Excerpt from: López, A., Share, J., & Redmond, T. (2022). Ecomedia literacy: Ecojustice and media education in a post-pandemic world. In Y. Friesem, U. Raman, I. Kanižaj, & G. Y. Choi (Eds.), The Routledge handbook on media education futures post-pandemic (pp. 463–470). Routledge.
There are a myriad of reasons that one would incorporate ecomedia literacy into the media education curriculum. First, media literacy education has always been about demystifying the structures of media, information, and communications technologies and preparing students to identify how and why media are constructed, along with implications and effects related to social, economic, and political power (Masterman, 2001). Second, media and technology have significant impacts on the planet and people as seen at the nexus of multiple crises, including the global pandemic of COVID-19, as well as increasing economic inequality, police violence against marginalized populations, and our destabilized climate. Finally, incorporating ecomedia literacy into learning is important because students deserve curricula that are transdisciplinary and effectively leverage the expertise of multiple fields in action so as to address complex current and future problems. Curricula that address meaningful problem-finding and problem-solving are said to prepare students with “enduring understandings” or “portable outcomes” (Zehnder et al., 2021), where course learning may be taken beyond the classroom or school and into the world.
There are multiple opportunities for practitioners to incorporate ecomedia literacy into media literacy education. To begin, consider starting with one change or addition. By building ecomedia literacy pieces into lessons and learning design slowly, one may build confidence and skill, reflecting and revising as teacher-scholars are accustomed to doing as they develop practice and deepen curriculum. This section offers a sampling of various ideas related to topics that are typically included in media literacy curricula.
In units focused on advertising or commercial media, teachers can invite students to study planned and perceived obsolescence and the implications of these economic structures on the finite resources of the planet. Students may analyze implicit messages contained in commercial media for a range of products, including media and communication technologies such as computers, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. They can also challenge the practice of greenwashing in which businesses publicize false environmentally friendly images while continuing to harm the planet.
News coverage of the climate crisis and related global incidents and events are actively framed, as all media are constructed. Students can break apart aspects of the constructedness, such as alphabetic language, visual language, framing, and positioning within a broadcast to identify and evaluate techniques. Analysis may include determining accuracy, validity, or bias, or identifying techniques that are used to create and convey doubt regarding climate science. Alongside problematic coverage, students could learn to differentiate accurate examples of climate science in reporting.
Manufacturing and Gadget Design
Manufacturing is a rich area for integration that is often underrepresented in media literacy curricula. For instance, students can study the manufacturing process in factories where technologies, like smartphones, are produced. They can research and track the life cycle of gadgets with a focus on identifying key impacts on the planet and people at each stage. With their examination of manufacturing processes in mind, they can then analyze advertising media for the selected products and critique the production techniques at play that remove or omit human impacts or harm.
Incorporating attention to media representations of the planet, Earth, environment or related ecocentric themes in the context of Media Representations is a fruitful avenue for adding ecomedia to the curriculum. This can be done in many genres, from advertising to movies to social media. For example, students could collect and evaluate representations of the planet, Earth, nature, or environment in commercial media to identify hidden ideologies. Similarly, students can evaluate implicit messages and their effects on audiences’ feelings of engagement in climate action or sense of efficacy. Moreover, when combined with topics, such as Media Design, students can extend studies in representation to identify, analyze, evaluate, and problem solve issues related to environmental racism and injustice.
The interconnectedness of these curricular opportunities is significant and one such thread for consideration in aligning the curriculum is to examine Media Ideologies regarding portrayal of the planet, Earth, nature, environment, and related issues, ideas, crises, and challenges. Working across topics and genres, students can collectively identify, analyze and evaluate dominant social, economic and political ideologies embedded in media messages that drive the ways we live and define our relationship to the planet. Alongside dominant ideologies, students can also seek out and identify counter narratives or oppositional representations that seek to reclaim or remake portrayals of our relationship to the Earth. Students can move beyond analysis and create materials that feature omitted ideas and alternative perspectives, and in this way, push back on dominant worldviews, misconceptions, and myths.
Beyond analysis, creating media is indispensable for media literacy and ecomedia literacy. Students can engage in ecowriting through reflective journaling on environmental themes, work with natural materials in creative ways, or use contemporary media to raise awareness via mythbusting or counter narrative storytelling. Some of the activities we have done with students during the pandemic included exploring their relationships with nature through creative production. Students may start by visually mapping their preconceptions or experiences and then address those connections as we learn about the environmental problems and new alternative solutions. What is exciting about ecowriting is that it provides students with a way to practice agency and engage in action to share their new knowledge in unexpected and creative ways (Share, 2023).
Masterman, L. (2001). Teaching the media. Routledge.
Share, J. (Ed.). (2023). For the love of nature: Ecowriting the world. New York, NY: Peter Lang. Peter Lange.
Zehnder, C., Alby, C., Kleine, K., & Metzker, J. (2021). Learning that matters: A field guide to course design for transformative education. Myers Education Press.