Media Literacy: Future Challenges

This section of the blog has focused on the history of media literacy education in the United States. I thought it would be fitting to wrap up with a look towards the future.  As history has shown us, media education in the U.S. has been very fluid–it has progressed through three distinct stages.  The current, transitional phase, is just that–a transition.

It was during the transitional phase that media literacy became a prominent and well-known issue. This phase, which remains in effect today, aims to “empower students, or viewers, critically process the media messages” (Guo-Ming, 2007).  During this phase, media literacy began to spread beyond the classroom as media literacy conferences, meetings, and associations began to appear.  The transitional phase has set the stage for a new phase of media literacy to emerge.  But before this transition can happen, there are obstacles that must be overcome.

Guo-Ming (2007) has identified three challenges:

  1. The centralization and expansion of media education
  2. The progression from movement to educational intervention
  3. The impact of new technology

The United States faces a unique dilemma in terms of centralizing media literacy education on the national level.   Unlike other countries such as Canada and Australia, the educational system in the U.S. is controlled by 50 individual states.  This means any central policy or mission would have to unite the varying interests and goals of each state who are all influenced by different parents and communities–a task Guo-Ming (2007) described as “simply impossible.”

The second challenge media literacy faces is that it must overcome the gap between movement and actual educational intervention.  As of now, media literacy can be viewed as a social movement, one that is successfully fighting for recognition as well as official approval (Guo-Ming, 2007).  However, it has not yet transformed into an effective educational intervention (Guo-Ming, 2007).  For this to happen, educators must continue “to articulate a clear purpose of media education that is compatible with the school culture” (Guo-Ming, 2007).

The third challenge Guo-Ming (2007) discussed is the impact of new technology.  Specifically, he focuses on the impact of the digitalization of media.  According to Guo-Ming (2007), the digitalization of media creates three new aspects of media education:

  1. New digital aesthetics
  2. Cognitive effects
  3. Social effects

For media education to be effective, these factors and effects must be explored.  One specific social effect Guo-Ming (2007) noted is “demassification.”

According to Guo-Ming (2007):

The traditional design for a large homogeneous group of
audience will gradually disappear, instead, the digital
media will launch specific, rather than mass appeals, by
allowing the audience to select the media messages they
wish to access. Media education has to consider what
this shift from mass to individualization means to the
culture and the democratic way of life in this county.

For media literacy education to progress into a new phase, these challenges must be overcome.  The 50 states must become united on a media literacy initiative, media literacy must progress beyond a simple movement, and the impact of new technology must continue to be explored. If the history of media literacy education has shown us anything, it is that media literacy education is a fluid process, much like media itself is.  As media evolves and expands, media literacy education must continually progress–which it has and I have little doubt will continue to do.


Guo-Ming, C. (2007). Media (Literacy) Education in the United States. China Media Research, 3(3), 87-103. Retrieved from Communication & Mass Media Complete database.



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