We live in an age of the ‘infloglut': where we are constantly bombarded with information, coming to a point where those who collect our personal data are able to know what we want before we know it ourselves. A new undergraduate degree at Monash, the Bachelor of Media Communication, will explore these and many more themes across the fast changing contemporary media landscape. The new course aims to equip students with the highest standards of digital literacy, and the capacity to tackle the complexities of the media industry, with diverse social awareness and a global outlook.
Monash academic Professor Mark Andrejevic presented the inaugural Bachelor of Media Communication (BMC) lecture at the course launch, which was attended by the very first student cohort, media professionals, and School of Media Film and Journalism (MFJ) faculty members. Professor Andrejevic, co-leads Culture Media Economy (with Professor Justin O'Connor) at Monash and is involved with the research output of the Sensor Society, a research theme that explores emerging trends in digital information and communication technologies from a societal perspective.
In his lecture Professor Andrejevic covered the current issues surrounding media and its practitioners today, lending also his prognostications for the future. He explained that we are witnessing the power of algorithms in curating content and ultimately deciding what content we engage with. He shared the example of a researcher who was watching videos on an anonymous browser, following recommended videos based on the ones he was watching. What the researcher noticed was that he was constantly being recommended ‘fake news'.
“Curating algorithms push towards this [fake news] because they have to do with what type of content is engaged with, not what is necessarily true,” Professor Andrejevic said.
Professor Andrejevic's exploration of the crucial connection between media, society, democracy and technology raises a number of fascinating questions: Can old media exist with the new? Should we adjust it? Are there other possible ways of thinking that reverse alarming tendencies of current technology? For the new students of the Bachelor of Media Communications perhaps it’s a challenge to take on and think about.
Professor Andrejevic's lecture highlighted the advantages of having a media degree being taught at a research intensive university such as Monash. Professor Andrejevic is somebody who is doing world-leading research on the ‘sensor society'- the surveillance that is occurring right now and the social power of algorithm – and he is connecting this research to a teaching program, as these topics were followed-up during the first teaching week in the Bachelor of Media Communication workshops.
Director of the program, Associate Professor Therese Davis said there was positive feedback from staff, students and guests.
“I thought it went really well because we got great feedback from all the different groups that we invited. Most importantly, the students loved it. The feedback I got was that they were really inspired, and they had taken on board some of the challenges that [Professor Andrejevic] Mark had set them as future media professionals. It really got them thinking about the serious issues of working in media and communications industries,” she said.
A/Professor Davis said the event was also well received by media professionals who attended, saying that this is what they want from graduates.
“We want them thinking in these kinds of ways. Digital literacy is absolutely crucial for the media professions of the future and they were surprised and pleased about how up-to-date the research was and that we were addressing very very current issues in this program,” she said.
“This degree is about integrating theory and practice in new ways. Our aim is that our graduates will not just produce the kind of media that is already out there, but rather that these are graduates that are thought-leaders, graduates that are able to innovate and solve problems and get in there and create new ways of doing media. We really want them to be the leaders in their field,” A/Professor Davis said.
While there are numerous media and communications degrees available, A/Professor Davis said that there is a real point of difference with the Monash degree, particularly with regards to the teaching approach whereby core units are taught using a “problem-solving mode”; students work in collaborative teams in media lab situations.
“The degree is set up so that we can respond very quickly to the changes that are happening in the media and facilitate integration between the university students and industry.”
“Students will be given access to the incredible resources that Monash has, both technical resources through the new multimillion dollar Monash Media Lab, and from a world-class library. These students will work in teams in collaborative laborative situations where they can solve problems in very practical ways and create cutting edge media artefacts,” A/Professor Davis said.
“We started with the topic of information overload because I think it's something that everybody can relate to, and we're all trying to grapple with it. How do we make sense of this new point in history where we've got access to more information than we've ever had at any other time?
But how we mediate, communicate and make sense of this information, that's largely the job of media communicators — and they're the students we're working with.”