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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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Notes

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1. Walter Lippmann, in Public Opinion, and other works, formed early ideas about weak tie engagement in society. He was pessimistic about the public’s ability to engage with complex civic issues, not because of barriers to access, but more because they lacked the inquisitive disposition or care to. He wrote in Public Opinion, “The mass of the reading public is not interested in learning and assimilating the results of accurate investigation.” Lippmann believed that citizens “were too self-centred to care about public policy except as pertaining to pressing local issues.”

2. Of course, the reasons to not cover this murder nationally can be understood through mechanisms for judging newsworthiness. Unfortunately, senseless killings like this happen all too often, and a majority never garners the type of coverage that this case has.

3. The debate outlined by Buckingham here is explained in greater detail in my doctoral dissertation, titled “Beyond Cynicism: How Media Literacy Can Make Students More Engaged Citizens.” The following few paragraphs are excerpted and paraphrased from a more detailed exploration.

4. Parts of this section are adapted from Mihailidis’ (2008) Beyond Cynicism: How Media Literacy Can Make Students More Engaged Citizens. I would also like to thank here Benjamin Thevenin for his artful expression of media literacy and engaged citizenship, which helped form many of the ideas in this section.

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