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Article

Erica Scharrer and Yuxi Zhou

Media literacy refers to the ability to interact with media from a position of active inquiry, carefully considering media texts, the forces and factors that shape those texts, and the ways in which audiences interpret the texts or otherwise respond. Media access, use, creation, analysis, and evaluation skills are considered essential for citizenship in the contemporary world. Media literacy education encompasses efforts to advance media literacy within a group of individuals and spur their motivation to apply media literacy skills and perspectives in interactions with media. Yet, there are barriers that impede the widespread adoption of media literacy education in various global locations. There is disparity, for instance, in the degree to which local, regional, or national policies support media literacy education in schools as well as in the training, funding, or other resources available to educators. Considerable variability in the assumptions and objectives that scholars and practitioners bring to media literacy education has been identified. Some of that variability reflects differing emphases in Communication and Media Studies paradigms including whether media literacy education should be considered as a means of protecting children and adolescents from the potential for negative effects of media. Sometimes positioned as an alternative to a more protectionist approach, media literacy education can be viewed as a platform from which to encourage young people’s creative self-expression and to emphasize their (and others’) agency rather than vulnerability. The ways in which media literacy education is carried out and how and what is assessed to determine what such education can achieve differs, as well. In spite of these differences, there are overarching commonalities in media literacy conceptualization and empirical evidence that media literacy education can build skills necessary for citizenship in an increasingly media- and information-rich world.

Article

Indigenous peoples from Latin America understand and use communication from an Indigenous perspective. Communication is a key aspect of their ongoing struggles for self-determination and autonomy, and the ways they understand and use communication embodies ancestral knowledge as well as technological appropriations. Communication is the main vehicle for self-representation, which is materialized in various practices, media, and messages that circulate within communities, between villages, or toward the population of metropolitan society. Communication attests to the capacity of Indigenous peoples to produce new knowledge and different culturally grounded responses to diverse times and historic contradictions. Indigenous peoples throughout Latin America use communication to serve several purposes. It reproduces worldviews deeply rooted in identity, territoriality, languages, spirituality, autonomy, and sovereignty. It is also a mechanism for community (self) reflexivity. It is a political strategy. It is a basic right. And it is a set of practices and processes that give rise to specific media products. Hence, from these purposes it is possible to recognize five dimensions of communication from a Latin American Indigenous perspective: (a) communication as cosmogony, (b) communication for community self-reflexivity, (c) communication as a political strategy (d) communication as a right, and (e) communication as a medium. These dimensions exemplify the capacity of Indigenous peoples from Latin America to produce new knowledge embedded in ancestral knowledge and to fight for self-determination, autonomy, and cognitive justice via communication.

Article

Roberta Chevrette

Scholarship engaging queer theory in tandem with the study of colonialism and empire has expanded in recent years. This interdisciplinary area of research draws from queer of color theorizing and women of color feminists who made these links during queer theory’s emergence and development in social movements and within the field of women’s and gender studies. Together, queer of color, (post)colonial, transnational feminist, and Indigenous scholars and activists have highlighted the centrality of gender and sexuality to colonial, settler colonial, and imperial processes. Among the alignments of queer and (post)colonial inquiry are their emphases on social transformation through critique and resistant praxis. In the communication discipline, scholarship queering the study of colonialism and empire has emerged in critical/cultural studies, intercultural communication, rhetoric, media studies, and performance studies. Two broad thematics defining this scholarship are (a) decolonizing queerness by identifying how queer theory, LGBTQ activism, and queer globalizations have reinforced Whiteness and empire; and (b) queering decolonization by identifying how heteropatriarchal, binary, and normative systems of sex, sexuality, and gender contribute to colonial processes of past and present.

Article

Networks of experts coordinated or orchestrated by international bodies have become so widespread and influential that they are said to shape a new world order. Standards for consumer safety, investor protection, and environmental sustainability are governed by appeals to the epistemic authority of experts. Typically, formal international organizations orchestrate cross-border constellations of public–private collaborations between groups that are deemed to have relevant knowledge. This trend is part of a depoliticization of decision-making; policy issues are framed as technical problems that should be kept at a distance from party politics. The question here is how to conceptualize and assess this development in democratic terms. In political theory, three kinds of approach have evolved in response to this trend. At one extreme, the argument is that governance beyond the state cannot be legitimate until it has implemented modes of representation and contestation familiar from the domestic context. At the other extreme, the argument is that legitimacy beyond the state should be decoupled from democratic concerns and be legitimated on technocratic grounds. Between these two poles is the argument that democracy does not have to resemble the domestic model in organizational terms and can fruitfully be reconceived or reinterpreted in the international context. Versions of the reinterpretive approach are currently popular under different theoretical labels. It is fruitful to use it as a model for considering questions of democratic legitimacy for the expert networks that constitute or interact with international organizations. In following the reinterpretive route, a natural starting point is to consider what the key evaluative dimensions of democracy are. At an abstract level, democracy is about three main considerations: 1. Authorization: The people are the rightful principals of public action. It is necessary to consider how people can be empowered to challenge and potentially veto opinions that flow from expert networks. 2. Attitude: Democratically justified institutions express the right kind of concern for people as equals. There are important questions about how the technical rationalities of expert networks can show consideration for a reasonable pluralism of perspectives and how “soft law” can address subjects with appropriate respect for citizens’ claim to justification and rule of law. 3. Area: The authority of democratically legitimate institutions must be matched by a defined sphere of answerability. For the area of expert networks, this issue concerns both the scope of expert mandates and whether there is a fit between mandate and actual practice. The task for an assessment of the democratic legitimacy of expert networks is to consider more fully what each of these evaluative dimensions imply in the relevant context.

