This is one reason why I was so explicit that we were not leaving behind traditional literacies, media literacy, research skills, or technical skills, but that what we were describing were an added layer or an extension of each that now needed to be factored into our consideration of what an ideal curriculum looked like. I did not want to imply that these skills were entirely new -- many were things we should have and some of us had been teaching all along -- nor were they exclusively about new media per se. We’ve always insisted that these were not technical skills but rather social skills and cultural competencies, and that these were things that can be taught in low tech or no tech ways (and should be, rather than waiting for low income schools to catch up in terms of their technical infrastructure before introducing these literacies into the curriculum.) Despite having spent much of my career at MIT, I have worked hard to avoid any and all forms of technological determinism.
Still, there’s some rhetorical power to attaching yourself to the digital revolution rhetoric (as well as many pitfalls) insofar as it provides some urgency to the message, but ultimately I frame these skills in relation to the idea of a participatory culture rather than in terms of digital change. This is also why I have had reservations all along about the phrase, Digital Media and Learning, since it implies that we are interested only or exclusively in digital media, and that has never been my focus. Keep in mind both that I wrote the white paper in the wake of writing Convergence Culture, which was all about “Where old and new media collide,” and that it emerged from the context of the Comparative Media Studies program, which studied the interplay across media. We find that when we do workshops for teachers and students, they often anticipate that technologies are going to be much more central to our work than they are. Our first task is always to achieve that shift from a focus on technologies to a focus on culture.
And like you, I share concern that in many cases, we are now bringing technologies into the classroom as if doing so would substitute for a more comprehensive approach to media literacy. As Liz Losh notes in her recent book, the focus on technology turns media education into something that can be sold -- like getting whole school districts to buy iPads -- and can be purchased from the school budget, rather than something which as the white paper suggests, should require a fundamental paradigm shift in the ways we teach all school subjects.
That said, I got into some trouble with the original white paper in reducing the rich kinds of conceptual models that surround, say, the Computer Club House movement to purely technical skills comparable to penmanship. Most of the work which gets presented at the Digital Media Literacy (DML) conference is about the fusion of hands-on technical processes, whether tied to hacking, games-based learning, the Maker movement, etc., with rich conceptual frameworks which are intended to allow people to understand at a deeper level how the constraints and affordances of digital media impact the world around us. To me, this is a kind of media literacy, though less tied to notions of representation or messaging than previous kinds of media literacy work. If one does not displace the other, they certainly can co-exist within a more comprehensive model which considers the nature of platforms and programming alongside the questions about who produces which representations for which audiences with which motives.
In many ways, what we were trying to do with the white paper was to build a coalition which would include people interested in engaging with new media platforms and practices, people committed to promoting media literacy, and teachers seeking new ways to animate the teaching of their disciplines. Where our work has been successful, we have brought together these interests. Such an approach has tended as you suggest here to pull media literacy advocates into more active engagement with notions of media change and new technologies, but it also has the intent to draw people who want to teach using new technology to confront the participation gap, the transparency issues, and the ethical challenges we identify in the white paper and through doing so, to pull media literacy more actively into their teaching practice.
Tessa: Henry, I applaud your action and know that your intentions are the absolute best. Most importantly, we agree on the primary goal of media literacy education: as you said, media literacy requires a fundamental paradigm shift in ways to teach all subjects. Media literacy education— whether it is high tech or low tech — primarily concerns itself with teaching and learning the conceptual underpinnings beneath contextualizing, acquiring and applying content knowledge. Learners gain content knowledge through using their media literacy skills — and these skills are applicable to any content any time, any where on a lifelong basis. Sometimes this process has little or nothing to do with technology, although I will note that access to technology in the U.S. Is widespread: in our experience at CML, in the poorest communities in the U.S., cell phones and applications like video games proliferate, but these technologies are frequently barred in the classroom.
This changed education paradigm is a radical shift in cultural and education systems where formal learning worldwide has traditionally been confined to content silos whose subject matter is warehoused in physical textbooks and dumped into students’ heads. Since these traditions have dominated since Gutenberg’s invention of the press, they are rooted deeply in our culture. “Mastery” is no longer the goal for education; constant improvement on a continuum of learning is what we are seeking, while recognizing that some will inevitably be more skilled than others in various domains. As Len Masterman, a professor from the University of Nottingham and a media literacy visionary, said his Eighteen Basic Principles in 1989, “...you can teach about the media most effectively, not through a content-centered approach, but through the application of a conceptual framework which can help pupils to make sense of any media text (this includes media texts created by users and
software “texts"). And that applies every bit as much to the new digitized technologies as it did to the old mass media...The acid test of whether a media course has been successful resides in students’ ability to respond critically to media texts they will encounter (or create) in the future. Media education is nothing if it is not an education for life."
