THE CONTEMPORARY MASS MEDIA EDUCATION IN RUSSIA: IN SEARCH FOR NEW THEORETICAL CONCEPTIONS AND MODELS
Abtract. Media education in Russia in general has still not moved from the theoritical conceptions and local experiments to the wide practical implementation. It is necessary to consolidate pedagogical institutions of higher education, universities, faculties of journalism, experimenters in media education and also the media community, coordination of the interaction of state structures, the existing media educational centers and experimental sites in this sphere.
For many decades the professional educators and arts critics from Russian Academy of Education (L.M. Bazhenova, E.A. Bondarenko, S.I.Gudilina, A.A. Zhurin, L.S. Zaznobina, L.S. Pressman, K.M. Tikhomirova, Y.N. Usov, A.V. Sharikov, E.N. Yastrebtsova and others) and from pedagogical institutes and universities (O.A. Baranov, N.B. Kirillova, S.N. Penzin, G.A. Polichko, A.V. Fedorov, N.F. Khilko) have been working out theoretical conceptions and models of mass media education. Russian professional journalists and/or professorate, who taught journalism in institutes of higher education, didn’t hurry to develop the theoretical sphere of this direction of pedagogics for the time being. They preferred to remain in the familiar range of problems of training of future media professionals, and/or to promote the traditional development of the practical branch of media education for schoolchildren and the youth (school and student newspapers, film/radio/television studios, etc.).
However, under the obvious influence of the significant progress of media education in the West (first of all in the leading English-speaking countries), and in Russia itself, the most mobile and active representatives of Russian journalism one after another began to develop this relevant field in the beginning of the XXI century.
Media Education and Journalism
The first serious theorist and journalist who paid attention to mass media education was A.P. Korochensky. In his doctoral thesis and monograph he justly substantiated the common tasks of media criticism and media education (Korochensky, 2003). Then S.G. Korkonosenko took the baton of interest of professional journalism to mass media education (Korkonosenko, 2004). In 2007 I.A. Fateeva published her monograph “Media Education: Theoretical Fundamentals and the Experience of Realization”, which became a kind of manifesto of “journalistic view” on the problems of mass media education in Russia.
Firstly I.A. Fateeva proposed her own variant of the definition of the term “media education”, interpreting it as “the scientific and educational field of study which subject is the means of mass media and communication in pedagogical aspect of their manifold connections with the world, society and mankind. In theoretical terms this field lies at the intersection of pedagogics and the complex science of media. In practical terms it presupposes joint activities of trainers and trainees in
preparation of people for the life in mediatized world, … all the deliberate and systematic actions intended to satisfy the educational needs arising from the very fact of the existence of mass media. In other words it is the organized and sustained process of communication which gives rise to teaching of the production of mass media as well as their use” (Fateeva, 2007, p.11, 13-14).
As we can see, this definition is relatively tight and unlike the series of detailed definitions of UNESCO put forward from 1970s to 2000s (see, for example, the definition of UNESCO, 2001, which emphasizes the democratic and humanistic principles of media education), it tends to universality and neutrality of generalization.
Secondly, after analyzing various theories of media education elaborated by media educators in different countries, I.A. Fateeva concluded that to “derive” the media educational conception from theories of communication is not only unwise but also harmful, because in that way the conceptual disunity of teachers and their students is originally laid, it is burdened by the moral and ethical problems. Not having come to a common solution on the merits, teachers begin to impose their own vision of the problem on their audience” (Fateeva, 2007, pp.25-26).
Probably many media educators will consider such an obvious rejection of media theories of the conceptual approaches to media education to be rather questionable, but the confusing thing something different: why do teachers must “impose their own vision of the problem”? Can’t the process of correct joint comparative analysis of various theories and/or conceptions with the audience be productive?
Thirdly (and this probably is the most important), I.A. Fateeva considers the practical approach to be “the starting point of the theory of media education and the basis for the decision on which educational technology to prefer.” (Fateeva, 2007, p.26). At that the researcher interprets the practical approach much wider than its narrow treatment (that is to teach the audience to use media equipment and create media texts with the help of it). I.A Fateeva believes that practical approach in media education must rest upon the “theory of media activity” (with the detailed classification of the forms of media education and the elaboration of its pedagogical principles), according to which “it is logical for media education as the form of organization of educational process to be built upon the consecutive unfolding of favorable conditions by the pedagogues for the audience to master the following forms of activity:
– adequate perception of media texts as products of human activity, understanding the mechanisms of their origin and replication, their critical evaluation and the qualified opinion about them;
– observation of the functioning of mass media and communication in the society (both the system and its individual enterprises), understanding of them for the deliberate choice and use of them;
– participation in the dialogue with mass media on the basis of modern technology;
– mastering of the process of the creation of media texts on the basis of participation in media educational projects of different scale” (Fateeva, 2007, p.34).
At that she justly mentioned that “in our time, the time of ever-increasing interactivity of modern means of mass communication, the passive media education is unable to meet the challenges of preparing people for the life in mediatized society”. The researcher concludes that among other practical forms of media education, the media education project should become the core technological form of media education, and “the mastering of the methodology of its implementation is mandatory for professional media educators” (Fateeva, 2007, p.120).
Thus the “theory of media activity” in the treatment of I.A. Fateeva is clearly synthetic in nature and it incorporates many elements of the earlier theories of media education.
