Today is the release of the movie “Flags of Our Fathers“, directed by Clint Eastwood, which I’m sure will bring about plenty of discussion about the role of the media when it comes to news reporting and war (reviews of the movie are already availble on sites like Rotten Tomatoes, and a quick Google search turned up about 3.5 million hits for the movie). A good article to get started with is Newsweek’s “Inside the Hero Factory“, which discusses how the government and media have been using images over time to manipulate reality, and how the more recent proliferation of technology has started to turn the tables (although one should wonder about the content of the article, given the media outlet that published it).
The article draws a comparison between World War II and Iraq:
It hasn’t been a conflict in which photographers or network-news producers have captured the “picture that can win or lose a war” in Iraq. It was a shutterbug soldier who thought it would be cool to document the fun and games at Abu Ghraib. What the Pentagon didn’t foresee, and couldn’t control, was the rise of new media—the unfiltered images popping up on the Web, the mini-DV cams put in the hands of soldiers that emerge in the recent documentary “The War Tapes.” We don’t see much of the real war on network TV, but the unauthorized documentaries—”The Ground Truth,” “Gunner Palace” and many more—come pouring out. Just as more people think that they get a straighter story from Jon Stewart’s mock news reports than from traditional outlets, it’s been the “unofficial” media that have sabotaged the PR wizards in the Pentagon. The sophistication of the spinners has been matched by the sophistication of a media-savvy public.
It isn’t difficult to point out here that it is exactly because of these types of developments that it is sooooo important for educators to learn about and teach with and about many forms of media, including the ones that are currently being labeled as being bad for kids. Examples like flickr and YouTube come to mind, but let’s not forget television and the movies (especially those controlled by the large media conglomerates).
Again, this is yet another example of it is not the technology that is the focus of teaching and learning, but the information (a la David Warlick). How are kids going to learn to make their own informed decisions if we don’t
show them there is more than one side to a story?
teach them how to look for and recognize bias?
give them the tools to effectively analyze and synthesize a variety of sources on a given topic?
help them figure out the (un)importance of source and authority (see David Warlick’s post on that one)
As a former social studies teacher, I can tell you from experience that teaching these types of skills is much more important, relevant, (and fun) than plowing through an 800-page textbook of facts (which, btw, are not always correct either!!).
More to follow on this one …
Image Credits: mcfarland0311′s photostream
(Flag Raisers on Iwo Jima, 1945):
(Marines in Kuwait, 2006):
Posted in Communication, Digital Storytelling, Government Control, Information Literacy, Internet, Mass media, Society, Teaching and Learning, Technology, Television, Ubiquitous Computing
In a recent post, entitled “Another Side of China“, I wrote about how the Chinese government is determining what cartoons will be shown on prime time TV to protect its own industry. As we all know, the Chinese government is also monitoring and censoring certain Internet content, including parts of Google and Yahoo. More recently, a similar debate has started around Wikipedia’s entry into China. Today, I ran into an issue related to this, this time with access to Internet content of an academic nature. I was contacted by a Chinese master’s student who was looking for a few dissertations written by doctoral students in the U.S. She had the titles but could not get access to the full documents, or even an abstract. I ended up finding abstracts for her and sent them to her via email, as I couldn’t do it through MSN.
I started thinking more about this later in the day, and I now wonder if the Chinese government is blocking certain academic content in order to protect China’s research by forcing Chinese scholars to predominantly look at Chinese research. Obviously, for teaching and learning purposes, this is not a good thing, as it narrows the body of knowledge you have access to. In that respect, we are pretty spoiled in the U.S., as access to information is much easier.
However, the whole net neutrality issue could change that in the U.S. (I blogged about that in the post “Threats to Ubiquitous Computing“). In a way, a loss of net neutrality would have a similar effect to access to information via the Internet, in that certain content would be very difficult or impossible to access for people who have a slow connection (think media content like video). And even though this would not be a form of censorship by the government, if the government is going to allow the creation of a tiered system of access, it would certainly be condoned by it.
Either way, whether content would be completely blocked (as in China), or made virtually inaccessible (as may happen in the U.S.), ubiquitous access to technology does not necessarily equal ubiquitous access to information. This is something that learners of all ages should know about and realize when they access the deluge of information we call the Internet. In the back of your mind, you should always wonder what information is NOT there, and who is responsible for that. However, as in the example I described here, sometimes technology does provide you with ways to access what you normally couldn’t…
After the great experiences I had in Shanghai, running into this article today was certainly a reality check:
China bans Simpsons from prime-time TV
The Associated Press
BEIJING — D’oh! China has banished Homer Simpson, Pokemon and Mickey Mouse from prime time. Beginning Sept. 1, regulators have barred foreign cartoons from TV from 5 to 8 p.m. in an effort to protect China’s struggling animation studios, news reports said Sunday. The move allows the Monkey King and his Chinese pals to get the top TV viewing hours to themselves.
Having the technology available, like the ubiquitous TV screens I saw all over Shanghai, especially in public transportation, is one thing, being able to choose content is another. The article really reinforced my observations that as much as Shanghai is modernizing, the traditional culture and politics are still strong. It will be interesting to see how this story unfolds, as there has been criticism to this decision in China itself…