We at CML like to say that thanks to technology, the content is infinitely variable, plentiful and available, but that the media literacy process skills of "learning how to learn” and to be critically autonomous are the constants that learners need to practice and employ and constantly improve — and because of the lack of understanding and training of both teachers and learners, these skills are scarce. It is going to take more than a village to institutionalize media literacy education. Policy initiatives, coalitions, professional associations, researchers etc. will all play a vital part in realizing this global imperative.
Which brings me to the point that being media literate, undertaking research and development, teaching media literacy, and institutionalizing media literacy are widely divergent roles which require various degrees of media literacy knowledge and skills. Who needs what knowledge when, and for what purpose? Masterman noted that ...”media are symbolic sign systems that must be decoded (and encoded). The central unifying concept of media literacy is that of representation (what is represented through media to us and what we represent to others through media).” Researchers who explore the vanguard of media literacy — such as you and many of those who are part of the DML community — may have a different goal for media literacy education than preschool teachers, and yet each is in the business of sharing knowledge about media literacy and helping youth and adults to understand and be able to describe and navigate symbolic media systems — whether these systems are technology-based or not. I do not see conflict — I see coalescence. Common understanding fuels coalition-building — which is highly desirable and needed!
To grow media literacy education at the pre-K-12 level, we need to have pedagogy that can be replicated, measured and scaled. Only then will media literacy be common knowledge rather than privileged information. Some of the basic components for achieving this goal have already been developed in ways that fit with new curricular approaches — highly encouraging. And in the meanwhile, it is also encouraging to note that media literacy education has survived through the grassroots for many years, because some early adopters recognized its importance and refused to abandon their first-hand experience with its benefits and promise (anyone who is interested in this evolution may want to check out CML’s Voices of Media Literacy Project, which features 20 media literacy pioneers active prior to 1990). Yet in spite of these past efforts, we are at the beginning of the beginning, although Marieli Rowe, president of the National Telemedia Council and I have joked for years that “media literacy is just around the corner.” So far it’s been a very long block to walk!!
Henry: There's no question in my mind that the work we are doing today would not be possible without the work of the kind of media literacy pioneers you have been documenting and it is an enormous service to capture those voices and their memories of the early days of the media literacy movement while it is still possible to do so. I think there has been a tendency for those people who have jumped into this space in the wake of the MacArthur Digital Media and Learning initiatives to forget this history, to see these projects as a new beginning, and as a consequence, we are losing much wisdom, not to mention the opportunity to forge a stronger alliance with those veterans who have much experience in the field of this struggle. This is why I have made a point of remaining connected to NAMLE and serving on the editorial board of the Journal of Media Literacy to make sure those links remain strong.
Once we wrote the white paper and turned our attention to developing our own curricular resources, our first major project, which became the book, Reading in a Participatory Culture, sought to bridge between the literary practices of the 19th century (those which gave rise to Moby-Dick) and today's remix practices, whether those associated with hip hop or digital media; we wanted to help teachers to understand the differences between plagiarism, fair use, and remix, and we wanted students to think not only critically but also creatively about the many different kinds of texts they encountered in their everyday lives as readers and writers within contemporary culture. Our goal was not about promoting new media per se; we wrote that we hoped to raise a generation which had a mouse in one hand and a book in another. And the approach we took was comparative to its core, seeking to identify connections across media as well as differences.
You are right to say that technologies are becoming more widely available (and thus, one case for teaching media literacy is that we need to help young people think critically about tools and practices that are very much part of their everyday environments.) We certainly still are finding cases where young people lack access to these technologies -- or meaningful access -- outside the classroom, so that having twenty minutes of restricted access in a public library does not equal the unlimited, anywhere-anytime access enjoyed by other youth. But, we are also finding other inequalities in access to skills and knowledge, mentorship, networks, etc. which result in gross inequalities of opportunity between different youth -- this is what we called in the original report, the Participation Gap, and this also is why it is so vital to incorporate media literacy experiences, including experiences working with new media technologies, into every institution that touches young people's lives, but especially through schools. MacArthur's original focus was on spaces of informal learning, which was an important first step, but increasingly, the DML folks are focused on "connected learning," which centers on building a more fluid set of relations between home, out of school, and in school practices. All of this is why I have shifted from talking about "a participatory culture" to "a more participatory culture" to emphasize the work which still needs to be done in insuring equity of opportunity.
