Module 5. Education and mass media

On modern concept of media-informational literacy and media education

Irina V. Zhilavskaya

(Russia, Sholokhov Moscow State Humanitarian University)

The International conference “Media-informational literacy for knowledge societies” took place in June 2012, in Russia. It was organized by the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, the Federal Agency for Press and Mass Communications, the Commission of the Russian Federation for UNESCO, the Russian Committee of the UNESCO Programme “Information for All” and the Interregional Library Cooperation Centre, involving IFLA, the UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education and UNESCO Secretariat.

The forum gathered participants from 42 countries worldwide: experts in the field of knowledge societies building; leading researchers and professors of journalism, librarianship and education; executives and representatives of government authorities responsible for educational institutions, libraries, and print and electronic media; and other media-informational literacy professionals.

For two days the conference agenda was devoted to question of “media-informational literacy (MIL) as the combination of the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary for an individual to understand when and what information is needed, where and how to obtain that information; how to evaluate it critically and organize it once it is found; and how to use it in an ethical way.” (Program documents of the international conference, 2012).

The authors of the conference program documents emphasize that this concept “extends beyond communication and information technologies to encompass learning critical thinking, and interpretative skills across and beyond professional and educational boundaries.” (Program documents of the international conference, 2012).

Noting an importance of the conference in promotion of the media literacy idea, however, we would like to settle upon some notions, which did not receive a clear interpretation in the course of the discussion, but without them, it is difficult to picture a single internally consistent new literacy concept of the XXI century.

When we discuss a concept, we consider it a system of interconnected views working as a team. It is also a system of problem solution methods. Today it’s still too early to speak about any media literacy concept, because there's still no consensus in defining of the key notions – “media”, “information”, “literacy”; there is no underlying purpose of media literacy formation that would be accepted by everyone; in this regard, it is very difficult to outline peculiar characteristics, measuring indicators and methods of achieving a high non-traditional literacy level. Without theoretical-methodical coherence at the origin of concept formulation, there are moments when searching for answers to difficult questions, formulating recommendations and suggestions, the experts talk about different phenomena.

But the point is that the majority of the researchers and experts can't catch the meaning of the actual media information concept, as an idea, an open image of the future conception allowing perceiving the depth of meanings and intentions. This situation reminds us of the Higgs boson search; an uncatchable element able to move over from the abstract and immaterial world of atoms to the material world.

Being aware of the complexity of the problem, we will try to present our views on some approaches, principles and interpretation of notions in the system of media-informational literacy and media education, which, as we think, have their own internal logic.

Firstly, let us denote that we regard the conceptual, methodological, criteria and instrumental framework of MI-literacy and media education in terms of the noosphere ethical-ecological approach (V.I. Vernadsky, N.K. Moiseev, L.S. Gordina, B.E. Bolshakov, M.U.Limonad and others). It involves conceptualization based on the principles of harmony with the world, genetic unity of the world (B.A. Astafiev), the subject-subject view on education and formation of noospheric thinking.

The idea of media-informational literacy is logically included into the concept of the noospheric education (N.V. Maslova) (, which is the convergence of natural science and unscientific educational concepts and practices of the end of the XX century. The noospheric education includes all the world’s best practices in science, education, psychology, philosophy, culture, and history of thought development. V.I. Vernadsky named this integration level the sphere of mind – the noosphere.

The noospheric education is characterized by consistency and unity in the view on nature, world and human. The unity of thinking is the reason for the development of high morality, consciousness and uncovering the person's potential aimed at realization of their destiny in the world. This pedagogical system is based upon the knowledge of the world law, society, person’s psyche, as well as the education laws, which justify the relaxation-active mode in studies, involving learner’s experience into the process of education and perception of the world (Maslova, 2010: 150).

Noospheric education ideology and fundamentals relating to methodology of science can be regarded as a basis of the modern media education concept. Noospheric media education is a pedagogical system of the XXI century; one of its key features is the focus to reveal the Higher Self of the teacher and the learner through their creative interaction using all the channels of reality perception.

From our point of view, the basis of the new media education concept should involve the idea of the world’s subjectivity, its diversity and variability, global balance and interdependence of all participants of the information exchange process. It should be based on activation of internal resources of the learner’s personality as a media person, who is seamlessly immersed into media environment.

The new and important factor for development of media-informational literacy media-informational literacy and media-education concept is recognition that media-education should be informal to a wide extent (Zhilavskaya, 2009).

In the Concept of long-term socio-economic development of the Russian Federation for the period up to the year 2020, the problematics of personality socialization and education has three educational strategies – formal, nonformal and informal, based respectively upon the three educational types:

- Formal education (elementary, secondary, secondary special, higher, further education);

- Nonformal education (development of the advance course system);

Informal education (various economic and noneconomic stimulation of everyone’s tendency to personal development and self-education) (Klyucharev, 2003: 322-324).

