Friday, May 1, 2009

Media Literacy

Media Literacy is, according to Wikipedia, the process of accessing, analyzing, evaluating and creating messages in a wide variety of media modes, genres and forms. One of the most important results of/motivations for educating people on media literacy was mentioned by wiki: To teach everyone how to "critically analyze messages to detect propaganda, censorship, and bias"...
To me, that is the biggest goal of making everyone aware of the media/tools/etc. around them, because if they do not utilize them or understand them, then only certain voices will be represented/heard in our media, thereby creating a division/hierarchy of power... and moreover, this leads to a lack of comprehending when a certain form of media is pushing a dangerous agenda.
Googling/thinkin about "media literacy" reminded me of Twitter, a site I recently caved to become a part of... I laughed as I made my profile because I was soooo incompetent (or at least, FELT very much so) when it came to figuring out the details of how it worked.
As has been the case with a required course I am taking on computer science. I am finding that Excel and certain programs (which come pretty easy to my little brother, who has grown up using Excel/Powerpoint/etc.) are rather difficult for me to understand. It got me thinking even more about computer/internet literacy... the pro's and con's... the benefits versus negative side effects of using online resources... And I must admit, while I feel that media literacy is extremely important, I simultaneously think that the culture in which we are immersed is far too media-saturated.
... And I just may be regretting joining Twitter already:) oh well. Call me old-fashioned.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Digital "Disappointments?" or Misplaced Fear?

After reading this Henry Jenkins/Danah Boyd discussion, I became interested in aspects of this debate that I had not previously found so fascinating. The following section, in my opinion, contained valuable information:
The media often reference a Crimes Against Children report that states one in five children receive a sexual solicitation online. A careful reading of this report shows that 76% of the unwanted solicitations came from fellow children. This includes unwanted date requests and sexual taunts from fellow teens. Of the adult solicitations, 96% are from people 18-25; wanted and unwanted solicitations are both included. In other words, if an 18 year old asks out a 17 year old and both consent, this would still be seen as a sexual solicitation. Only 10% of the solicitations included a request for a physical encounter; most sexual solicitations are for cybersex. While the report shows that a large percentage of youth are faced with uncomfortable or offensive experiences online, there is no discussion of how many are faced with uncomfortable or offensive experiences at school, in the local shopping mall or through other mediated channels like telephone.
The way the media spins statistics and other information is very disheartening. It promotes stereotypes that remind me often of how rape victims are portrayed. While most people assume that the internet is a dangerous place for children because molesters might be lurking online waiting to brainwash/kidnap/hurt these kids, the reality is that most women and children are more likely to be sexually assaulted by their own fathers/boyfriends/dates/friends/brothers/etc. than by strangers. Likewise, many are under the impression that women are more likely to be raped if they wear flashy/revealing clothing, or flirt/party hard/walk down a dark alley at night, etc. when research has shown that the opposite is true: women are more likely to be raped if they are not paying attention to their surroundings and wear many layers of clothing and appear to be the shy/quiet types. To sum it up using a phrase from the aforementioned link, "Youth are at far greater risk of abuse in their homes and in the homes of their friends than they ever are in digital or physical publics"...
And honestly, where are these kids supposed to go if not online? Their options are so limited, especially depending on what types of parents they are fortunate/unfortunate enough to have. In my experience, it was difficult to have choices or freedom of any kind, because my dad was a huge fan of the "go to your room!" or "you're grounded!" school of thought. If I screwed up or made any mistake, justified or not, I would have to be grounded for a long period of time. And even if I had not made him unhappy, he was a pretty strict guy and did not like the thought of me seeing friends too often on weekends or having after-school hobbies or even dancing. Dancing gave me the greatest natural high, but when I did poorly in my math class sophomore year, he never let me dance again. Looking back on my youth, sometimes I genuinely- honestly- question how I made it out alive. I believe that compared to other teens, I had it pretty good overall, but nonetheless, I basically lived in a prison/institution/restricted environment/whatever you want to call it. No matter what label it was given, it was unhealthy to be monitored 24/7 and controlled all the time by others. I had such limited access to computers "back in the day" that my eventual outlet was journaling. That was one thing my parents or teachers or whatever could not take away: my pen and paper and (sometimes) my privacy. For those kids who are not so big on the reading/writing, there are even fewer options. Personally, I would rather see more teen-friendly spaces to hang out in real life, because I do believe that too much time spent online can create addictions, and unhealthy sedentary lifestyles, etc. Teens are not in danger (or hurting anybody else) by being plugged in, but I think when the virtual world becomes almost the only world in which they live, they are missing out on a lot in life. And this is an axiom for not just teens to follow- Everyone should have spaces where they feel safe and content to be themselves, because to be denied access to those places, or only finding them online, is so unhealthy.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Minus the jab he takes at community colleges, this was really funny to watch-

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Listen Up!