Participation in What? Part 2 Jenkins and Jolls
Henry: ...I have called for a recognition that media literacy is a "social skill" having to do with the ways we interface with each other, how we participate collectively within the activities of a networked society. I fear that our schools place too much emphasis on the autonomous learner and not enough emphasis on how we create and share knowledge together. This is perhaps a key way in which the new media literacies differ -- we are focusing on notions of collectivity and connectivity more. Our emphasis on participation begs the question, participation in what. I've made this a key concern in some of my own recent writings, but the answer necessarily involves something larger than the individual, or it is by nature not participation.
Tessa: I appreciate your exploring the question of “participation in what?” Maybe there are no set answers to this question — maybe our role in media literacy education is to help increase the capacity of participants to participate effectively in whatever they choose to engage with?
I certainly agree with you that media literacy is a social skill in regards to how we relate to each other and how we participate collectively within the activities of a networked society. Relationships are — and have always been — central to media literacy and media literacy education. First and foremost, through media literacy we explore our relationship with media itself. We engage with media and given its pervasiveness in our lives, divorce is not an option!
In understanding our media relationship, we come to see that there are relationships between the text, the audience and the producers/participants, and as technology has offered increased capacity for interaction and world-wide connectivity, that relationship becomes more and more dynamic and expansive. At the same time, our media relationship affects our very identities as individuals and as affiliative groups — we have private selves (what goes on inside), public/representational selves (how we extend and represent ourselves to others alone or as a group/entity) and what I call “commercialized” selves (that allow marketing and/or ideological elements, such as branding or big data, define who we are or whom we affiliate with and whom we are seen to affiliate with). These notions apply to individuals as well as organizations or groups.
I agree with you, that schools emphasize individual autonomy and not enough emphasis on how we create and share knowledge together. (And I believe that higher education is the tail that wags the Pre-K-12 dog in this regard — SAT scores and college admissions departments reward individuals). But sharing is not a new idea — sharing has been part of enlightened media literacy pedagogies for many years. I quote Masterman’s 18 Basic Principles again because — well, he is my master (and I am continually wowed to see how his words resonate through the years): “Media Education is essentially active and participatory, fostering the development of more open and democratic pedagogies. It encourages students to take more responsibility for and control over their own learning...”
As technology has enabled the classroom walls to break down through more connectivity, good media literacy pedagogy becomes more and more feasible — and desirable — in both formal and informal settings. “Underlying Media Education is a distinctive epistemology,” Masterman wrote. "Existing knowledge is not simply transmitted by teachers or ‘discovered’ by students. It is not an end but a beginning. It is the subject of critical investigations and dialogue out of which new knowledge is actively created by student and teachers.” his dialogue arises in many contexts, not just the formal classroom. And as you said (and it can’t be said enough!), we have a moral and economic challenge in our society to insure that these opportunities are widely and equitably available.
Because of the lack of education system imperatives to teach media literacy and to encourage critical autonomy alone and through groups -- rather than to meet fill-in-the-bubble testing deadlines — it is difficult at best to deliver media education in a credible and evidence-based way. Often, media researchers have no clue about what pedagogy is or how school systems work — and it is for this reason that we often say that media literacy is more about education than about media. The education imperative is paramount: the promise of the technology in putting power into the hands of the people is squandered if people don’t have the critical thinking skills and complementary new media skills to use technology wisely and to amplify benefits from its use.
But then the questions become, what skills are necessary and how do we help people gain media literacy skills? Your 2006 white paper outlined new media skills that are needed — play, performance, simulation, appropriation, multitasking, distributed cognition, collective intelligence, judgment, transmedia navigation, networking and negotiation. These are sophisticated skills that are highly suited to the technology and the digital world that enables their use. They rest on the basic foundations of media literacy skills that are usually missing for students, or that are taken for granted by media researchers who may already have a conceptual understanding of media representations, deconstruction and construction. However — and yes I repeat myself — this basic foundation is absent in American education systems. Quite simply, teachers cannot teach what they do not know and what the system has not valued.
And so we — as educators and as citizens — have skipped teaching and learning an enormous media literacy underpinning for new media as well as for non-digital media like the logos on shirts, the billboards, the theater plays, the food packaging, the school posters. And this lack of understanding of basic media literacy concepts translates from the playground to the Twitter feed. And as you said, Henry, it also robs researchers of a rich base of knowledge that should inform their work. Yet it’s important to have unity as a field so that we can gain traction and scale our work in a significant way amongst the general population — to translate the Research & Development (R&D) into awareness and actions of use to citizens nationally and globally.
