Sheffield was the venue for this year’s Media Education Summit. Collated here are a series of posts with fragments, observations and provocations from key notes and presentations. More here: Sarah Pink, Susan Orr, David Buckingham
Natalie Fenton – Publics, Politics and Power
In an impassioned presentation, Fenton reminds us of the political project that is media education, the stoking of democracy and the critical exploration of power in relation to teaching and learning in the digital age. Where does it adhere? Theory and practice are indivisible and create a synergy that challenges forms of knowledge. Practice is about doing as well as making ie. the implementing of research.
Media has never been more central in public consciousness (ref. Snowden, Levinson..) and creating it together is key to practice. Let’s not confuse abundance with freedom. Information and news pluralism is elided with celebratory democratic, communicative freedoms and the ‘unleashing’ of innovation. These are false universals shaping public consciousness. Media use is surveilled, monitored and monetised and can’t be understood outside relations of power.
Access, voice and participation is as much about limiting the power of the privileged and questioning the encultured as it is about empowering the individual. We should be opening up powers to critique knowledge in all subject areas, not just media education. Should we be mere consumers with choice or rather citizens with critical acumen?
Goldsmiths are inviting the local community into the college for free citizenship courses on which epistemology is the first rung on the ladder: knowledge as a power-induced and power-laden concept. Fenton takes students to politicians’ meetings for first hand experience of message makers’ and decision makers’ activities.
She herself claims transparency, encouraging challenges to her own power as an academic, but media moguls do not permit this and politicians are too embroiled to call corporatised bodies to account.
Relevance to my study: forms around issues of confidence and competence to participate. Building participative, collaborative and questioning habits of mind from an early age. Creating risk-inducing environments in which things go wrong, people make mistakes, experiment and try again. All this with a view to non-simulated, real involvement in social endeavour.