We cannot begin to understand or control the systems serving us information in our media saturated world, yet media literacy focuses on individual–our–responsibility. Through the work shared here, I attempt to balance the strengths of media literacy education with the challenges presented by opaque social media platforms and pervasive misinformation campaigns.

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Research project, led by the Centre for Excellence in Media Practice and funded by the US Embassy in London, brought together leading media literacy researchers from the US and UK to work with teachers, librarians, journalists and young people to share knowledge for tackling ‘fake news’ and disinformation with critical media literacy.
Media literacy vs. likes, followers, & our reptilian minds. Presented March 2019 at Media Literacy vs. Fake News Workshop, U.S. Embassy, London.
Democratization of everything. [Video clip of presentation] Media Literacy vs. Fake News Workshop, U.S. Embassy, London.
How media literacy can help. [Video clip from presentation] Media Literacy vs. Fake News Workshop, U.S. Embassy, London.
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“So be a safe space for your child to talk to you. It shouldn’t be this constant bombardment of questions about these hoaxes—did you see this Momo thing? Embed internet and media literacy in the daily rhythms of the family,” says Bulger. She wants you to let your kids know: “We’re all online, we’re all figuring this out, and we are a safe space for you to talk about anything you see.” Wired, February 2019
Developed syllabus for 12-part Crash Course series on Media Literacy. January 2018. Topics include history, media ownership, how profit drives content, tactics of persuasion, online advertising, media manipulation, media policy, and practical tips for living in a media saturated world.
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“Media literacy has become a center of gravity for countering fake news, and a diverse array of stakeholders – from educators to legislators, philanthropists to technologists – have pushed significant resources toward media literacy programs. Media literacy, however, cannot be treated as a panacea. This paper provides a foundation for evaluating media literacy efforts and contextualizing them relative to the current media landscape.”
Report, February 2018, Data & Society Research Institute
Article, Journal of Media Literacy Education, Fall 2018
Review of The Promises, Challenges, and Futures of Media Literacy: The media literacy report, meanwhile, notes that most media literacy programs center around individual responsibility “rather than the roles of the community, state, institutions, or developers of technology”; varying initiatives also address the problem in very different ways, “which could indicate the vibrancy of the field or risk incoherence.” And though members of both political parties may say they support media literacy initiatives, “Lemish & Lemish (1997), when evaluating media literacy in Israel, reached a conclusion relevant to the current media environment in the U.S., that policymakers saw the media from their ideological perspective and advocated for media literacy education that would align with those ideologies. Challenges of ideology, funding, and national coherence limit the potential of media literacy initiatives in the U.S.”
One open question, the researchers note, is: “What is the political identity of media
literacy in the U.S. during a hyperpartisan moment?”
It makes me wonder if the concept of media literacy — the act of teaching it — will become partisan in the way the whole concept of fact-checking has, or if media literacy efforts in schools can somehow remain exempt from this.
Nieman Lab, February 2018
Review of The Promises, Challenges, and Futures of Media Literacy: There isn’t yet enough evidence that teaching media literacy can help students to resist disinformation, according to a new report, “The Promises, Challenges, and Futures of Media Literacy.” But in the wake of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and the proliferation of fake news all over the Internet, educating young people on how to judge the accuracy of the information they encounter online has taken on greater urgency. More states are pushing toward requiring schools to teach media literacy, and school librarians are increasingly tackling the role themselves. Education Week, March 2018
The most important thing you can do is not underestimate the impact your own habits can have on your children’s. “Kids’ digital media use is largely influenced by their parents’ behavior and access,” says Monica Bulger, PhD, a researcher at the Data & Society Research Institute. Family Circle, February 2018
Review of The Promises, Challenges, and Futures of Media Literacy: Many existing efforts “focus on the interpretive responsibilities of the individual,” they write. But, they ask, is it really a media literacy when public officials deny the existence of climate change, or tech companies proliferate “intentionally opaque systems of serving news on social media platforms?” And, the researchers wonder, “if bad actors intentionally dump disinformation online with an aim to distract and overwhelm, is it possible to safeguard against media manipulation?” Education Week, February 2018
Lexicon of Lies: A Guide to Terms for Problematic Information Teaching Guide reviews the meanings of a variety of terms related to problematic information, and explores the places where those meanings break down or become complicated. It can be used as a teaching aid in undergraduate and graduate level classes. Professors and teachers of communication, media studies, sociology, and advertising may find the Lexicon particularly useful for informing classroom discussions of current events around ‘fake news,’ ‘post-truth,’ media manipulation, or disinformation.”