This translation goal has been the Center for Media Literacy’s (CML’s) mission since its founding by Elizabeth Thoman in Los Angeles in 1989 (and with CML’s predecessor organization the Center for Media&Values springing from homan’s work beginning as a USC Annenberg graduate student in the late 1970s). I applaud your work and that of others, to operationalize and to “package” these powerful media literacy ideas and practices into pedagogy and curricula available for all of our citizens and youth — so needed! We must always keep in mind that we are trying to reach and inspire millions of people and so our task is enormous — but other movements, such as the environmental movement, provide us with inspiration and hope for fulfilling our mission.
In the meanwhile, we have a foundation to lay, with an expanded repertoire of media literacy skills that are needed in the 21st century (thanks to your groundbreaking work). What are the media literacy fundamentals that have been so neglected these past decades?
Earlier I noted that Masterman focused on priorities for media literacy education by saying: ”Media are symbolic sign systems that must be decoded (and encoded)... The central unifying concept of media literacy is that of representation (what is represented through media to us, and what we represent to others through media).”
He went on to say, “Without this principle, no media education is possible. From it, all else flows.” his idea is as relevant to today’s media as it was to the media of Masterman’s time.
Henry: I really appreciate the work the CML does in translating research into awareness and action, in trying to build a more sustainable and scalable movement for media literacy. As someone who sees themselves first and foremost as a researcher, I am deeply committed to translating our research into language that can be broadly accessible and providing resources which can be deployed within important conversations; I see this blog as part of the work I try to do to broker between different groups of people who should be talking to each other. My team through the years has done a fair amount of applied work with educators, trying to get our materials out in the field. We've come to the same conclusion you have that media literacy is at least as much about rethinking education as it is about rethinking media. We found very early on that developing resources were never enough unless you also helped to train the teachers who would be using those materials. This took us down the path of developing and running teacher training programs in New Hampshire and California, and then publishing a series of white papers which dealt with what we saw as best practices in fostering participatory learning, practices that both dealt with how to integrate the new media literacies into school curriculum but also how to couple them with progressive pedagogies that are very much in line with those that Masterman describes above -- pedagogies that are very much informed by thinkers such as Dewey and Freire. See, for example:
http://henryjenkins.org/2012/12/play-participatory-learning-and-you.html http://henryjenkins.org/2012/12/shall-we-play.html http://henryjenkins.org/2012/09/designing-with-teachers-participatory-approaches-to- professional-development-in-education.html
We are back in the trenches again with the latest phase of our work, this time emerging from extensive research (interviews with more than 200 young activists) about the political and civic lives of American youth: We've now built an archive featuring videos produced by young activists around a range of causes, many of them appropriating and remixing elements from popular culture, many of them using tools and tactics associated with participatory culture. This time, we are testing these materials in collaboration with the National Writing Project, and working with their teachers (as well as the organizations we study) to develop activities and lesson plans which might allow educators to integrate our materials and insights into their teaching. One thing we've learned through the years is that our core strength is ultimately in cultural theory and research and thanks to my move to USC, coupled with media production capacities; we have some understanding of core pedagogical issues; but we do better working hand in hand with classroom teachers to develop the actual activities that make sense in the public schools. And we count on the power of various networks -- including both the Media Literacy Movement and those folks involved with the DML world -- to get word out about what we've created. This is why I place such a high priority in building partnerships which can help us work together to achieve our shared goals.
The issue of whether representation remains the core of contemporary media literacy is a complex one, it seems to me. Representation is a powerful principle, one which helps to explain the ways we use media to make sense of ourselves and our lives, and it remains very pertinent in a world where we are encouraging young people to develop a stronger sense of their own public voices, to tell their own stories, to create their own media. Looking critically at existing representations, thinking ethically about the choices they make as they create their own representations as media producers remain core to any understanding of media literacy, but young people are also participating in media which are more focused on social exchanges and personal interactions in which the creation of texts is secondary to the cementing of social bonds. If we were developing media literacy in response to the telephone rather than television, would we be asking different questions, have different priorities?
Representation is itself a process, to be sure, but we also often use it to refer to a product or text: a representation. The disciplines which do much of the heavy lifting on media literacy education -- especially language arts but also arts education -- tend to focus heavily on texts, and so as the term representation gets translated into their vocabulary, it is not surprising that it comes to circle around texts. This focus on texts can lead us to think in terms of readers and writers/producers but not in terms of participants in an ongoing communication process. And this is a key reason why my vocabulary tends to place a greater emphasis on notions of participation than on notions of representation.
