With more funding that ever around for video and multi-media projects with young people, is the focus of the funding spot on, or missing a trick?
Media box has Â£6m of government funding to give to "creative media projects involving film, television radio, online, print and multi-media". Government is talking about these projects as ways of addressing the negative media portrayal of young people, and often we hear about how they equip young people with skills for jobs in the media. However, if we really want to support young people to challenge negative stereotypes in mainstream media, and to participate as citizens in an ever more networked world, we need to do more than to create one-off videos or to train a small group to work in media jobs. We need to focus the core of our funding on building media literacy*.
Media literacy is "the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and create messages in a variety of forms" (Aufderheide, 1993; Christ & Potter, 1998 in Livingstone, 2004). Sonia Livingstone (in the 2004 journal article Media Literacy and the Challenge of New Information and Communication Technologies) explains "Learning to create content helps one to analyze that produced professionally by others; skills in analysis and evaluation open the doors to new uses of the Internet, expanding access, and so forth". She goes on to say:
"In advancing policy, it would clarify matters to disentangle three arguments: [(a)] the pedagogic argument that people learn best about media through making it; [(b)] the employment argument that those with new media skills are increasingly needed as the information sector expands; and [(c)] the cultural politics argument that citizens have the right to self-representation and cultural participation." (Pg 7. Letters added and not in the original)
It seems that Media Box and other recent projects are strong on (c), and have a focus on (b) but are missing enough of a focus on (a), on how supporting young people to make media can help build their literacy for future access, analysis, evaluation and creation of media. (a) doesn't just happen. Really good learning about the media through making media needs space to be created for reflection as well as action creating media, and it needs to be focussed on process as well as product. I don't doubt that many projects with Media Box funding do have an implicit element of learning about media through making – but making sure all projects have this 'third side of the box' could, I believe, really enhance their long term impact in young peoples representation in the media*.
*I realise there is a piece of this story missing. How does increased media literacy lead to more positive portrayal of young people in the media? Another post to come soon on that question – particularly looking at how social media literacy in a world of user-generated-content is a key element.