Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Media Literacy, Economic Rationales, and the Humanities: The Making of a Movement

Stanley J. Baran, Susan Baran.

The development of a strong media literacy movement in the U.S. is hampered by the struggle between traditional humanists and those wedded to economic rationalism. The former camp, taking a text-based approach, sees media literacy as improving people's understanding of media texts by teaching them about the techniques used in the production of those texts. They view media education as aiding in the reading of texts. The latter, taking a contextual approach, calls not for the development of more sophisticated media consumers, but for more sophisticated citizens. Both perspectives equate media literacy with traditional notions of literacy. The contextual approach, however, emphasizes issues of power and control inherent in a profit-driven, industrial media system. This economic-based perspectives rests firmly in critical and neo-Marxist theories, making it unpalatable to many otherwise enthusiastic proponents of media literacy. This presentation will explore the state of the media literacy movement in the U.S., how other nations have attempted to resolve this debate, and its implications for research and teaching in the humanities. Contemporary examples, such as media coverage of terrorism, the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and the American electoral process, will inform this discussion.


Stanley J. Baran  (United States)
Professor & Chair
Department of Communication
Bryant College

Stanley Baran earned his PhD in communication research at the University of Massachusetts after taking his MA in journalism at the Pennsylvania State University. He currently serves as a peer reviewer for communication and media oriented Fulbright grants. Dr. Baran has published ten books, scores of scholarly articles, and sits or has sat on the editorial boards of five journals.

Susan Baran

  • Media Literacy
  • Media Studies
  • Media Education
  • Mass Communication
  • Critical Theory
  • Neo-Marxist Theory
  • Humanities

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)