Worcester State University Professor of Communication Julie Frechette

Frechette Explores Communication in the Age of Digital Media

February 11, 2016
By: Worcester State University News

For Julie Frechette (Communication), teaching about the media has never been more exciting than now, in the age of digital media. Frechette relishes the fact that the discipline of communication is more attractive than ever in the digital economy. “Our students seek to gain skills in social media and media production, while also learning about the ways digital media shape and define human interactivity,” she says.

“Before the digital age, each medium, such as film, radio and TV, was examined for its own unique properties and human impact as messages were broadcast from elite producers to the masses. Today, we are inundated with new and emerging social media platforms of convergence, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat, whose conceptual purpose is to provide us with the means to express ourselves and enhance our daily communication with others in varied local-to-global networked environments,” she says.

In Frechette’s new book, Media Education for a Digital Generation, with co-editor Dr. Rob Williams, Frechette examines how students’ lives have been affected by the convergence of digital media—from social media to mobile devices, computers, the internet, video games, and MP3 players. “Because students have grown up with the ubiquity of new technology, we need to consider the ways that their learning has changed in the digital age,” she explains. While the popularity of digital technology has clearly changed the ways that students interact with it, Frechette’s book explores the complicated ways in which digital media offer unique social possibilities, while also colonizing time and creative license.

“We offer a framework for critical digital media literacy to assess whether or not fandom culture, ‘friending,’ ratings systems, and status updates offer meaningful social interactivity and creativity or simply attest to our need to feel accepted in a digital culture. We also look at the pros and cons of both networking and fragmentation that stem from social media dependencies that sometimes come at the cost of other forms of meaningful human agency,” she says.

Drawing from the perspective of scholar Douglas Ruskoff, who writes the foreword to the book, Frechette seeks to encourage readers to learn how to critically evaluate online networks, social media, and mobile technology in terms of content and structure. “Our book contains twenty chapters that offer new perspectives to help people judge the validity and worth of digital media as they strive to become critically autonomous in a robust high-tech world. If we are to best prepare young people for their roles as informed and active citizens in our globally connected world, then we must learn from recent scholarship in the area of emerging technologies as it affects a new generation of learners,” she says.

For Frechette, Media Education for a Digital Generation fulfills this goal in both theoretical and pragmatic ways, offering empirical research, pedagogical tools, methods, and insights to critically analyze digital media while creatively and mindfully exploring ways they can be used to discover more essential truths about our relationships with others in profound and often transformational ways.
“We’ve structured our book around five key lenses – self, social, local, national, and global – that provide five different but complementary windows into the world of Media Education for a Digital Generation.”

The book’s opening chapter in Part 1, the Self, is written by colleague and Assistant Professor of Communication Daniel Hunt, Ph.D., “Through the aperture of photography and photographic practice, Daniel Hunt considers the ways in which the constructed nature of “selfie” – the Oxford English Dictionary’s 2013 word of the year – provides deeper understandings about our digital world and new pedagogical possibilities for visual literacy to merge with digital culture,” says Frechette.

Other topics explored in the book are how digital media literacy education helps to defy stereotypes as social groups navigate shifting identities through the intentional deployment of social media, as well as how the culture of surveillance, Big Data, and privacy need to be carefully understood. Topics of public health are correlated with media literacy, along with grassroots production and digital media platforms that create “virtual and social affinity spaces” to advance the cause of social justice and equitable representations. The impact of media literacy education initiatives in U.S. public schools, are explored in the context of 1:1 technology initiatives and cyberbullying education within primary and secondary educational spaces. Finally the book explores how validated independent news can thrive in online spaces, and how digital media literacy education is reshaping the global public sphere.

“Our hope is that Media Education for a Digital Generation offers multiple vantage points from which to creatively and meaningfully engage in digital media literacy education in the classroom, at home, and in everyday moments,” says Frechette.

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