Media Literacy Education in the Era of Post-Truth: Paradigm Crisis

Media Literacy Education in the Era of Post-Truth: Paradigm Crisis

Elizaveta Friesem (Media Education Lab, USA) and Yonty Friesem (Columbia College Chicago, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9261-7.ch008

Abstract

In this chapter, the authors use Kuhn's theory of scientific revolutions to examine the development of media literacy as a field of study and practice. More specifically, they focus on the current stage of media literacy, which they believe to be model drift that reveals the emerging crisis of the current paradigm based on epistemological assumptions of modernity. The authors look at this stage against the current social background of the era of post-truth and through the prism of ongoing debates between different media (literacy) scholars and educational practitioners. The era of post-truth can be seen as a logical manifestation of postmodernity, when the idea that truth and facts are relative is becoming part of the public discourse. In this period, different scholars and practitioners offer different ideas on what media literacy is and what its import may be. These debates are not new; yet, today they might have more serious consequences, signaling a need to reevaluate the existing paradigm that has formed the foundation of media literacy education since the field's emergence.
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Introduction

The goal of this chapter is twofold. First, to describe the development of media literacy education (MLE) using Kuhn’s model of scientific revolutions (Kuhn (1996[1962]) and through the prism of major debates that have defined the field throughout the years (see Fig. 1). Second, to use the notion of the paradigm crisis for interpreting the latest big debate about media literacy triggered by statements of danah boyd (2017, 2018), media scholar for Microsoft and founder of the research institute Data & Society. The chapter suggests that the field of MLE is in the stage of model crisis, which signifies the impending change of the current paradigm of media literacy based on epistemological assumptions of modernity.

The chapter is structured as follows:

  • 1.

    Introduction, including a brief description of the era of post-truth and stages of Kuhn’s model, as well as a note on the authors’ subjectivity.

  • 2.

    Analysis of the pre-science and normal science stages (according to Kuhn’s model) through:

    • a.

      a debate between David Buckingham (1986) and Len Masterman (1985; 1986);

    • b.

      a consensus and disagreements that emerged at the Aspen Institute gathering in 1992 and inside the 1998 special issue of the Journal of Communication.

  • 3.

    Analysis of the model drift and model crisis stages (according to Kuhn’s model) through:

    • a.

      a debate between Renee Hobbs (2011a; 2011b) and W. James Potter (2010; 2011);

    • b.

      a debate between danah boyd (2017, 2018) and several MLE scholars and practitioners (e.g., Doctorow, 2018; Doxtdator, 2018; Hobbs, 2017; 2018; Rogow, 2018).

Figure 1.

Stages of Kuhn’s model and corresponding MLE debates (Friesem & Friesem, 2019)

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