On May 22 I was in Rome, invited by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications for the opening session of a Congress where scholars of communication are discussing about their educative aims in the Information Society.
Farrell Corcoran, professor at the University of Dublin, introduced the session, giving an overview about the main characters of the actual change in communication: spread of the Internet, convergence of TV and Internet, new behaviours of consumption (less newspapers, development of Social Networking), deregulation of the media at the local level, horizontal and vertical integration of the media companies (Disney, Viacom, AOL-Warner, Newscorporation), a new ideology thinking the role of the media far from the traditional idea of their service value.
In this context two main issues are very important.
The first one is the role of the agenda power of the media, their possibility to set the themes whose it seems important to talk about in the society. As Corcoran said, this power must be studied thinking about the relationship among three agendas: the agenda of the media (the issues they set), the agenda of the public opinion (the issues we consider important), and the agenda of the policy-makers (what the institutions decide to do according to their priorities).
The second issue is the importance of the frame according to which we decide to study the media and their social presence. In the case of digital communication, the frame probably is related with the function of time and space. I talked about this in my speech trying to switch from the landscape of communication to the challenges it is posing to Education. Only four highlights about this challenges.
1) Identity. The process of its social construction is changing. We are in front of new forms of horizontalization of human relations; people needs to rest in touch; they want to be visible and recognized; they don’t pretend to be granted in their privacy, but in their rights to be present in the public space.
2) Teaching. Research about the relationship between teen-agers and the media is showing that they need a vertical relation with adult. They need the adult help them to make sense of the media. The problem is that adults seem to be unprepared to accept this challenge.
3) Appropriation. One of the most important issues of the actual debate about media and communication is the relationship between local and global culture. In this case probably we cannot do anything for modifying production and circulation of media messages. But we can work about the processes of appropriation of these messages by the people: communication can be globalized, but this appropriation by individuals is always local.
4) Media and Education. Here we find the main mission of the adult society and of communication faculties. To empower appropriation processes of the media means to provide a cultural mediation of the meanings. This is according to me one of the main roles of a media professional nowadays: to be able to be a cultural mediator. This is not only a communicative aim but also an educative one.