Still little-studied informal education (from the Latin word “informalis” – informal) is the undirected exploration of socio-cultural experience beyond the strict bounds of the organized pedagogical process. Realized in family, in various groups and communities, including educational communities, libraries, museums, via different kinds of media, it occurs in the process of any communicative action. The informal education is flexible; it depends on learner’s needs and can be realized in any place and at any time. In this context the informal education manifests itself in internal human motivation to perceive the world, in self organization and determination. “I am the source of information and its consumer at the same time. I develop myself and determine my development pathway by myself”.

We now proceed to our interpretation of the major elements of the media-informational literacy system. Let us start with the media concept, which is widely used in the Russian language nowadays. The word “media” is the short form of “communication media”. Media descends from the Latin word “medium”, which in the Middle Ages was associated with such notions as sacrificer, sorcerer, and shaman ( In different European languages the word “medium” means: instrument, intermediary, sympathizer, and in a general sense – environment. In our interpretation of media scene the notion “media” involves a wide range of communicative means used to transfer various information content from the source of information to its recipient. These are works of art in bookish form, pictures, movies and advertisement in all its aspects, TV or radio programs, public performances, official documents, postal cards, ciphered messages, SMS, or complicated convergent multi-media texts of the web-based mass media. In short, all the content delivery channels are media.

Media organize the process of information perception in a special way. Making communicative connections, by the mere fact of its existing, they remove space and time out of communication and permeate every aspect of our lives. And more importantly, we understand that people become media themselves in a sense, letting information flow through them, transforming it and becoming a source of new information.

However, the great majority of experts in media-informational literacy and media educators use the word “media” to mean mass media, which is far from covering the wide notion of the word. In Russian “media” is traditionally interpreted as mass media, which takes the researchers into the limited field of journalistic practice. In such a case the following notions drop out of sight: book, letter, speech, music, painting, sculpture, etc. Besides, there are direct media, unlike the mass media involving point-to-point communications with the consumer. Such means of message delivery as post, telephone, telegraph, fax and others relate to the direct media.

Media texts created in these and any other kinds of media appear to be beyond the sphere of the media-informational literacy, which is focused mostly on television, Internet, print media and sometimes on advertisement and movies. This fundamental disagreement wrongfully restricts the scope of the media-informational literacy and media education distribution; prevents from building a holistic conception based on the idea of the Universal Media, and makes integration processes in this area rather difficult.

In this context it is important to note one more aspect of translation problems and national communication culture. The word-group “mass media” or as it was used in the Soviet times in Russia – “mass media and propaganda” – was invented by Russian scientists who as well as journalists provided services to the ruling political regime of the XX century. At the same time they were a part of the permanent Russian paradigm of power vertical. Whereas in the west the generalized notion "mass media" was used to denote press, television, radio; and this notion reflects the dialogue nature of the democratic society and its public sphere. This essentially broadcasting one-directional position of the mass media combined with a narrow view of the media sphere lead media education researchers and experts into the area of didactics and protection against the “negative influence of mass media”.

In developing the MIL concept, the notion “information” should also be defined. The word “information” derives from the Latin word “informare”, which means “to shape”. Thus, from the etymological point of view information is the act of making some indefinite mass structured (Encyclopedic dictionary of philosophy, 1983).

J.P. Barlow in his work called “Selling wine without bottles: The economy of mind on the global net” says that “Information is a verb, not a noun. Freed of its containers, information is obviously not a thing. In fact, it is something that happens in the field of interaction between minds or objects or other pieces of information… Information is an action which occupies time rather than a state of being which occupies physical space, as is the case with hard goods. It is the pitch, not the baseball, the dance, not the dancer… Information is experienced, not possessed. Even when it has been encapsulated in some static form like a book or a hard disk, information is still something that happens to you as you mentally decompress it from its storage code” (Barlow, 1999).

Within the framework of the traditional paradigm of information literacy in order to “develop person’s informational literacy it’s essential that some informational environment should be created around a person, to get adopted to such environment a person should have some special knowledge, experience and skills" (Person’s information culture, 2006), while the information itself appears to be something lying in the box or posted on some site page, or in TV program, counting moments until it will be accessed. However, possession of information doesn’t mean knowledge, and moreover, it's not a motivator for active living.

Modern interpretation of information corresponds to the idea of all pervading media, mediation and communications. Information can exist only in motion, it flows, and like water it penetrates all the pores of the social body. It cannot be blocked; it’s impractical to fight with it using dams, because against the background of stagnation it loses its informational qualities and is not that valuable as it could be. It is clear that secret archive documents can become information only if they are declassified, because otherwise there's no information. From this perspective, those competencies, which developed in the circumstances where linear information culture dominated, do not meet the challenges of the modern hyper-technological society.

The fundamental principle to form the MI-literacy concept is the principle of unity of the communication act, where media as communication means are inextricably linked to information. In the postindustrial society at the moment of civilization moved from paper medium of information to the electricity era, due to the unprecedented change in production of information and appearance of new channels of its delivery there formed two ways of theoretical and practical understanding of communication, built upon the basic essence of communication – media and information.

Each of the ways in the process of divergence ( got its apologists, experts, scientists. At some stage they start forming their own notions, tools and devices, theories and models. Media developed the following notions: “media literacy”, “media culture", “media education” etc. Informational sphere – “information literacy”, “information culture”, “information education” etc. The leaders of both directions had established research schools, hundreds of dissertations were defended, books were written, and education programs were worked out and used.

