This is the original prompt that the MAPP project shared with Pivot TV and HitRECord in creating the Shifting the Agenda video:
How might identity groups use media to react to, reshape, or even control the narrative being constructed about them in mainstream media? We are seeing many of the groups we study -- but especially the DREAM activists and the American Muslim networks respond quickly to news stories or popular culture programming that they feel places them in a negative light. They are using their collective capacities to pull together information, critique representation, construct alternative narratives, and get them into circulation, often in ways that commands the attention of major news organizations. In part, these strategies work because of the ways they are able to quickly mobilize dispersed and decentralized networks that are invested in helping them spread content.
In discussing “shifting the agenda” we want to look both towards the original proposal set out for this video but also the National Association for Media Literacy Education’s (NAMLE) core principles for teaching media literacy. In order to effectively shift dialogue to foster change, individuals/groups must be able to understand the diverse media landscape around them. On their website NAMLE outlines the core principles of media literacy educations:
- Media Literacy Education requires active inquiry and critical thinking about the messages we receive and create.
- Media Literacy Education expands the concept of literacy to include all forms of media (i.e., reading and writing).
- Media Literacy Education builds and reinforces skills for learners of all ages. Like print literacy, those skills necessitate integrated, interactive, and repeated practice.
- Media Literacy Education develops informed, reflective and engaged participants essential for a democratic society.
- Media Literacy Education recognizes that media are a part of culture and function as agents of socialization.
- Media Literacy Education affirms that people use their individual skills, beliefs and experiences to construct their own meanings from media messages.
Questions you can ask to get a conversation about shifting the agenda started in your community
- Thinking back on media you have made in the past, did you have a particular agenda (or reason behind making it)? What were you trying to achieve?
- How do you determine whether media you encounter has a particular agenda? Does this affect how you react to it? Can you think of examples?
- How you react if the agenda is explicit vs. implicit to the media you encounter? Can you think of an example of each of these?
Suggested key points to include
- Adopt an “informed skepticism” approach rather than a cynical attitude to online (and other) sources. Renee Hobbes explains: “Some students, when asked to ask questions about the believability of media texts, may respond from deep within the familiar adolescent state of alienation and mistrust. In a more or less conscious way, they may answer, 'I can’t believe in any of this information. Nothing is believable.' This cynical perspective is the antithesis of what the educational experience strives to foster. It is informed skepticism and a sense of the power of communication as a form of action to transform and shape society that educators hope to impart to students.” (Hobbes 2001)
- Agenda shifting can be interpreted both as understanding the agendas of the media we engage in, but also as an activist/expressive imperative to think about what you can do to shift your media making towards effecting change.
- Highlight that every edited piece has an agenda, including this series of videos. What might be the goals behind this “Agenda Shifting” piece?
- Present different media examples (news articles, photographs, social media, video, textbooks, etc) and ask students to analyze the potential agendas behind the pieces.
- Have students reflect upon their own process. How do they set goals for themselves or groups that they are part of? What happens when they come up against a conflicting agenda from their peers, parents, or others in their lives?
- Emphasize the relationship between agenda and outcome. Intended goals do not necessarily directly correlate to ideal outcome. You can start by comparing the original prompt for this video to the final video itself.
Key term definitions
Culture JammersCulture jammers seek to disrupt/subvert mainstream media culture (perceived as dominated by corporate advertising) to promote social change. According to media scholar Henry Jenkins, “Culture jammers in the 1990s overtly opposed their targets, in particular global organizations and their brands . . . The media landscape was much different in those days: Television was dominating mass communication, and the culture jammers’ objective was to block and jam the flow of what they perceived as manipulated images created by Madison Avenue and the culture industry. Back then, activists felt they could remain on the outside looking in and did not participate in the culture of consumption they were critiquing.” (Jenkins 2013, 35)
Cultural AcupunctureAccording to Henry Jenkins, like the culture jammers of the 1990’s, “Today’s change-makers are still strongly invested in appropriating and remixing content from ‘the empire of signs’ and are still holding corporations accountable for their unhealthy impact on our lives.” However, where culture jammers seek to block the flow of mainstream media, cultural acupuncture entails “[tapping] into the culture’s circulation.” Jenkins states, “this generation moves seamlessly between being socially and culturally active to being politically and civically engaged, applying skills they learned making fan vids or recording skateboarding stunts to capture and share what was happening at their local Occupy encampment. Popular culture is their shared mythology; remix is how they share meaning and motivate others to action. This isn’t a Twitter revolution; they are trying to change the world through any media necessary.” (Jenkins 2013, 36)
Media LiteracyMedia literacy is at the core of shifting the agenda. Individuals/groups need to be able to understand and critically evaluate the agendas of others in order to move the conversation in a different direction. The National Association for Media Literacy Education offers the following explanation when trying to understand media literacy:The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) offers the following explanation when trying to understand media literacy:
Media refers to all electronic or digital means and print or artistic visuals used to transmit messages.
Literacy is the ability to encode and decode symbols and to synthesize and analyze messages.
Media literacy is the ability to encode and decode the symbols transmitted via media and the ability to synthesize, analyze and produce mediated messages.
Media education is the study of media, including ‘hands on’ experiences and media production.
Media literacy education is the educational field dedicated to teaching the skills associated with media literacy
Participatory PoliticsParticipatory politics is one of the means through which individuals/groups seek to shift the agenda to accomplish political goals . According the the Youth and Participatory Politics network:
Participatory Politics are interactive, peer-based acts through which individuals and groups seek to exert both voice and influence on issues of public concern through the following types of activities:
Investigation: Members of a community collect, and analyze online information from multiple sources, and often provide a check on information circulated by traditional media outlets.
Dialogue and feedback: Commenting on blogs, or providing feedback to political leaders through other digital means is increasingly how young people are joining public dialogues and making their voices heard around civic and political issues.
Circulation: In participatory politics, the flow of information is shaped by many in the broader community rather than by a small group of elites.
Production: In addition to circulating information young people increasingly create original online digital content around issues of public concern that potentially reach broader audiences.
Mobilization: Members of a community mobilize others often through online networks to help accomplish civic or political goals.”
Take it to the Next Level
If the HitRecord Agenda Shifting video and information contained here inspired you to action, you may want reach to the original call for submissions that inspired this video to be made in the first place. While the deadline for submissions has expired, you are always free to create your own responses to it!
Included resources on shifting the agenda
Hobbs, Renee. 2001. Classroom Strategies for Exploring Realism and Authenticity in Media Messages. Reading Online, 4(9).
Jenkins, Henry. 2014. “Participatory Culture: From Co-Creating Brand Meaning to Changing the World.“ GfK Marketing Intelligence Review 6, no. 2.
Slack, Andrew. 2010. “Cultural Acupuncture and a Future for Social Change.” The Huffington Post. July 2.
Soep, Lissa. 2014. Participatory Politics: Next-Generation Tactics to Remake Public Spheres. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Reports on Digital Media and Learning. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.
You can download "Conversation Starter Topic: Shifting the Agenda in the Digital Age" resource packet here.