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Technology, Media Literacy, and the Human Subject: A Posthuman Approach

Technology, Media Literacy, and the Human Subject: A Posthuman Approach Richard S. Lewis
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-80064-182-2 £20.95
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Media literacy is often focused on evaluating the message rather than reflecting on the medium. Bringing together postphenomenology, media ecology, posthumanism, and complexity theory, Richard Lewis’s book offers a method for such a reflection and shows how our everyday media environments constitute us as (post)human subjects: one that is becoming and constitutes through relations – also with our media technologies. An original interdisciplinary effort – including for example the term 'intrasubjective mediation' – and a must-read book for everyone interested in how we become with and through technologies.
Prof Mark Coeckelbergh, University of Vienna

Technology, Media Literacy, and the Human Subject is a clearly and concisely written book that employs a fruitful transdisciplinary approach. It at once offers an excellent grounding in the literature, whilst simultaneously developing a useful tool for students to reflect deeply and critically upon their own engagement with media. Thoroughly recommended.
Alexander Thomas, University of East London

What does it mean to be media literate in today’s world? How are we transformed by the many media infrastructures around us? We are immersed in a world mediated by information and communication technologies (ICTs). From hardware like smartphones, smartwatches, and home assistants to software like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat, our lives have become a complex, interconnected network of relations. Scholarship on media literacy has tended to focus on developing the skills to access, analyze, evaluate, and create media messages without considering or weighing the impact of the technological medium—how it enables and constrains both messages and media users. Additionally, there is often little attention paid to the broader context of interrelations which affect our engagement with media technologies.

This book addresses these issues by providing a transdisciplinary method that allows for both practical and theoretical analyses of media investigations. Informed by postphenomenology, media ecology, philosophical posthumanism, and complexity theory the author proposes both a framework and a pragmatic instrument for understanding the multiplicity of relations that all contribute to how we affect—and are affected by—our relations with media technology. The author argues persuasively that the increased awareness provided by this posthuman approach affords us a greater chance for reclaiming some of our agency and provides a sound foundation upon which we can then judge our media relations. This book will be an indispensable tool for educators in media literacy and media studies, as well as academics in philosophy of technology, media and communication studies, and the post-humanities.

The original dissertation upon which this Open Access title is based is the winner of the 2020 The Harold A. Innis Award for Outstanding Thesis or Dissertation in the Field of Media Ecology.

Technology, Media Literacy, and the Human Subject: A Posthuman Approach
Richard S. Lewis | June 2021
264pp. | 20 Colour Illustrations | 6.14" x 9.21" (234 x 156 mm)
ISBN Paperback: 9781800641822
ISBN Hardback: 9781800641839
ISBN Digital (PDF): 9781800641846
ISBN Digital ebook (epub): 9781800641853
ISBN Digital ebook (mobi): 9781800641860
ISBN XML: 9781800641877
DOI: 10.11647/OBP.0253
BIC: JNV (Educational equipment and technology, computer-aided learning (CAL)), UBW (Internet: general works), U (Computing and information technology) GTC (Communication studies), JFD (Media studies), HP (Philosophy); BISAC: COM060140 (COMPUTERS / Web / Social Media), TEC041000 (TECHNOLOGY & ENGINEERING / Telecommunications),SOC052000 (SOCIAL SCIENCE / Media Studies), PHI000000 (PHILOSOPHY / General). OCLC Number: 1256260600.

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1. Introduction: Problematizing our Relations with Media Technologies Download
Richard S. Lewis

Part I: Situating the Interdisciplinary Concepts

2. Situating Media Literacy Download
Richard S. Lewis

3. Understanding the Medium Through the Technological Relation Download
Richard S. Lewis

4. The Posthuman: Situating the Subject in Human-Tech Relations Download
Richard S. Lewis

Part II: Developing a Posthuman Approach: A Framework and Instrument

5. Developing the Intrasubjective Mediating Framework Download
Richard S. Lewis

6. Developing an Instrument to Leverage the Framework Download
Richard S. Lewis

7. Conclusion Download
Richard S. Lewis


List of Tables and Illustrations


Richard S. Lewis is currently faculty—and the library director—at Prescott College (an innovative and experiential university in the US focused on the environment and social justice). He completed his interdisciplinary doctorate in Philosophy of Technology and Media & Communications Studies from the Free University of Brussels (Vrije Universiteit Brussel) in 2020, following that with a one-year postdoc at the Catholic University of Lille. His posthuman approach brings philosophical posthumanism together with postphenomenology, media ecology, and complexity to better understand the impact of media and technology at both the personal and sociocultural levels. He earned his Master’s in 2003 from the University of Arizona in information research and library sciences, with a concentration on the usability of technology.

