I’ve recently decided to volunteer on a media literacy work group in my daughters school. My daughter is eight, so we’re talking elementary level obviously.
My main reason to join the group is to force myself to think about what media literacy actually is. Plus to stop a lot of overwhelmed adults from over-protecting their kids because they project their old-generation problem on them. Our kids won’t be overwhelmed by the reality they grow up in, just like every generation before them.
Another mistake, in my view, is that many pundits look at the current media biosphere and cram it all into the curriculum. What they ignore is the fact that today’s media landscape is highly unlikely to have any resemblance with the landscape our kids will be facing even in the very near future. I just saw one textbook for teachers published in 2010 that has MySpace as the leading social network — based on data from 2008. Our publishing cycles for official education material are just too long to be concrete.
When you look at media searching for themes with a longer life-span and a more fundamental impact, I see 2 vectors. There may be more but these two do make a huge change in our life and will continue to do so for awhile: one is the dominance of the algorithm in our thinking and in the way we structure and manipulate our world; and the other is fact that our personality is no our sovereign and unalienable property.
Let me explain.
1. The Algorithmic Paradigm
Since the networked computer turned Turing’s and Shannon’s theories into reality, automation is taking control of more and more spheres of the human condition. Turning our economies and societies into machines seems to be the defining trend of the last 2 decades. As a consequence, human careers and happiness can only grow in the spaces between and on top of the algorithms. This trend will strongly affect the life planning of our youngsters, and they shouldn’t be facing it as clueless as we are.
2. Personality as Equity
My generation tends to discuss the privacy policies of Facebook, LinkedIn, Google or others as though we had a choice NOT to be present online, NOT to reveal our personality to the rest of the world. But that isn’t true anymore for most of us, and it will be less true for our kids. The next frontier of social skills, both for personal and career achievements, is the sophisticated management of our personality like it was our equity — which it is. My generation’s personality management skills are roughly equivalent to a Neanderthal at a cocktail party of New Yorker columnists. Our kids will be much better at it and I’m not sure they can learn a lot from us in this respect. What they can learn from us at best is to make sure that between all the data points that represent them in different public spheres, there’s still something left that can be called a personality.
Sure this is not the whole story for a media literacy curriculum. Just the 2 things that I find important.
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