Spotlight: Critical Media Project

When did your organization launch and why?

The Critical Media Project first launched in 2013 to facilitate instructor and youth engagement in critical media literacy by offering an accessible online archive and repository of media centering on identity and representation. At the time, we saw a need to provide a media literacy resource that included actual media examples.

What does your organization do? What are its main goals? Main projects?

We provide media literacy resources for educators and youth, including a website with over 600 media examples (tagged and annotated with questions designed to promote critical thinking); playlists on key topics of identity that can help shape or tie into existing curricular units; sample lesson plans; media-making DIY prompts; and resources for extended learning. We are in the process of developing a 10-unit curriculum to extend our outreach, and offer educators a frame for Critical Media Project’s content. We also have plans to more directly target and reach learners at different levels of education.

What makes your organization stand out? What would you say is the most unique thing about your organization?

We are unique in a few key ways. First, we not only offer the tools and frameworks to engage in media literacy; we offer actual media examples embedded on our site, annotated with questions designed to promote critical thinking and reading. Second, our focus on identity and representation allows for crucial conversations helping youth to think about the way they see themselves and others, thereby facilitating understanding across difference and empathy. Third, we work within the frame of critical media literacy by encouraging youth to tell their own stories and create their own media representations, extending literacy from analysis and reflection to critical creative production.

What are recent projects or new resources that your organization would like to share with other NAMLE members?

Our playlists offer an easy way to access curated content around specific identities and other topics germane to secondary school education — from specific identity categories (race and ethnicity, gender, religion, disability, etc. to immigration and the American dream). Under the banner, “I Too Am: Teens, Media Arts, and Belonging,” we have created on-the-ground programs that bring critical media literacy outside the classroom. In February 2020, we held the inaugural “I Too Am” media festival for Los Angeles high school youth at USC Annenberg, sponsored by California Humanities. In Spring and Summer 2019, we led field trips for local Los Angeles teens to various sites (including built environments, state parks, national parks and beaches), encouraging them to think about the relationship between identity and place. They created media featuring their neighborhoods at home as well as their experiences on each of the trips.

What are the connections between the work of your organization and media literacy?

Our organization facilitates media literacy education by providing key resources to engage youth in critical thinking about media and the ways it serves as a conduit and platform for representing identities. In our focus on representation, we also encourage youth to respond to media they see and consume, to make their own media and envision their own identities.

Why is media literacy important to your organization?

Media literacy, specifically critical media literacy, is the core of what we do. We see it as a fundamental part of K-12 education and beyond. We also see it as a tool to help make sense of the world and better understand our places in it.

Anything else you want our readers to know about your organization, your mission, or your staff?

The work of Critical Media Project is community engaged and participatory. We try to actively engage schools, teachers, and youth in our local community in order to open dialogue and engage them in creative media praxis. We are always looking for new media to add and accept contributions and suggestions. Send to criticalmediaproject@gmail.com.

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