Greening the Mediapolis with Media Literacy

Greening the Mediapolis with Media Literacy

Antonio López (Prescott College, Prescott, AZ, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/ijsesd.2014040101
OnDemand PDF Download:
$30.00
List Price: $37.50

Abstract

In media education there is a deficit in awareness about the connection between media and living systems. Though issues like economics, body image, sexism, racism and gender stereotyping remain significant concerns for media educators and scholars alike, historically the environment has been a peripheral theme in communications studies and associated disciplines. So while new gadgets and software platforms are touted as necessary aspects of cultural citizenship in media literacy discourses, this view of education, empowerment and participation is usually thought of in limited, anthropocentric ways that exclude living systems and sustainability as integral aspects of communication technologies. This essay proposes that media education should enable us to closely analyze the institutions, technological forms, cultural practices and worldview that are shaped by media technology, including how they impact ecological sustainability.
Article Preview

Introduction

McLuhan proposed that in an electronically mediated world, we are like the fish that do not know the sea (2002b). It was an early indication that media encompass us as an environment. Building on McLuhan’s insight, environmental metaphors have been utilized by media critics, educators and activists to describe the all-encompassing experience of inhabiting an electronically mediated world, including “media ecology” (Logan, 2007), “cultural environmental movement” (Gerbner, 1998) and “ecology of images” (Sontag, 2002). Silverstone (2007) calls this media environment a “mediapolis,” which is a “frameword” with an implicit moral order based on globalization as a social, political, cultural and technological phenomena. As such, Silverstone endorses “the idea of the media as an environment, an environment which provides at the most fundamental level the resources we all need for the conduct of everyday life. It follows that such an environment may be or may become, or may not be or become, polluted” (p.13).

More recently there has been an increased use of the ecosystem metaphor to describe various aspects of media. In the tech world it is common to use the term “ecosystem” to describe specific media environments, such as the “Facebook ecosystem” or “iPhone ecosystem.” Yet when used in this context, the notion of ecosystem lacks any connection to living systems impacted by media, and hence represents an incomplete use of the ecosystem concept. For instance, Naughton (2012) draws heavily on the ecosystem metaphor to describe internet-based media without making any reference to living systems. Nevertheless, the internet depends on server farms that rely on carbon-powered electricity; already it accounts for as much CO2 emissions as the global aviation industry, and within ten years cloud computing will likely double this figure (Cubitt, Hassan, & Volkmer, 2011). This lack of awareness of the connection between media and living systems is not new. Put starkly:

The prevailing myth is that the printing press, telegraph, phonograph, photograph, cinema, telephone, wireless radio, television, and internet changed the world without changing the Earth. In reality, each technology has emerged by despoiling ecosystems and exposing workers to harmful environments, a truth obscured by both the symbolic power and the power of moguls to set the terms by which such technologies are designed and deployed. Those who benefit from the ideas of growth, progress, and convergence, who profit from high-tech innovation, monopoly, and state collusion—the military-industrial-entertainment-academic complex and multinational commanders of labor—have for too long ripped off the Earth and workers. (Maxwell & Miller, 2012, p. 9)

Given that the coinage of the term “ecosystem” in the 1930s is rooted in a view of living systems as interdependent communities (Golley, 1998), I believe any use of the term ecosystem without reference to living systems is deficient and problematic. As such, Lappé (2011, p. 15) offers a more grounded definition of ecology, which is “relationships among organisms and their environment.” Lest we forget, humans are organisms that inhabit an environment that also includes technological systems and their modes of production, both cultural and material.

Not surprisingly, in media education there is also a deficit in awareness about the connection between media and living systems. Though issues like economics, body image, sexism, racism and gender stereotyping remain significant concerns for media educators and scholars alike, historically the environment has been a peripheral theme in communications studies and associated disciplines (Jagtenberg & McKie, 1997). So while new gadgets and software platforms are touted as necessary aspects of cultural citizenship in media literacy discourses, this view of education, empowerment and participation is usually thought of in limited, anthropocentric ways that exclude living systems and sustainability as integral aspects of communication technologies.

Complete Article List

Search this Journal:
Reset
Open Access Articles: Forthcoming
Volume 9: 4 Issues (2018): 1 Released, 3 Forthcoming
Volume 8: 4 Issues (2017)
Volume 7: 4 Issues (2016)
Volume 6: 4 Issues (2015)
Volume 5: 4 Issues (2014)
Volume 4: 4 Issues (2013)
Volume 3: 4 Issues (2012)
Volume 2: 4 Issues (2011)
Volume 1: 4 Issues (2010)
View Complete Journal Contents Listing