1. Introduction: Problematizing our Relations with Media Technologies

This chapter provides an introduction and overview of the current trend of an ever-increasingly media-saturated world and how media literacy currently responds. The importance of the technological medium and the technological relation are discussed, as well as describing the importance of better understanding the human subject. Finally, the overall structure of this book is described and the various fields that will be addressed are touched upon briefly.

Part I: Situating  the Interdisciplinary Concepts

2. Situating Media Literacy

This chapter situates media literacy within the broader field of communications. An overview of media literacy is explored, examining issues of education, literacy, and agency. Ways of defining media literacy are discussed and four approaches to media literacy are looked at: protectionist, media arts-based, the literacy movement, and critical media literacy. The traditional lack of attention within media literacy on the impact of the medium itself is discussed, along with the importance of the broader context within which our media relations happen.

3. Understanding the Medium Through the Technological Relation

The effects of the technological medium are explored through two lenses: a micro lens and a macro lens. The first helps to better understand technological mediation—how our specific relations with technologies transform not only the media messages, but our own selves. The second aspect helps to better understand the technological medium as an environment of complex relations. In order to understand these micro and macro effects of the technological relations, concepts from two fields of study—postphenomenology and media ecology—are used. Concepts from each field are brought together to help create a way to understand a posthuman subject, which is developed in the following chapter. While not meant to be an extensive review of either postphenomenology or media ecology, the concepts from the two fields begin a holistic investigation of the technological medium, which is not sufficiently developed in most discussions concerning media literacy.

4. The Posthuman: Situating the Subject in Human-Tech Relations

After focusing on the technological relations in the previous chapter, the discussion moves to the human side of the human-technology relation in order to better understand what makes up the human subject. A brief overview of the humanist and transhumanist approaches is discussed along with their views on the human enhancement debate. I then make the case for a philosophical posthuman subject that is complex and emergent. Through a contemporary approach to the human, I use complexity to understand our selves not as standalone individuals but as complex and interrelational beings who are always becoming through the relations in our lives. This chapter finalizes the background and theoretical underpinnings for the framework and instrument developed in the next chapters.

Part II: Developing a Posthuman Method: Framework and Instrument

5. Developing the Intrasubjective Mediating Framework

Simply put, before we can truly achieve media literacy, we need to be self-literate. This involves moving beyond the ‘content’ of who we are and becoming knowledgeable as to what and how we are as a complex system. The ‘what’ can be understood as the structure or cartography of relations that constitute our selves, and the ‘how’ is the process of our mediated constitution. Both give rise to a system of becoming that is continually emergent and complex. Media technologies are a part of this process and are also affected by—and affect—the other constituting relations in our lives. In order to comprehensively understand media literacy, I develop a posthuman approach that consists of an intrasubjective mediating framework developed in this chapter along with a pragmatic instrument that leverages the framework in the next chapter.

6. Developing an Instrument to Leverage the Framework

The final step in the posthuman approach is to develop the theoretical framework into a pragmatic instrument that can be used to facilitate critical reflection and engagement with media. In order to do so, I return to a museum selfie that I took while conducting a postphenomenological study. It was this experience that inspired my desire to find a more inclusive framework beyond postphenomenology to investigate technological relations. I begin with a description of this foundational event and then investigate the museum selfie through the development of an instrument that helps identify many of the influencing relations that contributed to both my own and the selfie's constitution. From here I propose a generalized instrument and exercise that can be used by media instructors and students. The benefit of the instrument developed in this chapter is how it can help us realize and foreground the many relations that are occurring at any given moment. For media literacy, this allows us to better situate any media or media event that we are interested in investigating, interconnecting the event with the broad spectrum of constituting relations.

7. Conclusion

In this conclusion, I summarize my findings concerning how to expand media literacy. I then reflect on strengths and weaknesses of the study. I conclude with further recommendations for how the intrasubjective mediating framework could be used outside of media literacy.

Posthuman Approach Exercise: Learning by Doing Download

Engagement with Technology - Spreadsheet Download