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Author: Mag. Helmut Peissl
Critical media literacy in adult education
In light of the process of ‘mediatisation’ – the way in which communication delivered via the media is increasingly affecting all areas of life - interacting critically with media is not only an important prerequisite for empowerment and participation in society but is also increasingly gaining fundamental importance in learning, the concept of democracy and community building. ‘Interacting with Media’ here means the way that people deliberately interact with media channels and their content in terms of receiving, analysing and creating content at a personal/individual level, at a social level and at a cultural/societal level. The British media expert Roger Silverstone (2007, p. 274 in the German edition) emphasises this political aspect of media literacy accurately when he says:
‘...Media literacy [...] is a prerequisite for full participation in late modern society, involving as it does the critical skills of analysis and appreciation of the social dynamics and social centrality of media as framing the cultures of the everyday. Media literacy above all requires an understanding of the non-transparency of media and of the moral implications of that non-transparency. And it requires an understanding of mediation as a social and political process.’
Recognising, analysing and reflecting on the individual, social and societal impacts of mediatisation on our daily lives are thus taking on fundamental relevance from the point of view of emancipatory adult education work. As active citizens, learners should be given the ability to identify their interests, opportunities and responsibilities resulting from mediatisation and should be given the skills to make well-informed decisions in their media interactions. By that token, critical reflection is a prerequisite for also being able to deliver practical knowledge to learners in a responsible manner.
EMAC – Ethical Media for Active Citizenship
Project period: 9/2017 – 10/2019
As part of the EMAC Erasmus+ project, partners from five countries are developing and testing low-threshold methods for teaching critical media literacyand media ethics. The first area of focus for this project is approaches to the analysis of media content, checking the veracity of media content and compliance with ethical media standards, with a particular emphasis on the representation of minorities and disadvantaged groups in the media. A second area of focus is methods and tools that can be used in workshops for citizens and journalists relating to the ethical production of media content. The ‘Power Flower’ exercise, for example, is designed to highlight participants’ own experiences of discrimination but also provide them with the opportunity to reflect on situations where they might have discriminated against others, often unconsciously. The learning goal of this exercise is to ensure participants take a more empathetic approach when designing media content. All these elements are being included in the preparation of a workshop module on journalism ethics. They will then be available to be used as a whole or in the form of individual exercises.
The partner organisations are collecting examples of ‘good practice’ in relation to guidelines and codes for ethical journalism in the participating countries with a focus on the representation of under-represented/marginalised groups and these will serve as reference material. Radio programmes are being produced on individual topics. These will provide the opportunity to go into subjects more in detail and will also act as practical examples of how non-discriminatory media can be created. In this way, the project will contribute to the education work that is now urgently needed. Bernhard Pörksen (2018, p. 186) framed the term ‘editorial society’ to highlight todays need for all citizens to have journalistic skills in order to be able to participate in public debate independently and constructively.
The project partners
Involving partners from different geographic contexts and with different backgrounds in terms of their experience was another important step in the design and implementation of the project. What they all have in common, however, is a long history of analysing and implementing low-threshold teaching of media competence as part of accessible and emancipatory media work – the creation of media content always goes hand-in-hand with conscious or unconscious learning.
NearFM in Dublin, Ireland, was founded in 1982 and offers regular training and adult education sessions on community building, radio broadcasting and intercultural communication. The two partners in Germany, Radio Wüste Welle in Tübingen and Radio Corax in Halle/Saale, operate under very different conditions but both are non-commercial free radio stations seeking to involve refugees and migrants in radio work. The Spanish partner is EMA-RTV, the Association of Public and Communitarian Radios and TV of Andalusia. EMA-RTV coordinates a whole host of local radio stations, produces programmes for general broadcast and is responsible for continuing education for volunteers and paid staff. COMMIT, the Austrian Community Media Institute, promotes discussion and development with regard to the subject of media literacy within a European and international context, and seeks to provide a link between science and practice. COMMIT is actively involved in related research and continuing education for community media workers in Austria. AMARC-Europe is the European association of community radio stations. It seeks to get non-commercial radio recognised as a distinct sector in Europe and is responsible for publicising the results of this project within Europe.
 Silverstone, Roger (2007): Media and Morality: On the Rise of the Mediapolis. Cambridge: Polity (Also published in German by Suhrkamp, Frankfurt)
 Pörksen, Bernhard (2018): The Great Irritation. Ways of Coping with Collective Irritation. (Die große Gereiztheit: Wege aus der kollektiven Erregung.) Munich: Hanser
Helmut Peissl is a communication expert and media educator. He has been the managing director of COMMIT, the Austrian Community Media Institute for Adult Education, Research and Consulting (COMMIT – Community Medien Institut für Weiterbildung Forschung und Beratung) since it was founded in 2010. He has led several study projects on non-commercial radio broadcasting in Austria and Europe for the Austrian Regulatory Authority for Broadcasting and Telecommunications (RTR – Rundfunk und Telekom Regulierungs-GmbH). Together with Dr Meike Lauggas he published the study ‘I learn more from every programme’. Educational services and articles on lifelong learning provided by non-commercial radio in Austria (‘Ich lerne mit jeder Sendung’. Bildungsleistungen und Beiträge zum lebensbegleitenden Lernen des nichtkommerziellen Rundfunks in Österreich). He also prepared the dossier ‘Critical media competence and community media’ (‘Kritische Medienkompetenz und Community Medien’) for adult education in Austria in 2018. He actively contributes to the Media and Internet division of the Council of Europe as an observer and an expert through the Community Media Forum Europe (CMFE). Contact: email@example.com
Further information in German
Peissl, Helmut, Meike Lauggas (2016): Ich lerne mit jeder Sendung. Bildungsleistungen und Beiträge zum lebensbegleitenden Lernen des nichtkommerziellen Rundfunks in Österreich. Schriftenreihe der Rundfunk und Telekom Regulierungs-GmbH, Band 2/2016, Wien
Helmut Peissl, Andrea Sedlaczek, Barbara Eppensteiner und Carla Stenitzer (2018): Kritische Medienkompetenz und Community Medien. Dossier erwachsenenbildung.at