LEBANON: Promoting Digital Media Literacy in the Middle East

NICOLE SABA WRITES – Though Arabs are as Net savvy as anyone, many Arab universities rely on Western resources to build their digital media studies and literacy curricula.

Fed up with the second-hand material, Lebanon has hosted the first digital academy by and for Arabs.

Built on the example of western institutions, the first annual, three-week Media and Digital Literacy Academy of Beirut (MDLAB) took place this August. It sought to help regional media scholars develop their curricula into one that includes and strengthens digital media literacy. This academy was inaugurated by the American University of Beirut (AUB) and sponsored by the Open Society Foundations, an American-based operation that promotes social reform and democracy.

This year, fifty media students and professors from universities all around the Middle East, including Iraqi universities and those in the Palestinian territories, attended the academy. It was co-chaired by Jad Melki, the founder and director of the Media Studies department at AUB, and May Farah, an assistant professor at AUB’s Media Studies program. International speakers, including Renee Hobbs from the University of Rhode Island and Stephen Salyer, President of the Salzburg Global Seminar, were invited to help teach advanced media literacy concepts. By developing an annual academy, Melki hopes to define digital media literacy as a staple of education in the Arab world, “particularly since media literacy is very important to help solve many of the social and cultural problems we face in the region.”

Media studies is vital in helping Arabs and the rest of the world understand how the media impacts daily life and society. As a result, AUB now offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees in Media Studies. This is definitely a step in the right direction, as it is one of the only digital literacy academies tailored specifically to the Arab world, conducted mostly in Arabic and aimed at helping turn Arab citizens into active participants in national and global dialogues through the use of digital media.

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