Taking back the web, a media and academic conference aimed at tackling the lack of trust the public has for the media took place for the second time on the 19th and 20th of October in DIT’s Aungier Street campus.
The event was hosted by The Centre for Critical Media Literacy within DIT and kicked off with a keynote address by veteran journalist and broadcaster, Vincent Browne. He was part of a panel featuring artist and activist Grace Dyas, author Dr Gavan Titley of Maynooth University and Nikki Murphy, DIT journalism student and 2018 Press Council of Ireland Bursary Award winner.
The organiser of the event and Senior lecturer of Journalism at DIT, Harry Browne said: “The Centre for Critical Media Literacy has run two big conferences now, and we’ll keep doing them, and other public activities too. Partly the idea is, like any academic conference, to get people doing research in media issues to come together from around Ireland and further afield and share ideas with each other and the public.”
The first night of discussion went off without a hitch with a few awkward ‘questions’ from the audience during the Q and A session.
Speaker and journalism student, Nikki Murphy said: “It was nerve-racking speaking alongside ‘Vinny B’, there were times I felt physically ill I was that nervous, luckily I had done my research and stuck to the script.
“While I agreed with a lot of Vincent’s arguments in relation to the media, I felt I needed to stand up for the run-of-the-mill journalists who often find themselves restricted in the way they’d like to approach certain stories, by ownership and editorial. I’m happy with the outcome though, even if Vincent avoided answering my question,” said Nikki.
On Saturday there were nine hours of lectures and workshops covering a wide range of topics, from “The history of television as the history of the web we do not want” with DIT lecturer Eddie Brennan to “Media literacy and experiments in making journalism transparent” with DIT PHD student Stephanie Costello.
The conference was unique in that it featured a series of parallel talks and workshops that were family-friendly and inclusive to people of all abilities .
Masters student and speaker at the conference, Maryam Madani said: “I believe this has the power to really challenge the education system and traditional notions of who should be allowed to enter and flourish in that system. We saw the beginnings of it at the workshops on Saturday. I love [that] vision and strongly believe also that no one should be barred from higher level education.”
Nikki Murphy enjoyed Saturday’s events as well. “Saturday’s workshops and lectures were amazing, it was great to see DIT classrooms full of children of all ages and abilities asking great questions. There was a buzz and excitement around the place. The lectures were great sources of information, giving me many ideas for ways to take media literacy. Even giving me ideas for future studies.”
This year’s attendance was around 200 – which is 70 higher than last year’s, a good sign for the conference going forward.
Organisers Harry Browne and Deborah Brennan have two other goals separate to the one mentioned above.
The first is “to ensure that there was a really strong and serious computer-oriented research included in the conference and in the publication that resulted from it,” said Harry Browne.
The publication is called “Critical Media Literacy – Who Needs It?”, which features in the Irish Communications Review journal.
“You can’t really talk about understanding how media are produced and consumed today without talking about technology and computation – and we think it should be talked about properly, with people who understand its characteristics, challenges and limitations,” Harry continues.
“The second, which we accomplished this year by running our family-friendly ‘Making the Web’ talks and workshops alongside the conference, was to include people of all abilities, including children and people with intellectual disabilities, in a way that has never been done at a conference like this before. We had support in publicising ‘Making the Web’ from Down Syndrome Ireland, Enable Ireland and branches of Special Olympics,” Harry said of the second goal of the conference.
Maryam Madani also said: “I’m a big fan of the media literacy conference in DIT. It’s always full of stimulating talks and brings together like-minded and passionate lefties and thinkers from all walks. Academia is usually known for being cut-throat and competitive, but here it is just the opposite. It’s a warm, welcoming, convivial environment where students are supported and encouraged to contribute, in an atmosphere which fosters genuine collaboration and connection.”
Maryam has been inspired by the event to consider a PhD, saying: “Before coming to DIT, I was not considering academia but now as a direct result of this conference I am seriously considering continuing on as a PhD student because it seems more enjoyable than I ever imagined it would be.”