It’s hard to believe that this is my 29th year at ICA… now, of course, that’s not exactly accurate, but my first ICA was in Hawaii in 1985. There were some years when I bypassed the conference (most notably in London in 2013) but generally I do manage to participate (in one way or the other) nearly every year. Some years are better than others, of course. And my grad students and friends know all about my predilection for reflection and metacognition through my “highlights and lowlights” game. So here goes….

Highlights. It’s a delight to listen to key respected academics like Joseph Turow, Elihu Katz, Michael Schudson, Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Sonia Livingstone.  And I am so happy to have access to the Children, Adolescents and Media (CAM) community, with Erica Scharrer, Sahara Byrne, Dafna Lemish, Amy Jordan, Michael Rich, Dale Kunkel, Ellen Wartella and others in this important international association.


Another highlight of my experience was meeting with the respected editorial board that Wolfgang Donsbach has assembled for the International Encyclopedia of Communication. I’m honored to be editing the sub-disciplinary volume on media literacy with my colleague Paul Mihailidis.

I was especially proud of our panel on global media literacy in the Instructional and Developmental Division, where Jonathan Friesem from Israel, Elizaveta Friesem from Russia and I interacted via Google Hangout with Professors Sait Tuzel (Turkey), Carla Viana Coscarelli (Brazil) and Silke Grafe (Germany) to identify five issues that help us understand the opportunities and challenges of implementing digital and media literacy in six countries. It’s the first time in a long time that I have felt I really learned something new from a cross-national comparative examination.

Thank goodness for Erica Austin, Jiwon Yoon, Angela Cooke-Jackson and Sun Sun Lim for representing the media literacy community. I’m sad that I didn’t get to meet Nick Giedner who did a presentation on media literacy learning and news infographics or Ryan Neal Comfort who explored video production with Latino/a youth. But it was a thrill to see Moses Shumow and May Farah in a marvelous session on global communication and social change. I was also quite intrigued with Bethany Klein, Allison Perlman, Lesley Regan Shade, and Giles Moss on the media policy literacy session. I did love twittering at ICA and you can see my tweets here. 



Lowlights. Over the years, indeed, I admit to having my frustrations with the media and children folks and this time, it was  Vic Strasburger and Ed Donnerstein who aroused my ire. While I respect their important contributions to the field and am sympathetic to their “true believer” identities, I don’t think either one acknowledges what I believe is an important, healthy and productive tension between the framing of children’s media use in relation to deviance or normalcy.  I was disappointed that neither mentioned the important perspectives of those who find the quantitative work on children and media effects to be less-than-compelling, like Larry Steinberg at Temple University, who is a prime critic of the work of communication scholars who, in Steinberg’s view, may be selectively representing causal influence from longitudinal studies by not accounting for important sources of covariance.

I felt nearly the same way about Miriam Metzger’s study, which was large scale survey research on the online credibility judgments of a nationally representative sample of thousands of 11 – 16 year olds with measures of credibility evaluation that included self-report and assessment of two hoax websites. She reported that digital literacy training negatively impacts kids’ credibility judgments, measuring kids’ exposure to education with a single dichotomous variable, asking, “Have you ever had someone (like a teacher, parent, librarian, or friend) teach you ways to decide what information from the Internet you should believe?”

Truthfully, I think Metzger is addressing one of the most important questions in media literacy today. But it seems to me that we still need to work out the measurement challenges. Smaller studies, experimental or quasi-experimental designs and techniques like cognitive pre-testing of items, think-aloud protocols, and other strategies are important. We must have confidence that our instruments are measuring what we claim they’re measuring.

All in All. It was a great ICA — thanks to everyone who attended for helping me to grow and learn. Congrats to Michael Haley, the amazing Executive Director of ICA, one of the best membership organization directors ever. We are lucky to have you! And thanks to my new grad student, Zoey Wang, for volunteering for ICA and documenting the magical ride on the Ferris Wheel and the peek behind the Pink Door!




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