20th Annual Media Ecology Association Convention brings ethical perspectives to bear on cutting-edge developments in technology and society
In a world of fake news, hyper-connectivity, and rapidly advancing means of communication, the humanistic and critical perspective of legendary St. Michael’s professor Marshall McLuhan can feel almost prophetic. Next week, hundreds of scholars will converge on the St. Michael’s campus to address many of the most important and challenging questions about media and society today – very much in the spirit of McLuhan himself.
From June 27 to 30, the University of St. Michael’s College will open its doors to co-host the Media Ecology Association (MEA) for its 20th annual convention. This year’s theme is “Media Ethics: Human Ecology in a Connected World,” and the itinerary includes 80 sessions and events that feature 300 speakers from 30 countries.
This international conference takes place at a very important time, with elections on the horizon for Canada and the United States. As St. Michael’s President David Sylvester notes, “Given St. Mike’s long tradition of teaching and research infused with a focus on ethics and values, it’s fitting that we, along with U of T’s Faculty of Arts and Science, Faculty of Information, and the Centre for Ethics, have joined together with the MEA to inspire the next generation of media scholars.”
Book & Media Studies Assistant Professor Paolo Granata, chair of this year’s conference, has organized the event with an eye on a technological society developing so quickly that lawmakers and ethicists struggle to keep pace. Granata explores these ideas in his research and teaching, including the McLuhan Seminar in Creativity and Technology, an SMC One program which features a learning experience in Silicon Valley for first-year students. A number of Granata’s students will also be on hand to participate in and support the proceedings while making connections with scholars in the field.
The conference will kick off on June 26 with a panel discussion on how the internet is affecting civil society, featuring St. Michael’s alumnus and U of T Philosophy professor Mark Kingwell. Presented by the Toronto Reference Library and the McLuhan Salon Series, “The Social Cost of the Information Age” networking event is free and open to the public.
The formal opening of the convention on June 27 will include remarks from the Honourable Karina Gould, Minister of Democratic Institutions, whose involvement in the conference stems from her perception of the possibilities and risks inherent in digital life for the future of democracy.
“The Media Ethics conference provides an important space for Canadians to discuss how they use platforms, the information they are seeing on these platforms and the level of trust they have for these platforms,” says Gould, “Democracy is rooted in the trust of the people in the process and in the legitimacy of the outcome.”
On Friday, June 28, at 7:30 p.m. St. Michael’s Faculty of Theology professor and Director of the Elliott Allen Institute for Theology and Ecology Dennis P. O’Hara will join documentary filmmaker Nora Bateson at the McLuhan Centre for a screening of An Ecology of Mind: A Daughter’s Portrait of Gregory Bateson.
The Media Ethics conference will conclude on June 30 with a plenary session titled “The Future We Want.” Thoughtfulness about the human side of media – a central piece of Marshall McLuhan’s legacy – is an essential part of the St. Michael’s story of humanistic scholarship, and inspires students and scholars alike to think creatively and optimistically in response to problems in the global village.
More information about this year’s MEA Convention, including a link to a detailed itinerary, is available on the Media Ethics website.