Article

Felix Reer and Thorsten Quandt

The study of addictive media use has a rather long tradition in media effects research and constitutes an interdisciplinary field that brings together scholars from communication science, psychology, psychiatry, and medicine. While older works focused on radio, film, or television addiction, newer studies have often examined the excessive use of interactive digital media and its consequences. Since the introduction of affordable home computer systems in the 1980s and 1990s, especially the pathological use of digital games (games addiction) has been discussed and investigated intensively. However, early research on the topic suffered from considerable methodological limitations, which made it difficult to assess the spread of the problem objectively. These limitations notwithstanding, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) decided to include the addictive use of digital games (Internet gaming disorder) as a “condition for further study” in its diagnostical manual, the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition), in 2013. A few years later, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially acknowledged addictive game use as a diagnosable mental condition (gaming disorder) by listing it in the 11th edition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). Some scholars viewed the decisions of the APA and the WHO with skepticism, arguing that healthy players may be stigmatized, while others greeted them as important prerequisites to facilitate appropriate therapies. Despite the question of whether the inclusion of disordered game use in the manuals of the APA and the WHO has greater advantages than disadvantages, it definitely triggered a research boom. New scales testing the APA and the WHO criteria were developed and applied in international studies. Representative studies were conducted that indicated that at least a small percentage of players seemed to show playing patterns that indeed could be considered problematic. Further, the correlates of gaming disorder have been examined extensively, showing that the addictive use of digital games is associated with particular demographics, motivations, and personality aspects as well as with other diverse impairments, such as physical and psychological health issues and problems in the social and working lives of affected players. However, the debate about the accuracy of the definitions and diagnostic criteria postulated by the APA and the WHO has not ended, and more high-quality research is needed to further improve the understanding of the causes, consequences, and specifics of gaming disorder. In addition, new aspects and innovations, such as micropayments, loot boxes, and highly immersive technologies such as virtual reality or augmented reality systems, may expose gamers to new risks that future debates and research need to consider.

Article

Superheroes are a global phenomenon. The superhero genre has been proliferated through modern industrial societies by way of movies, television, comics, and other forms of popular media. Although virtually every nation in the world has heroic myths, the modern superhero, as marked by the inception of recent American comics heroes in 1929, is a uniquely Western invention. Superheroes are “Western” insofar as they embody and exhibit Western civic values, such as democracy, humanism, and retributive justice. These characters have been communicatively incorporated into globalization processes by means of diffusion and thereby enact aspects of cultural imperialism. Even so, superhero figures have been in high demand across many populations for their entertainment value. As superheroes have diffused in non-Western cultures, they have not only been absorbed by new cultures but also refigured and adapted. These non-Western adaptations have had a recursive influence, such as the global popularity of Japanese manga. The recursive relationship between Western superheroes and their non-Western adaptations implies superheroes are an important aspect of cultural fusion in global popular culture.

Article

Social media have amplified and accelerated the ethical challenges that communicators, professional and otherwise, face worldwide. The work of ethical journalism, with a priority of truthful communication, offers a paradigm case for examining the broader challenges in the global social media network. The evolution of digital technologies and the attendant expansion of the communication network pose ethical difficulties for journalists connected with increased speed and volume of information, a diminished place in the network, and the cross-border nature of information flow. These challenges are exacerbated by intentional manipulation of social media, human-run or automated, in many countries including internal suppression by authoritarian regimes and foreign influence operations to spread misinformation. In addition, structural characteristics of social media platforms’ filtering and recommending algorithms pose ethical challenges for journalism and its role in fostering public discourse on social and political issues, although a number of studies have called aspects of the “filter bubble” hypothesis into question. Research in multiple countries, mostly in North America and Europe, has examined social media practices in journalism, including two issues central to social media ethics—verification and transparency—but ethical implications have seldom been discussed explicitly in the context of ethical theory. Since the 1980s and 1990s, scholarship focused on normative theorizing in relation to journalism has matured and become more multicultural and global. Scholars have articulated a number of ethical frameworks that could deepen analysis of the challenges of social media in the practice of journalism. However, the explicit implications of these frameworks for social media have largely gone unaddressed. A large topic of discussion in media ethics theory has been the possibility of universal or common principles globally, including a broadening of discussion of moral universals or common ground in media ethics beyond Western perspectives that have historically dominated the scholarship. In order to advance media ethics scholarship in the 21st-century environment of globally networked communication, in which journalists work among a host of other actors (well-intentioned, ill-intentioned, and automated), it is important for researchers to apply existing media ethics frameworks to social media practices. This application needs to address the challenges that social media create when crossing cultures, the common difficulties they pose worldwide for journalistic verification practices, and the responsibility of journalists for countering misinformation from malicious actors. It is also important to the further development of media ethics scholarship that future normative theorizing in the field—whether developing new frameworks or redeveloping current ones—consider journalistic responsibilities in relation to social media in the context of both the human and nonhuman actors in the communication network. The developing scholarly literature on the ethics of algorithms bears further attention from media ethics scholars for the ways it may provide perspectives that are complementary to existing media ethics frameworks that have focused on human actors and organizations.

