Media Ecology in AP CSP

This year I've banned politics from my classroom. It was the first year I'd ever done so, but the rhetoric and divisiveness of US politics had taken over and I was having a tough time creating a cohesive classroom community. But today, I broke from that silence and brought up politics from a new perspective: media ecology. 

Media ecology is the study of how media effects people, environments, etc. I think it ties in to the AP CSP "Big Idea 5": Impacts of Computing and the enduring understanding 5.1: "While computing innovations are typically designed to achieve a specific purpose, they may have unintended consequences."

Here are the big resources and ideas that I used in our class discussion today:

  • Marshall McLuhan: "The Media is the Message." https://youtu.be/gCr2binb4Fs 
  • Neil Postman: "The Media is the Metaphor." Pages ~6-8 of Amusing Ourselves to Death from smoke signals to "news of the day". 
  • Gareth Higgins: How Not to Be Afraid. Pages ~16-18 about how many of our current brief media stories produce fear and distrust...  I especially liked this quotation, "[My phone] can teach me, heal me, grant me access to new relationships, and solidify old ones. It can even spark the fires of justice. It's a magic box. Yet the emergence of a virtual public sphere that compels us to believe we should all have an opinion about everything and that we must publish that opinion before we've had the chance to truly think about it is not a magnificent thing. [We can use our phones to] be instantly transported into a world of infinite content, much of which is antithetical to the common good. It can waste my time, trigger my anger, tempt me to gossip, encourage me to trample on other people's vulnerability, and trick me into thinking that everything is my business.."

I encouraged my students to consider a "news fast" or a break from media completely for a couple weeks. And to consider how mass media (including politics) affects their lives, mindsets, prejudices, beliefs, values, friendships/rivalries, etc....