At the same time it becomes obvious that any further conceptual isolation of notions, functions and competences of each of these directions appears to be prospectless and takes the scholarly dispute away from the essential problems of the modern age.

Media as channels translating messages and as information flowing through these channels presents two sides of one process of communication. Information cannot exist without media as an information carrier, as well as there’s no point in media without information. According to Norbert Wiener, “information” denotes the content received from the outside world in the process of adapting to it (Wiener, 1991).

The direct information in our interpretation is the “content”, and media is a “tool”. We are experiencing the convergent stage in the development of communication culture at the moment. It is expressed in a fusion of different media, formats and genres, ways to deliver information, professional competences. Therefore, of the fusion of two kinds of literacy – media and information, which is extremely urgent – presents an objective evolution of scientific knowledge and global technologies.

As an illustration of this law it is enough to remember the historical process of creation and transformation of a book as one of the key media types. In the XV century, at the stage when the book manufacturing technology was developing, searching for an optimal decision Johann Gutenberg and other inventors brought together paper technology, wood block printing, complex chemical and mechanical processes, engravers’ and stone carvers’ craft, coinage elements and even features of wine making.

And as a result of all this, the book appeared as a special kind of communicative means in the industrial society, as a symbol of the printing culture. However, a new turn in civilization development in the nature of the case resulted in divergence, the notion “book” splintered into subspecies: electronic book, audio book, video book. Nowadays we have notions “tactile book”, “digital book”. Soon we will have aerial book, the letters of which will be able to appear and fall to pieces wherever the reader wants.

Studying history of living systems’ development as a consistent pattern of sequence of divergence and convergence processes, we can extrapolate it to the information systems and expect that as a result of rethinking what media information concept is, relatively soon a new divergence process will appear, resulting in formation of principally new competences of media-informational literacy.

We understand that MI-literacy is just a minimal threshold of spiritual development of the individual. Nevertheless, it plays an overwhelmingly important role in processes of strategy formulation and tactics of economical and social development of the society. Besides, such literacy should be regarded not only from the perspective of people’s education level, but also in a wider context, including such life spheres as civil society, politics and technologies, professional identity, level of prosperity and many others. Such wide range of contexts involves rethinking the part of media-informational literacy in the system of social institutions, and in the structure of person’s intellectual resource.

Rising in the noospheric development, a person and society go from the media-informational literacy up to the level of the media and information culture as a method to preserve and build values of the society, its cultural experience and norms, and finally reach the highest level – the media and information mindset, which, in our opinion, is based upon some global civilizational ideas. Among which there are:

- Idea of freedom,

- Idea of variety,

- Idea of variability,

- Idea of polylogue,

- Idea of partnership,

- Idea of cooperation,

- Idea of interdependence,

- Idea of individuality recognition,

- Idea of development,

- Idea of critical solidarity and self reflection.

These noospheric values guarantee the humankind not only survival, but also global welfare and prosperity. In this context it becomes obvious that the media-informational literacy as the new literacy of the XXI century is not a metaphor, not a flower of speech, but a vital need determined by global processes of civilization development.

In the process of media education the intellectual resource of a man is updated as he progresses through the levels of the media-informational literacy, media and information culture and reaches the level of the media and information mindset.

The speed of the personality’s and the society’s media and information development are not always the same; that is why both the person and the society can feel some discomfort. The person, getting far ahead of the social medium in understanding global information processes, is doomed to be misunderstood and lonely, as well as the society is not able to realize its opportunities, if a large part of its citizens go behind the evolution of the information and communication technologies. The most balanced way is when both individual’s and society’s media and information potentials grow in harmony, mutually enriching each other.

Media and information potential of the person consists of different channels of perception: seeing, hearing, taste, smell, tactile sensation. Also an important role in forming of the media and information potential plays information about itself and the surrounding reality, when such information is planted genetically. Talking about media and information potential of the person we mean intellectual communicative resource allowing individuals to fulfill themselves effectively within the information society. Media education experts do not aim to fill people with information whatsoever, but to “derive” it from them. Like a flower seed contains all the information about its form, color and scent, and only negative external conditions can deform it, and so people have all the encoded information on their communicative capabilities, and social environment can transform the delivery channels of this information in its own way and, thus, affect personality formation.
In conclusion, basing on our own investigations and taking into account modern approaches to the media-informational literacy and media education, we have formulated the definitions of notions we are interested in.

Thus, media literacy is a system of competences that enable people to effectively organize communicative relationship with the society on all the levels of media activity. Thereafter, media education is a combination of different educational acts providing personal identification, self-development and self-organization, which manifest themselves in conscious media behavior, media activities and media creativity on the basis of humanist ideals and values. Mediaeducation is not only the process of studying media texts and activities of companies in media sphere. It is a broad educational process of harmonious personality inclusion in modern media space. It is necessary to understand the importance of goals and values ​​of mediaeducation, which can and have to be based on the ideals of humanity, the unity of the world and man.


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