“Media ecology looks into the matter of how media of communication affect human perception, understanding, feeling, and value; and how our interaction with media facilitates or impedes our chances of survival.”
—Neil Postman, “The Reformed English Curriculum.” in A.C. Eurich, ed., High School 1980: The Shape of the Future in American Secondary Education (1970).
Neil Postman was a social critic, educator, and one of the founders of the field today known as “media ecology.” In 1998, five of his former students formed the Media Ecology Association (MEA). This is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to the research and application of media ecology.
Today’s executive board of the MEA includes professors from all over the country. Most recently, Corey Anton, PhD, Professor of Communication Studies in the GVSU School of Communications was named president of this organization. Anton has been on the MEA board since 2005, served as the editor of the MEA’s journal Explorations in Media Ecology from 2008-2010, and now will act as president until 2015.
“I sometimes need to explain that I don’t really study ‘mass media’ or just modern technology,” Anton said. “For me the group [the MEA] is much more concerned with larger questions such as the co-evolution of environments, consciousness, and media forms, and how the quality of human life relates to communication technologies. They are also interested in how media can be used in ways that extend and enrich human capabilities but which minimize undesirable outcomes.”
The MEA looks at media as environments, and environments as media. For example, a clock on the wall isn’t just something in the room. Humans are inside the environment that the clock makes possible. Once clocks became synced across the globe, the world became increasingly interlocked and people felt the crunch of new paces of interaction. The MEA also addresses how technologies such as literacy and money relate to religion, work, community, law, and the sense of self.
Together with co-planner Valerie Peterson, Associate Professor of Communication Studies, Anton brought the MEA’s 14th annual convention to Grand Rapids in June of 2013. This three-day event took almost two years of planning and a great deal of university support.
“The theme of the convention was ‘Media Ecology: Unplugged,’” Anton said. “Panels discussed the importance of strategic hiatuses from some technologies. They spanned topics such as early literacy, distance education, and how life may look 20 years from now.”
For more information about media ecology and Anton, visit the MEA website.