I am the Executive Director and Co-Founder of The LAMP (Learning About Multimedia Project), a non-profit organization bringing free media literacy training to youth, parents and educators throughout New York City.
2) Tell me about your latest work or project in media literacy.
As far as work goes, The LAMP has had a huge year in 2011. We nearly doubled our number of programming hours, expanded to three full-year program sites and are in the process of finalizing a contract with the New York Public Library for media literacy workshops in their branches. This makes us (we think) the first media literacy non-profit to work with all three public library systems in New York City–the Brooklyn Public Library, the Queens Public Library and the NYPL.
In addition, we’re coming up on the one-year anniversary of LAMPlatoon, which is an advertising literacy project where people take existing television commercials and remix them with their own critical statements and observations about what is going on in the commercial. In doing that, people show how and why advertisements make such a huge impact on the way we understand the world around us. They rely on assumptions about what we should want, stereotypes about how different groups of people should act, and play on emotions to make us feel a personal connection with a product. LAMPlatoon has been growing in a huge way; our video breaking the Dr. Pepper Ten “It’s Not for Women” commercial is at just about 15,000 views on LAMPlatoon’s YouTube channel and there’s a pretty illuminating dialogue happening in the comments section for the video as well (http://www.youtube.com/thelamplatoon#p/u/6/Qjcas79lqRQ). But we’ve also got videos exposing false claims in advertising (like the General Mills’ “Big G Cereals” video: http://thelampnyc.org/lamplatoon/?p=186) and videos made by kids who are just in the discovery process of finding out how ads get to them (like the How Cereal Gets in Your Head video: http://thelampnyc.org/lamplatoon/?p=372). LAMPlatoon is really growing right now, and we’re excited about plans bringing it to many more classrooms and teachers in the coming year.
3) Why is media literacy important to you?
Media are at the heart of so much of what we do every day, but oftentimes in very subtle ways. A lot of people don’t stop to think or be really honest about why they’ve come to believe they need to buy a certain product to be happy, or why they expect people of different races, genders, creeds or sexual orientations to act a particular way. Media messages have a lot to do with that, but frequently that goes unexamined. There are a lot of problems in American schools, and the fact that media literacy is more or less overlooked is just one of them. But it’s especially problematic here in New York City, where kids are so saturated with ads and media that you can’t walk one block without some kind of instruction or solicitation. And, just like anywhere else in the United States, you’ve got parents struggling to make ends meet and keep up with their kids, and you’ve got teachers facing an increasing number of challenges even while their resources for meeting those challenges are being taken away a little more every day. Media literacy and media education are certainly not cure-alls for every problem, but they are a big part of getting us on track.
4) What are you most excited about in the media literacy field?
I’m excited about the gradual increase in awareness I’ve seen about media literacy. Particularly when The LAMP first started back in 2007, when we pitched our programs it was not so uncommon for a funder or potential partner to say something like, “I just think it’s important for kids to know how to read.” I’ve noticed a shift where people seem to be getting that media literacy is reading, and that what we have traditionally thought of as literacy isn’t enough anymore. The #pencilchat meme on Twitter is a great example of how the importance of technology and media in education are really seeping into the mainstream consciousness.
5) Why did you become a NAMLE member – what benefits do you see to membership and how will it support your work?
NAMLE provides us with an incredible network that is truly one-of-a-kind for our field. The connections we made and the camaraderie we picked up at the conference last summer have made a great impact on The LAMP’s ability to grow, even during times like these which are tough economically and which can be especially challenging for progressive ideas. The NAMLE community is so important for grassroots organizations like The LAMP, and it’s hard to think of how we would operate without it.
Category: M-Passioned Members