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IMLRS, June 2024 Azores, Portugal

IMLRS 2024 Opening SessionBy Yonty Friesem

What an amazing experience we had at the international Media Literacy Research Symposium (IMLRS) 2024 at Ponte Delgada in the Azores islands of Portugal in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. So many colleagues and friends from the Media Education Lab attended. It was a delight to meet in person new members of the MediaEd Graduate Symposium. 

First, I must thank Belinha De Abreu and Vitor Tome for organizing such a profound program that invited reflective conversations and examination of where we are at and where should we go next. Second, I want to highlight three key discussions that I observed and think we should pay attention to for future development of the field.

What are the historical roots of media literacy education? 

Historical Roots WorkshopDuring our history workshop, Anya Schiffrin showcased how we need to learn from history as its keep repeating itself. She provided an overview on the work of Clyde R. Miller as he established at Columbia University the Institute for Propaganda Analysis (IPA) in 1937 with research and educational materials that had a large impact. At the same time, the center was closed in 1942 as Schiffrin explained the gap between the declared statement of not wanting to interfere with WW2 and the political pressure to stop providing materials and research on propaganda education. From there we moved to sharing what we call our Media Literacy Awakening. Participants shared moments in their early life or career that were significant in their commitment to media literacy education. The discussion was vivid and energized the room, showcasing to us that we need to keep sharing and telling our personal narrative of falling in love with our field. Renee Hobbs shared by acknowledging the trailblazers whose ideas fertilized the practice of media literacy education. To close the workshop, Michael RobbGrieco shared his research on the genealogy of media literacy in the U.S. and asked participants to notice the historical knowledge gaps that we might fill through research. After a robust discussion and workshop, we are convinced that there is significant work that needs to be shared so that veteran practitioners as well as new ones can learn from our past and address our current challenges

What to do about this AI thing? 

AI was present in every discussion at this conference. With the new media panic in schools and the industry rapidly developing, the conference participants shared their struggles, challenges, and opportunities. In continuing an IMLRS tradition, Belinha and Ryan Farrington shared a short video that included a AI generated greeting from President Joe Biden, King Charles and President Emmanuel Macron. The hilarious video was an opening to many discussions about much more than fake news and synthetic reality – most discussions I observed and participant in were about how practically can we use the new AI tools and generate critical discussion about context, economics, and socio-political impact. 
Mariana OchsMariana Ochs gave many examples of design bias of generated AI content and opportunities to discuss about it int he class. But her main point was to go back to Freire and critical pedagogy practices to examine AI and its outputs in regards to the socio-economics and political power so our learners take action to empower themselves. This can take many forms as to selectively use AI and if use it, use it ethically. During my panel with Irene Andriopoulou, Estrella Luna, and Anna Kozlowska-Barros we shared our comparative research on use of an AI reflective assignment in our different classrooms. The discussion was practice based to look at what should we do and how should we encourage our students not to censure themselves from using AI, but provide a roadmap for reflective and critical practice of using the tool while taking into account its limitations and impact (from various perspectives). The concluding discussion was helpful to see how we need to provide more examples and case studies of media literacy with AI in the classroom. As David Buckingham, Sally Reynolds, and Antonio Lopez emphasized, we must think of the implication not only in the classroom, but on policy, research, and society. We need to ask ourselves, in what future do we want to live in?

Where are we going from here? 

For the last session connecting the past to the future, I had the privilege to present along Carolyn Wilson, Carol Arcus and Silke Grafe. Silke showcased five historical practices of media education in German context. She connected it to current struggles of teacher and various pedagogical approaches that could benefit from updated educational resources. It was helpful to see how the past is present in our challenges to envision the future. Carolyn and Carol explain how the work of the Ontario Association for Media Literacy legacy and work is supporting teacher in Canada and globally in the context of the current struggles of teacher education where only one media literacy program exist at the graduate level in Ontario. This led to the opportunities that the McLuhan Foundation has put in place to reach out for collaboration. In my presentation, I was connecting the historical call for social justice to current need to redefine media literacy from a humanistic perspective. I explained that we cannot see media literacy as the end goal, but as a way for a more inclusive, diverse, equitable, and just discussion and participation. In discussions with the other speakers, Renee Hobbs, Michael RobbGrieco, Antonio Lopez, Julian McDougall, and Nicoleta Fotiade we debated about the question if media literacy education should have a clear social justice value. Following NAMLE September 2023 Leadership Summit in LA, I raised the question if one could be racist and media literate? Answers varied and this is why I personally said: NO. We need to be clear that media education is about demystified power and supporting our learners and ourselves to connect, engage and make a positive impact for the common good. How can we do that?  

In conclusion, IMLRS 2024 was a cultural experience in the Azores with our international colleagues as we delve deep into the past, present and future of our ever-changing field. Media literacy education keeps growing and providing a home for new emerging scholars and practitioners around the world. I cannot wait for the next time we all going to meet to keep the good fight and exploring our affordances as a global community committed to make it a better place. 

By yonty,