Journal of Sustainability Education, 5 Feb 2013
Generally speaking, media studies is an interdisciplinary field that examines the influence of media on society. This means researching and teaching about how media impact and are impacted by institutions, states, audiences, cultures, economics and technology. Among the various topics covered by the discipline, core theory courses and electives typically include a survey of media, culture and society, digital media, theory, ethics, globalization, propaganda, politics, gender and race, film, intercultural communication and celebrity culture. However, with exception of the field of environmental communication, in terms of ecological themes and sustainability there are very few examples of “green” methods that can be incorporated into media studies classrooms. In spirit, though, many of the aims and aspirations of media studies are in alignment with education for sustainability. As Blewitt (2009) proposes, they have in common the goals of participation, action and critical engagement.
To be clear, for me teaching media studies and media education are the same. Though media studies delineates a distinct field of research and inquiry, the process of teaching the discipline also constitutes a form of media education. Ideally students of media studies also become media literate. As an educator, I am particularly focused on shifting my core discipline towards a sustainability framework. Unfortunately, the ecological crisis generally has not been linked to social justice issues taken on by media studies and cultural studies. For example, in my survey of dozens of undergraduate media textbooks, media education texts, media studies guides and media literacy curricula, none of these texts had the words “ecology,” “environment” or “sustainability” in their index or content. This is not surprising given that the historical divide between the biological sciences and the social sciences is well reflected in the history of media studies.