What do you do?
I’ve worn a lot of hats. Folks in the NAMLE community may remember me as the producer of The Media Show, a YouTube media/digital literacy series aimed at high schoolers, with snarky, irreverent puppets. Since wrapping up the show, I’ve done a lot of digital security training, both for tech industry employees and everyday folks. Security literacy has the same fundamentals as basic digital literacy, particularly when it comes to determining the source of information. That work builds on the decade and a half I’ve spent attending and helping organize hacker conferences (don’t be alarmed; they’re basically stepping stones to careers in digital security). In the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations I worked to make privacy-protecting apps more usable for an international community of activists, journalists, and human rights workers. I’ve also taught college-level communications courses (not for a little while, but I’d love to do so again). I’d say the common thread in my work is I want people to understand the social and technical systems around them better.
Tell me about your latest work or project in media literacy.
My latest work is Keep Calm and Log On: Your Handbook For Surviving The Digital Revolution. Basically, the book brings what I’ve learned studying media literacy and the history of communications together with what we know in the digital security community. My goal is to empower a general audience to take charge of their digital and media lives; it’s essentially a self-help book. It combines media literacy strategies with mindfulness techniques to help the reader understand how both new and traditional media have an impact on our emotions, stress levels, and trust. It should be of interest to anyone teaching to the Association of College & Research Libraries information literacy framework — the second half of the book is aligned to their standards.
Why is media literacy important to you?
I’m not sure right now if democracy will survive the next few years, but if it’s going to, we’re going to need more widespread media literacy efforts.
What are you most excited about in the media literacy field?
It really does look to me like we’re finally getting the recognition — and increased funding — the field deserves. I can see it spreading across the various fields I work in. At the Internet Freedom Festival in 2019, for the first time, I heard a huge demand for media literacy skills — this is at a conference whose focus has mainly been fighting internet censorship and surveillance. People around the world are deeply concerned with helping their communities identify and quell disinformation. I’m excited to see the evolution of the Credibility Coalition, which includes the News Co/Lab and other news literacy and fact-checking groups, and I’d love to see more media literacy practitioners bringing our traditional techniques to that arena, while taking what they learn there back to students.
Why did you become a NAMLE member, what benefits do you see to membership, and how will it support your work?
I have been a NAMLE member because it’s such a rich network of colleagues with similar passions. It’s a vital support to a field that was treated like an add-on to our education system for far too long. NAMLE colleagues have been enthusiastic supporters of much that I have done, and I’m always looking to bring back things I learn as I travel to other fields!