We are living in a complex world where the rapid technological development of recent decades has brought major changes and challenges. One of the most important of these is the increasing mediatization of our lives: the media is ubiquitous and dominant in our everyday lives. Thanks to the internet, all-powerful companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc. can impose on us their version of the world based on algorithms. This trend is irreversible and we have to adapt to it.
We can however make sure that our attitudes and our actions are not completely determined by the media through becoming media literate citizens. Therefore, it is our aim at the JFF – Institute for Media Research and Education to empower young people to use the media in an independent and socially responsible way.
Media literacy is part of the concept of communicative competence which means to be an active member of society and to contribute to its development. Various factors influence how we use the media. Among those concerning children and young people are: social environment, cognitive development and media content.
Having those factors in mind, media literacy is made up of the following:
Knowledge. In technical terms, this means having the skills of knowing how to access the media and understand how it operates. There is also an economic aspect of this which involves understanding the relations between big media companies and the commercial agendas behind their operations.
Reflection. It is necessary to consider one’s own media usage carefully in order to use it in a well-informed and appropriate way. For example, we need to think about whether it is necessary to use WhatsApp if there are other messengers that care more about personal data.
Action combine knowledge and reflection and means how somebody uses the media to fulfill their needs as an individual and a member of society.
Knowledge, reflection, and action are important elements in the use of the media for orientation in a complex world, for active civic participation and for defining one’s position in society with all its cultural and religious rules, economic interests, and its basic values and behavioral norms and expectations.
The development of media literacy can best be nurtured if young people can experience themselves the potential and also the limitations of the media by using it in projects where they have the advice of experts. As an illustration of this, I want to introduce two current pilot projects of JFF.
The first is called “Plan North-East”. In this project, young people are encouraged to deal with the development of the city in which they live. The problem is that the urban population is increasing exponentially but there is not enough space for everyone. Young people think about solutions for this problem by using the media. For example, they install a talkbox where citizens can communicate their needs and ideas. By using the video game, Minecraft, they design new living quarters and create short video clips to explain the problem.
The second project is “Action Against Prejudice”. This project also involves young people from different cultural backgrounds dealing with the problem of prejudice in society and in their environment. Experts, teachers and youth workers assist students in producing video and audio clips against prejudice and for more tolerance.
The two projects show how the media can influence attitudes and development. Young people learn how to use the media in a literate way for their purposes as active digital citizens.