Several of the short documentaries and PSA's on Listen Up! were really informative; one dealt with the use of the "n word" and another focused on a young girl's experience living with a polygamous father.
From exploring gender-related issues, to learning about one girl's journey on following the red path regardless of her father's alcoholism, there is an immense amount of information and experience being made available on this website. Voices are being heard here that would typially be ignored or marginalized elsewhere. I love examining how the teenagers use this control over the camera to direct their own ideas/stories/reflections. One piece of work that fascinated me most was a video discussing "manhood" done by teenage African-American boys who had some pretty nice ideas about masculinity. I was expecting them to express the opinions that they did but not as PASSIONATELY as they did; their enthusiasm and dedication to the topics at hand were really admirable. They didnt appear to be ashamed to say things like "Being a man means taking care of your family" or "Being a man means treating women with respect"....It was very well-done and exactly the type of work that more African-American male youth need to have available as a resource or support system.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

this really makes me sick to my stomach.
even the actors/actresses who made the movie truly believe that this one line is CONSENT.
"why are you stopping?" is not consent when the woman is intoxicated from alcohol/drugs and throwing up.

social networking websites; not so black & white

There are so many angles to cover, I'm not sure where to begin. I suppose I will start with the Testing Horace Mann article, because this resonated on many levels with me/my experiences.
Just as students should have freedom from the fear that they will be bullied/harassed by their peers or professors, the teachers/administration should also not have to worry about incessant harassment from their students. How can a teacher do a decent job in the classroom if s/he is always afraid of threats/repercussions/etc.?
My father taught middle school children in the towns of Dover and Sherborn, Massachuetts for over 30 years. This is a very privileged, white, affluent area, and although it was a public school, the parents were much like the ones of the Horace Mann community, in terms of how much power/influence they had over the way the school was run.
My dad had to endure parents getting overly-involved in even the most seemingly trivial matters, and often felt like he had little control over how he ran a classroom. If he handed out a detention or punishment of any kind, no matter how deserved or justified it was, he was at risk of being reprimanded or worse by his boss, as well as harassed by many parents. The majority of students knew that this was their reality to use to their advantage. So many of them knew how to play their cards right, and get away with misconduct/misbehavior of any kind. And this was before the days of Facebook/MySpace.
If students want to use Facebook, fine. There are so many benefits to belonging to social networking websites,...But to use it to verbally assault someone, (teacher or not), while using racial/sexist slurs, is just not acceptable.
This is just ONE recent example of how bullying/harassment can have devastating effects:

This issue reminds me of when my sister was in high school, and there was a similar experience involving a teacher and local politician. When a history teacher discussed gay marriage in a social studies course, he was accused of being "one-sided" about the "debate." Kids were conversing with their parents about the subject, and when the parents discovered that this teacher was "promoting" gay marraige and appearing to be pro-gay rights, they argued that there should be a more balanced viewpoint brought to King Philip Regional High. They did this by asking a local politician, Scott Brown, to speak about the topic in KP's auditorium. This infuriated many students. Scott Brown is a well-known State Senator whom conservatives love, and liberals love to hate. Many students felt angry that their history teacher was being accused of "promoting" an issue that 1) he was not promoting and 2) in their view, should not even be up for debate. Discussing "balanced viewpoints" on gay marriage to these kids seemed like discussing "balanced viewpoints" on the legitimacy of slavery. There's simply no such thing.
So where did students go to feel that they could be heard? Facebook. They created a group that discussed how much they disliked him, and how they were angry they would have to listen to him speak. They attacked his character, his attempts to always push his daughter's "fame" (she, Ayla Brown, had appeared on American Idol recently), and his hypocrisy. Here was a man who was clearly homophobic, yet he had no problem admitting he had posed nude for magazines to make money in his youth. In the minds of these students, his moral compass was completely screwed up.
This apparently infuriated Scott Brown, whose daughter used the website and showed him the online group. He then proceeded to print out copies of comments students had left on the group forum, and went to give his speech at KP. Instead of discussing gay marriage, however, he decided to discuss the facebook group. The details of this story can be found here: In the end, the students were viciously attacked for their opinions and comments online, and were accused of committing the crime of "hate speech".... The way in which the students were attacked was incredibly inappropriate, and in the end, Scott Brown made himself look like a fool. But this raises some good questions about the gray areas of this debate. Where are the lines drawn between what students can say online, and what they cant? I feel that students should practice their freedom of speech on and offline, but when they are name-calling or bullying or hurting people for the sake of being verbally violent or "funny", and not criticizing specifically relevant subject matter, then it is a problem. Politicians, like other public officials, can be analyzed in a negative way by youth on or off the web. But should teachers be as publicly humiliated for the pure entertainment of teenagers on facebook? I'm not sure I agree there, but then again, I don't have all the answers.