Educational Media Ecology

This is the first task for my new course, ETEC565B, on New Materialism meets the History of Educational Media. This short post provides a definition of Media Ecology drawn from Strate and Lum (2000) and then extrapolates my interpretation of what Educational Media Ecology is. This is the first of a series of intellectual productions that will be created for this course.
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Lewis Mumford, a 20th century interdisciplinary scholar, is considered one of the founding figures for the field of media ecology. Drawing directly from the scientific field of ecology that studies and the relationships between organisms and their environments, Mumford’s media ecology encouraged considerations of the relationship between humans, media, and environments. His work demonstrated that human invention often mirrors biological systems, thus allowing a consideration of how technology and media impact human activity, ability, and perception of reality (Strate & Lum, 2000). Since technology and media both represent and create human ecologies, Mumford further argued that media could not be considered neutral as it is invariably linked to human ideas, principles and structures (Strate & Lum, 2000).  Media ecology is, therefore, best understood when framed as a two directional study of the meaning and biases of media, hermeneutically considering the relationship between media producer intentions, media medium, and media consumer to understand the effects this has on surrounding environments. It is a study of how information and ideas are stored, carried, communicated, dispersed, consumed, interpreted, and internalized through media, via technologies, and what impact this has on social and cultural forms, affirmations, expressions, and developments in human environments (Lum, 2000). Resting on the shoulders of enlightenment rationality and thought, the foundational philosophical assumptions of individual agency and choice that give humans the ability to design and create autonomously shines through in this social scientific field and is tinted with Foucauldian investigations of contextual situatedness in its rejection of Hegelian trajectories of progress. Threads of critical theory are also interwoven into the field, attempting to uncover if and how media and technologies contribute to maintaining, reforming or circumventing current economic-socio-political systems of power or hierarchy (Lum, 2000).

An educational media ecology can thus be comfortably inferred. Education is a space for the transference of ideas and is deeply linked to human political, social, economic, and epistemological systems. Within education different medias are employed to create differing educational ecologies, which has never been more poignantly apparent than in the current day as educational technologies become increasingly prolific. Educational media ecology therefore entails investigations of the relationship of education and media and how historical trajectories of divergence and convergence shape educational ecologies today. This is transposed onto human environments, looking at the dynamics of the circular cycle of educational media being shaped by human practice and then, in turn, shaping educational media. Technologies in a globalised world are also increasingly allowing for the exchange of media and the development of new educational modes, both of which incapsulate their own multiplicity of ecologies which could be mapped, categorized, described, investigated or designed in educational media ecology studies. Educational media ecology thus focuses on media ecologies within the educational realm with attention to patterns of symbiotic relationships between media (environments, forms), education (participants, practices, processes, purposes), society, and reality construction.

References

Lum, C. M. K. (2000). Introduction: The Intellectual Roots of Media Ecology. New Jersey Journal of Communication, 8(1), 1-7. doi:10.1080/15456870009367375

Strate, L., & Lum, C. M. K. (2000). Lewis Mumford and the Ecology of Technics. New Jersey Journal of Communication, 8(1), 56-78. doi:10.1080/15456870009367379