Challenging the mass media

Self-organising, locally-generated, dialectical processes are needed to free ourselves from mass media and schooling.

Mashhood Rizvi October 25, 2010

(This article is the last in a three-part series)

The initial response to the first two parts, at least from the right, would be to privatise the media, remove it from the state’s hands and give it to private interest groups who will make it more free and democratic. Yeah right! This means that either the state or the market will be in control. This line is not as distinct as it is made out to be, given the contemporary partnership between the market and the government.

Exactly like in education, the problem is that accountability from both the state and the market is improbable or even impossible. Why are we trapping ourselves in a lose-lose situation? Why don’t we think beyond these two ‘options’ by taking them out of the equation all together? Why can’t we be creating, uncovering and rediscovering a diversity of media. For education too, it is time to question the perverse logic that learning is scarce and can only happen in schools and therefore must be owned and managed by either the state or by corporations. If we begin to see that education (and media) is in each of our hands, we will not only challenge current levels of indoctrination and manipulation, we can also free our creative and expressive potentials. Our conversations will change from the monotonous despair of increasing enrolment and attendance to the dynamism of exploring the diversity of learning spaces, to live closer to our convictions of hope, justice, balance and meaning.

For this to happen, media and education ought to be considered in an expanded sense, as meaning-making, idea-sharing, feeling-communicating entities. Which means each individual, in each locality, can generate many different forms of such media, to be shared with other individuals and other localities. This is already happening all over the world, particularly via YouTube and other social networking places.

But even while all of this is happening, the increasing presence of the mass media in our lives asks us to open up more spaces and opportunities for each of us to think critically and generate our own creative expressions. For example, at YouTube people are working on a number of processes with children, youth and parents: exploring visual images and art; dissecting advertisements; interpreting cartoons; recording individual and family media habits; writing and telling stories and poems in local languages and still connecting with the rest of the world. In this way, these activities enable parents and children to come together and learn about themselves, each other and their world.

I see these as powerful examples of the self-organising, locally-generated, dialectical processes that we need to free ourselves from the daily onslaught of indoctrination that occurs via mass media and schooling. They not only prompt critical dialogues about the existing media and schooling in our lives, they also nurture our abilities to be creative and understand the world around us.

Challenging media and education means renouncing our roles as passive consumers. It means breaking free of the limits placed upon our actions and interactions and instead thinking about opportunities for unlearning, co-learning, and self-learning. Today, many people are questioning the media and education, sometimes overtly, sometimes subtly — how can more of this happen? Perhaps by each of us first asking ourselves certain critical questions such as: How can I live and interact in ways that challenge exploitation and indoctrination?; How can I break the monopoly that education/media has?; How can I encourage people to reclaim learning as inherent to themselves, not as something given to them by experts?; How can I engage in and promote local, diverse self-expressions?; How can I ask more questions and encourage others around me to ask questions?

Published in The Express Tribune, October 26th, 2010.

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