Comunicar Journal Blog

Revitalizing Communication and Literacy Concepts in the Digital Era

“With the revolutionary development of ICTs, transition to knowledge societies, and the new learning mode of the Net Generation, it is proposed that the concept of media literacy should be extended to media and information literacy (MIL). “

Alice Y.L. LEE

Professor, Department of Journalism, Hong Kong Baptist University

Digitalization, globalization, and individualization have introduced sea change to people’s work and lives in the 21st century. In the academic world, these changes also post significant conceptual challenges to the fields of mass communication and media education. In February this year, a group of media and communication scholars gathered in Brussels to attend a conference on “Revitalizing Concepts in Mass Communications.”

Brussels conference 1

These scholars came from different parts of the world, but their concern was the same – how to update the traditional concepts and make them relevant in the new age. They discussed priming and framing, called for rethinking about media policy, proposed new journalistic concepts and suggested a new paradigm for media education. The conference chair, Professor Tim Vos, pointed out that traditional terms such as audience, journalist, and even mass communication have no longer capture the media reality nowadays.

In the conference, I am particularly interested in discussing with the participants about renewing the literacy concept in the knowledge society. With the revolutionary development of ICTs, transition to knowledge societies, and the new learning mode of the Net Generation, it is proposed that the concept of media literacy should be extended to media and information literacy (MIL). MIL is a compound concept integrating media literacy, information literacy and ICT skills. A media-and-information-literate person is expected to be able to master messages coming from all information sources.

Regarding the conceptual change, Professor Vos put forward several types of (re)conceptualization such as concept transformation and concept creation in his concluding remarks. Conference participants agreed that for those concepts which are still fine, we need to find new empirical referents while for those concepts which are outdated, we have to abandon them or develop new ones to capture the new social phenomena.

The media landscape in our world has already had a new face. It would be nice for members in the academic community regularly match the existing concepts with the empirical world to see whether those concepts require modification or appropriation.



The Fourth International Conference on Media Literacy

Marching into the age of Web 3.0 and knowledge society, media and the Internet are playing an influential role in everyday life and continue to affect and transform human’s habits in acquiring, sharing and analyzing information. Media education hence is becoming increasingly important in terms of promoting professional learning and teaching of critical information consumption. The Fourth International Conference on Media Literacy: Multidisciplinary Approach to Media Literacy Research and Practice held in Hong Kong at 5-6 November boosted and marked the field into a new stage.

More than 70 local and overseas academics and educators from over 10 countries around the globe, including Czech Republic, Sweden, India, Japan, Singapore, Mainland China, Taiwan and the US and so on, participated in 10 panels of the conference. Within the two-day conference, around 50 papers were presented, in which half of them were from Mainland China. Participants had rich academic exchanges on media literacy amongst numerous disciplines, such as education, communication studies, journalism, cultural studies, language, arts, new media, health communication, etc.

Besides panel paper presentations, there were two forums focusing on media education. At one of the forums, not only did participants share their views on media education, they also moved on to discuss about the future of Media and Information Literacy (MIL). Noteworthy is that, during the conference, the Chinese version of UNESCO’s “Global Media and Information Literacy Assessment Framework: Country Readiness and Competencies” was introduced by faculty members of the Communication University of China and Dr. Kwame BOAFO, the International Communication and Information Consultant of UNESCO Office Beijing. This marks a milestone that, this framework is officially launched in Mainland China and will greatly enlighten further research.

Another important forum put its emphasis on discussing media literacy as a field. Academics, educators and participants shared a common view that media literacy is a growing academic field, since there have been quite a number of fruitful publications, conferences and academic activities being launched throughout the years around the world. But there remains room for development before media literacy becomes an established academic discipline.

