Media literacy social network - ‘Milieu’ - is launched

Photo: Robert Fish

Vanessa Redgrave visits Salzburg Academy, '08
The Knight Center for International Media has launched a media literacy global discussion forum, in collaboration with the International Center for Media and the Public Agenda at the University of Maryland and the Salzburg Global Seminar. The Milieu's initiative came from members of the 2008 Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change.

Moses Shumow, a PhD student at UM School of Communication, is coordinating the effort. One hundred thirty participants who attended Salzburg Academy over the past two years have been invited to join the group. Two-thirds have already signed up.

Shumow said the goal is to continue the dialogue that began at the Academy, by building on the media literacy tools developed during the three weeks these students spent together last summer in Austria.

"Toward the end, the students who were there -- there were 60 of us from 15 countries, speaking 12 different languages -- said, how do we take this and continue it and keep what we are doing, all the discussions we've been having?" said Shumow, who was one of three UM graduate students accompanying Sanjeev Chatterjee, Knight Center's executive director and UM vice dean.

"Mileu is an experiment to see how this student managed and moderated forum will conduct a global conversation about the role of media in shaping our perceptions of the most pressing issues of our time," said Chatterjee.

For the next three months, Milieu will be open exclusively to Academy members, by invitation only. At this initial phase, there will be two editors in charge of content. Jessica Castle, in Texas, and Malena Sánchez, in Argentina, are both graduate students in the communication field. The first post and discussion are about the situation at Gaza Strip.

The editors hope to hold regular live chats with journalists covering such stories from location, so participants worldwide can ask questions on real time.

"[We are] trying to understand what is like to report on a story of conflict with a global implication," Shumow said.

University of Maryland professor, Susan Moeller, also co-director of the Salzburg Academy and director of the International Center for Media and the Public Agenda (ICMPA), said media literacy is ultimately about empowering people to understand media coverage across the world, and social networking can be an important tool that can help in achieving that goal.

"Media literacy is at the nexus of democracy, citizenship and communities, and Milieu is a critical part, or can be a critical part, of all three of those components," she said. "Milieu can help bring the ideals associated with democracy, particularly related to free expression, free speech, free press, freedom of assembly and freedom of petition, by literally having people exercise those freedoms at a site like Milieu."

Posted on February 3, 2009