A year after the publication of I.A. Fateeva’s monograph she formulated her position even clearer: “We offer the media education community to consider the theory of media activity capable of being the theoretical unifying, integrative axis, which modern media education lacks so much, for the consolidation of scientists and teachers from different schools as an alternative to the above mentioned conceptions (semiotic, cultural, aesthetic, social and cultural, the theory of the development of critical thinking, etc. – A.F.). The proposed theory originally comes from the consistently competent approach to the educational process and aims at the final result of the mutual activities of students and teachers, for both types of media education (professional and mass)” (Fateeva, 2008, p.141).
Time will tell how I.A. Fateeva’s “theory of media activity” will be accepted by Russian and foreign media teachers, but it’s clear that its synthetic orientation correlates with the final result of media education – media literate personality, i.e. the totality of its motives, knowledge, skills, abilities (indicators: motivational, contact, informative, perceptive, interpretative / evaluative, practical and operational / activity, creative), to facilitate selection, use, critical analysis, evaluation, creation and transmission of media texts in a variety of types, forms and genres, the analysis of complex processes of functioning of media in society (Fedorov, 2007, p.54). Discussions about Media Education
However, the community of theorists who have come from journalism does not always understand such interpretation of the concept of “media competence”. For example, quoting the indicators of media competence which I had worked out, I.M. Dzyaloshinsky and I.V. Zhilavskaya concluded that “all the authors quoted by A.V. Fedorov (and he himself) restrict themselves to media sphere when reflecting on the indicators of media competence. As if the ability to consume and produce media texts is needed only to consume and produce media texts. (Dzyaloshinsky, 2008, p.88; Zhilavskaya, 2009, p.109).
I don’t agree with this. Aren’t the indicators which I have worked out related to social issues (including moral, civic, etc.)? After all, people’s motives for choosing, perception and/or creation of media texts are always connected with social and cultural context, as well as its moral, civic attitudes. The same can be said about the interpretational and evaluative indicator of media competence. While interpreting and evaluating media texts the audience is always based on its (rather differentiated) social and cultural positions, again incorporating aspects of morality, religion, citizenship, etc. And how can we evaluate the processes of media functioning without the analysis of the problems of society, isolating ourselves within the media texts like in a shell?
No wonder that in the definitions of UNESCO (UNESCO, 2001 and others) media education and media competence are consistently connected with the development of democratic thinking and the development of civic responsibility of a personality.
Reasoning about the mission of media education in general, I.M. Dzyaloshinsky further states that “the social significance of media education is not so much in improving media competence of the individual, as in the formation of the aim at media activity” (Dzyaloshinsky, 2008, p.90), which controls “an individual’s actions for searching (or producing) information in the sphere of media” (Dzyaloshinsky, 2008, p.91) and has the “six basic types”: “search, reception, consumption, translation, production, distribution of mass information” (Dzyaloshinsky, 2008, p.93).
In my opinion there’s nothing new in I.M. Dzyaloshinsky’s definition of “media activity”. In fact it is the worsened version of the much more thoroughly grounded and developed I.A. Fateeva’s “theory of media activity” (Fateeva, 2007, p.34).
For example, “consumption” is mentioned among the types of “media activity”, but nothing is said about “the analysis of media texts” which is a crucial type for media education (incidentally, it was quite justly accented by I.A. Fateeva). Moreover, activities such as “translation”, “distribution of mass information” have never been considered in the key ones media education. What is important for any media agency (translation, distribution) is secondary for the purposes of media education. “Media active” schoolboy easily sends SMSes or simple-minded chat messages like “Maria, where are you? Let’s have a party!”, but at the same time completely unable to analyze a simple media text (published, for instance, in a popular paper), can hardly be called “media literate”…
The following statement of I.M. Dzyalozhinsky seems to me extremely controversial. He says that “the traditional “pedagogical” approach to media education, which restricts itself to the analysis of “individual – media text” relations, cannot answer the main questions:
– What is the reason of the existence of exactly this configuration of informational and media environment in contemporary Russia?
– Why do media produce just these media texts rather than other?
– What has an individual to do when he needs not only to protect himself from “the corrupting influence of media”, but also to search for the necessary information for success in life?” (Dzyalozhinsky, 2008, p.99).
The reality is quite the opposite. “Pedagogical” media education approaches never limited themselves to the “hermetic” analysis of media texts, on the contrary, they have always reached for the analysis of multifaceted relationships between media and society (see, for example: Masterman, 1997, p.51-54; Silverblatt, 2001, p.45-47, 55; Zaznobina, 1996, pp.75-76; Fedorovв, 2001, pp.81-84; Fedorov, 2003; 2010; Fedorov, 2007, pp.189-193; Fedorov, 2010; Sharikov, 1991 and others).
Moreover, “critical thinking in relation to the system of media and media texts is a complex reflective process of thinking, which includes associative perception, synthesis, analysis and evaluation of the mechanisms of functioning of media in society and media texts (information / messages) which come to people by means of mass communication. Thus the development of critical thinking is not the final goal of media education; it is its constant component” (Fedorov, 2007, p.86).
At the end of his article, I.M. Dzyaloshinsky comes to another conclusion which is very controversial in my opinion, that “further development of media education is connected with the development of the civilian-based approach, which aim is not just to increase the level of media competence of students, but to increase media activity of the population. That in turn would stimulate the development of civil communications, ensuring the establishment and development of civil society” (Dzyaloshinsky, 2008, p.99).
I.V. Zhilavskaya shares approximately the same opinion. She states that “media education is the activity in the field of media, the work of consciousness and subconsciousness, the analysis and correlation of self and society with the global problems of mediatized environment. In fact, media education is a form of civic education. It allows young people to become responsible citizens who understand how and by means of what their town, their country and the whole world lives” (Zhilavskaya, 2009, p.75).