Article

Juan Llamas-Rodriguez and Viviane Saglier

The postcolonial intellectual tradition has proved crucial to articulating cultural, film, and media formations from the geographical and theoretical perspective of (formerly) colonized people and countries. The object of media studies has expanded significantly beyond the screen in the past decades, including a renewed attention to non-visual media and an emerging attention to the material conditions of possibility for media representations. In this new mediascape, postcolonial theories and concepts potentially repoliticize media theory by questioning Western assumptions about technological progress and innovation. Postcolonial theories of media force a rethink of the tenets of traditional media theories while, at the same time, media theories demonstrate the centrality of media, in all its forms, to understanding the postcolonial condition.

Article

Andrew DJ Shield

Migration—whether international or internal, forced or voluntary—intertwines with digital media, especially for sexual minorities and trans people who seek out platforms catering to lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer (LGBTQ) people. Online networks foster transnational flows of ideas and information, which can enable international travel. The ways that queer people interact on digital media in the 21st century have emerged not only from decades of online subcultures—such as 1990s chatrooms and profile sites—but also from predigital media cultures, such as printed personal ads in gay and lesbian journals. The internet accelerated the growth of media platforms and queer international networks, both of which continued to develop with the advent of mobile phone apps and the proliferation of social media. Online media—from blogs to hashtags to “hook-up” apps—can relate to all aspects of the migration process. Before, during, and after a move, queer migrants access online media for information about LGBTQ laws and norms or for help with the logistics of migration. When in a new country, queer migrants use online media to try to connect with locals. During these interactions, migrants might encounter forms of xenophobia, racism, and exclusion. In spite or because of these experiences, queer migrants utilize digital media to build new networks, such as queer diasporic communities aimed at social or political activities.

Article

A celebrity is a well-known person who commands public recognition and fascination. Although the celebrity may have existed for hundreds of years, the emergence of influencers gives rise to a new breed of celebrities on social media, who are ordinary-people-turned-experts in an area of interest (e.g., lifestyle). Together, the traditional celebrity and influencer illustrate the industry- and socially-constructed star-making processes. On the one hand, traditional celebrities’ path to fame is supported by networked media and the entertainment system. On the other hand, influencers create contents that netizens can pick and choose to like and follow, making their path to fame a socially-constructed process. Nevertheless, the star-making industries in the 21st century are embracing big data, AI, and machine-learning algorithms to “design” and “manufacture” celebrities. In so doing, they usher in a “new” industry-constructed process that has “created” K-pop stars and virtual influencers. Given the prevailing consumption culture, both the celebrity and influencer often engage in brand endorsement practices. The major strands of celebrity endorsement (CE) research highlight the celebrity, consumer, and endorsed brand. In addition to factors that can be traced directly to the celebrity (e.g., trustworthiness, attractiveness, images), CE research discusses how the celebrity’s match with a product or brand and how the celebrity’s relationship with consumers (both fans and the general public) offers important contingency factors that impact the effects of CE. Meanwhile, influencer-marketers are passionate about their area of expertise. They share their personal brand usage experiences with and provide contextualized recommendations to consumers. Their relationship with consumers is characterized by trust, intimacy, and dialogue. Without the traditional celebrity’s glamour, they use “authentic” and “similar” strategies in their self-branding efforts. These practices allow them to address the consumer’s instrumental and relational needs when making purchase decisions, an act that a traditional celebrity is less effective in making happen. Armed with big data and the like, the current star-making industries has the power and control at an unprecedented scale. The K-pop stars and virtual influencers thus created and managed have been successful. However, their path to fame raises concerns over institutional governance, regulatory control, and ethics of the celebrity and endorsement businesses as well as the means of cultural production. These issues together render celebrity studies and endorsement research a discipline both interesting and challenging to pursue.