MIL conf 1

(Photo 1. Plenary speakers, honorable guests and chairmen of the conference take photo at the kick-off ceremony)

Apart from the forums and panel presentations, plenary speeches and special talks also enriched the conference with speakers’ inspiring sharing of their knowledge and expertise. For instance, Dr. Donna Chu from The Chinese University of Hong Kong discussed the implications of media and technology changes for media literacy and the challenges of teaching students on media production. Prof. Andrew Burn from the University College London suggested that we should shed light on creative media production in the field of media education. Such cross-medium and cross-disciplinary practice will benefit the linkage between elite and popular culture. From a critical point of view, Prof. Ellen Seiter from University of Southern California brought forth the challenging fact that we are facing the exponential expansion of media conglomerate, such as Google, in different social aspects. Situated in such context, she highlighted her special concerns of brain health among young media users. Media literacy curriculum is regarded as useful for guiding young people to face the challenge of the digital era.

MIL conf 2

(Photo 2. Dr. Donna Chu shares her views at the conference forum)

MIL conf 3

(Photo 3. Prof. Andrew Burn delivers his plenary speech at the conference)

FLAME (Films, Languages and Media in Education)

FLAME (Film, Language and Media in Education) is an innovative project that combines the areas of teaching foreign languages with film and media. It is based in Manchester Metropolitan University and its main aim is to promote research projects as well as become a reference point for those working on the field. To find out more about FLAME, visit

Their first conference was held in June 2015 with a huge success. It was a fantastic and well-organised event that put together professionals from different parts of the world. Dr. Kieran Donaghy and Prof. Brian Tomlinson were keyspeakers in an event that had around 60 speakers and more than 100 participants. More than 95% of the attendees expressed their desire to become affiliate members of FLAME. The following video summarises the experience http://

Don’t hesitate to contact the FLAME team if you have any further questions on the project:


The Fourth International Conference of Media Literacy: Multidisciplinary Approach of Media Literacy Research and Practice


The Fourth International Conference of Media Literacy: Multidisciplinary Approach of Media Literacy Research and Practice

Organized by

School of Communication, Hong Kong Baptist University & Institute of Communication Studies, Communication University of China

Date: 5-6 November 2015

Venue: Hong Kong Baptist University

The field of media literacy is located at the crossroad of many academic disciplines, and it possesses a multidisciplinary characteristic. Media literacy attracts scholars and educators from communication studies, education, journalism, cultural studies, health communication, language, arts, new media, etc. to work in this field and establish diversified development. This conference will be held in Hong Kong Baptist University. It is hoped that, in the 21st century new media environment, outstanding scholars and educators can gather together to discuss the new developmental path of media literacy education.

The theme of the conference is multidisciplinary approach of media literacy research and practice. The objectives of the conference are:

  1. To bring together international scholars and educators to discuss how different disciplines are contributing to the development of the field of media literacy and to put forward new idea and practice models;
  2. To explore how young people deal with digital media, including their social media lives, values cultivation, media consumption, news and information searching, creative media production, online shopping, healthy eating, leisure, work and study, social participation, etc. through interdisciplinary discussion in the new age of welcoming Web3.0. In addition, to discuss the relationship between media literacy training and the well-being of digital generation;
  3. To discuss how to bring the field of media literacy forward and review the criteria of building media literacy as an emerging academic discipline.

Specifically, topics for this conference shall include (but are not restricted to):

  1. Communication and media literacy
  2. Education and media literacy
  3. Journalism and media literacy
  4. Information science and media literacy (Media and Information Literacy)
  5. Health and media literacy
  6. Arts and media literacy
  7. Language and media literacy
  8. Technology and media literacy
  9. Cultural Studies and Media Literacy

There will be several plenary sessions and two expert roundtable forums will be held during the conference. Renowned media literacy scholars in China and overseas are invited to be plenary speakers. After the conference, the conference papers and the roundtable discussions will be edited for publication.

A 500-word abstract should be submitted to the email of Communication University of China ( by 25 June 2015 for mainland China scholars. Scholars in Hong Kong and overseas should submit a 500-word abstract to the email of Hong Kong Baptist University ( by 25 June 2015.

For further details, please visit

Interested parties in mainland of China may contact Professor Kai ZHANG at For interested parties in Hong Kong and overseas, please contact Dr. Alice LEE or Professor Kara CHAN at