Tessa: Ah...and so down the rabbit hole we go. And we are going on a slippery slope because as you said, it’s complicated. I'm enjoying the ride! Which universe are we describing? The physical world that surrounds us and that we perceive on a local and physical level -- the world that surrounds us with physical media like logos and traffic signs and billboards and movies and music and candy wrappers -- or the alternative global village or digital media that we access only through the assistance of hardware and software media like the internet in general or Instagram or Facebook or games? In each case, the media are man-made, which means that men (and oh yes let's be sure to be inclusive and say women too) construct these media messages and devices. Construction always calls for decisions on the part of the creator(s), who sets the initial limits and boundaries through which we may experience his or her creation -- media construction, whether digital or not, is a physical representation of the creator's intention.
So fundamentally, construction and (implicitly) representation must take place before participation is possible. And participatory culture (whether we participate online or off) is both an input to and an outcome of construction/representation -- and the fusion constantly changes the nature of and the expression of the construction, which always has emotional, social and cultural implications. There is a chicken-or-egg quality to the cultural issues and their intersection with media, but it can also be argued that an individual's mind and group culture itself are also constructions/representations.
But back to media...As an example, let's think about video games. The games are media constructions and they provide a software "box" in which players operate, and this software box is constrained by the hardware platform. The creator of the game designed the game intentionally -- to share a worldview and/or to profit from game purchases. Players engage with the game text itself and interact with each other to experience the game in a myriad of ways -- visual, verbal, social, emotional -- and often players invent new ways of experiencing the game through mods or hardware and they amplify their experiences together. But because the construction itself is constrained, there are inevitably frames and experiences that are included and excluded.
So much depends on how we parse the world we live in! But at the same time, to take a scientific approach towards media literacy, we need boundaries and concepts that define and describe a specific field of inquiry -- that of media, in this case. While the cementing of social bonds through media use may be a primary goal for youth or adults, media are still the means toward an end, while also acknowledging that digital spaces (constructions) multiply possibilities for and the nature of social engagement exponentially.
I agree with you, Henry, that the focus on the word “texts" -- because of its traditional association with physical media -- generally limits people's perceptions about participating in an ongoing communication process that digital media enable. In today's context in the global village, the notion of text expands so that "text" may become the entire "box" that encompasses
the digital world itself, and the cultural representations within the box and outside it. We now have the physical world and the digital world and their intertwining and as Steve Jobs famously espoused, we need to "think different."
Nevertheless, to be a field, media literacy must have a set of "universals" that always apply -- timeless concepts that describe how media operate as a symbolic system. These concepts must apply to the physical and digital world, and they must traverse both, without exception. The concepts, like the laws of physics, must serve as the basis for theory and pedagogy (practice) and implementation because otherwise, we have no commonality or foundation to build upon. We need such a conceptual foundation to be able to replicate, measure and scale applications.
The Five Core Concepts of media literacy offer such a foundation, and with an expanded notion of "text" or “message” in mind, and with the idea that constructions are implicitly representations, here they are:
CML’s Five Core Concepts
1. All media messages are constructed. 2. Media messages are constructed using a creative language with its own rules. 3. Different people experience the same media message differently. 4. Media have embedded values and points of view. 5. Most media messages are organized to gain profit and/or power. (For those uncomfortable with the word ‘power,’ CML intends its use in the broadest sense)
There are various expressions of these concepts – for example, Canadians use eight Key Concepts, but CML compressed them to five for the U.S. beginning in the early 1990s. The Five Core Concepts are rooted in Masterman’s work and developed by Canadian media literacy pioneers including Barry Duncan and John Puengente in the 1980s.
These Five Concepts are as relevant to new media as to any other media. There is a distinction here between describing how media operate as a symbolic system — the theoretical description of media embodied in the Five Core Concepts — and how individuals and groups use and experience the media — the practice, the skills, the applications of the theory.
As researchers and developers in the field, we must constantly test the Core Concepts to see whether they are still universally valid and descriptive of all forms of media. It is this basic description of a global media system at work that distinguishes media literacy from other communications fields, and they provide a rallying point around which institutionalizing media literacy becomes possible. The Core Concepts capture the fundamental understanding that has long been missing in our culture and in the Pre-K- 23 +++ education system. They also provide the basis for pedagogy that can be built around them.
Henry, in the name of all those who have come before us, I am deeply grateful and privileged to have this opportunity to explore and share with you and I hope, to help build these bridges that are so needed. Do I believe that our R&D should continue to advance the field of media literacy and media literacy education? Absolutely! And I also believe that the Core Concepts, rooted in the big idea of representation, offer a major foundational bridge that is applicable anytime, anywhere, in any media, with any “text,” and that all citizens need access to a common understanding of media that the Core Concepts provide.