While a lack of mature decision-making skills has always been a hallmark of late adolescence, Bulger says, the online arena allows speech to persist, endure and travel further. It also creates a sense of distance: “When I’m talking to people counseling students at the college level,” she explains, “they’re saying that the students have a lack of awareness of the consequences of harmful messages. The students say, ‘It’s not real. It goes away.’ ”
NPR Ed, June 2017
“Digital citizenship can play a strong role in preventing negative experiences,” said Monica Bulger, a senior researcher at Data & Society, a New York City-based research institute. “It’s also an opportunity to teach respect, responsibility, and how to engage in civil society.” Education Week, October 2016
Review of Believing the Unbelievable: Understanding Young People’s Information Literacy Beliefs and Practices in the United States: Their results confirmed that certain developmental and demographic characteristics can make young people more effective information evaluators. “Older children … reported using more analytic credibility evaluation strategies, including being more aware of credibility as a potential problem of online information, and were less likely to believe the hoax sites compared to younger children,” they observed. “As children mature, they become more sophisticated information consumers and are better able to use contextual cues to evaluate information.” Science Daily, August 2015
Article, Journal of Children and Media, July 2015
“I’d like to caution that when we’re talking about teens and youth that they’re not a homogenous group. Particularly in their social capabilities and their information-evaluation capabilities, even though they have technology skills —we’ve all seen two year-olds using iPads and everywhere we go it just seems the kids have this facility with technology— what they may not have are the social skills, the ability to evaluate information and know what to trust, how to know how to respond when content is upsetting.”
Web We Want Festival, London, October 2014
In ‘Media literacy research and policy in Europe: A review of recent, current and planned activities’, we pool the insights of 25 media literacy experts from academia, policy and regulatory institutions to clarify the current state of play and identify future directions for media literacy research and policy in Europe.
Blog: Concerted Action: New Media Literacy Report Outlines & Policy Agenda.
“The recent Twitter and Internet hoaxes highlight the importance of critically approaching media messages, especially as indicators of information quality and veracity are ever more limited. Despite its importance in everyday life, efforts to promote media literacy suffer from lack of a commonly shared definition and coherent agenda.” (December 2013)
But what I really needed was someone who had taken an objective, scientific look at the way we use communications technology – and Dr Monica Bulger of the Oxford Internet Institute fitted the bill. Far from dumbing down the way we communicate, technology had made us smarter, she told me. In particular, executives like Sir Victor Blank had been made more literate by the arrival of computers and word processing. “Prior to word processors, executives would dictate messages to secretaries and speak on the phone. So the use of technology has improved literacy.” Dr Bulger conceded that face-to-face communication was important, but said it also had its dangers: “I’ve sat in meetings where people have said things they shouldn’t have.” Whereas email gave more time for considered reflection: “You can do the count to ten rule and think a bit before you respond.” Overall, the academic’s conclusion was that the different technologies now available to us were helping not hindering communication. But she conceded that there was an issue with what she described as “cognitive overload or data deluge.” BBC, December 2011
Developed and validated tool to assess adult media literacy levels in all EU Member States. (Oxford Internet Institute, Danish Technological Institute, and European Association for Viewers’ Interests, Funded by European Commission, 2011)