Jason Mittell presents a strong case for an exploration of common ground, indeed for a more direct level of communication of any sort, among those of us involved in the Consortium through the newsletter and blog. Fair use strikes me as just the kind of issue that should generate a productive exchange.
However I wonder to what extent the lack of conversation on this and other topics (at least through this format--I have not yet been able to attend conferences where interaction seems much stronger) can be traced back to some misunderstanding or uncertainty about media education and scholarship itself.
I am thinking here of students who come into my film history class (which I teach at the college level but also to middle school students in a summer program) and express fear that this class will somehow "ruin" their enjoyment of movies by making them think too much--taking a source of entertainment and turning it into one more topic in which they have to apply a grinding, deadly, formulaic analysis and critique. Like all of us, I thrill to the experience of students seeing that the study of this material actually increases their enjoyment and potential interaction with it (though one evaluation I received last semester simply asked, "Why can't we just watch movies and not have to talk them to death??"). But why do they start with that suspicion? Even if they have never heard of the Frankfort School or Newton Minnow, have they not absorbed along the way that notion that the educator/scholar is really there to demean and ultimately ask them to reject the moral and intellectual wasteland of popular culture and feel guilty or complicit for interacting with it? To ask this question to my colleagues in media education seems absurd, like I've missed the last 20-30 years of research and thinking. But how far has this notion penetrated into the larger perception of what we do?
An electronic newsletter and a blog allows us, as media educators, to use a forum of communication in which our partners and our students have full and equal access--and in many cases a level of comfort, familiarity, and creativity that exceeds our own. Quite a refreshing change from, say, scholarly journals in which just a few educators/scholars exchange ideas only among themselves--and in a rather slow and passive manner at that.
However, even if the medium has changed, has the disconnect between scholars and those in other fields or arenas (producers, students, etc.) remained in place? However much we as scholars and educators have tried to challenge or at least complicate old ideas about what we do, do they still exist on some level? Are those of us who are educators and scholars simply using this medium to talk among ourselves through a kind of style and rhetoric that is comfortable to us but alien to others?
So my question to is this: what is media education? What, for that matter, is media scholarship? What exactly are we are doing, and what insights can be gleaned from this forum to those outside the academy? Can we be doing it differently or explaining what we do differently?