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Media Literacy and the Emerging Citizen

Youth, Engagement and Participation in Digital Culture

Paul Mihailidis

Media Literacy and the Emerging Citizen is about enhancing engagement in a digital media culture and the models that educators, parents and policy makers can utilize to place media-savvy youth into positions of purpose, responsibility and power. Two specific challenges are at the core of this book’s argument that media literacy is the path toward more active and robust civic engagement in the 21st century:
How can media literacy enable core competencies for value-driven, diverse and robust digital media use?
How can media literacy enable a more civic-minded participatory culture?
These challenges are great, but they need to be examined in their entirety if media literacy is to begin to address the opportunities they present for democracy, participation and discourse in a digital media age. By presenting information that places media literacy at the center of what it means to be an engaged citizen, educators and policy makers will understand why media literacy must be integrated into formal and informal education systems before it’s too late
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Chapter 2. The Emerging Media Literacy Landscape


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In 1993, thirty leading media educators and scholars from around the United States gathered for a retreat sponsored by the Aspen Institute to discuss the current status and future of media literacy education. Out of this conference materialized a report titled, “The Aspen Institute Report of the National Leadership Conference on Media Literacy,” which proved to be the “birth-certificate” (Center for Media Literacy) of the U.S. media literacy movement. From this meeting emerged the founding definition for media literacy in the United States, “the ability to access, analyze, evaluate and produce both print and electronic media” (Aufderheide & Firestone, 1993), and five general concepts recognized as central to any media literacy educational experience:

These concepts, broad and encompassing, signify a strong theoretical foundation for media literacy in general, absent of attention to any specific ← 31 | 32 →educational level, discipline, or learning outcome. The Center for Media Literacy described the outcomes of the Aspen Institute Report and their influence on the media literacy movement in the United States:

Consisting of three interrelated documents, including an extensive background paper sketching important developments and contributions in the early years of the movement, the report was distributed widely to the worlds of education, media and philanthropy. With the highly respected Aspen Institute name attached, doors opened, calls were returned and funding proposals began to be approved. Many will attest that although media literacy was actually born in the...

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