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Know The Memes: Media literacy to decode white supremacy

Matt Reininger, Saber Khan, JP Connolly — Trinity School, Packer Collegiate School

Our students live on an internet that can look very different on the sites and platforms they visit with content served up by algorithms. Sites like YouTube have been shown to serve up right-wing videos meant to radicalize viewers. On other platforms, hateful ideas are packaged as memes to be shared widely. Thanks to 1:1 device programs and the ubiquity of smartphones these worlds can easily enter our school culture. Educators should be prepared to recognize, contextualize, and disrupt jokes, memes, and speech that originates on the internet seeks to normalize hate and to marginalize groups in our community. A sophisticated media literacy philosophy and practice are key to interrupt the spread of these ideologies. In this session, a group of technologists will help you build capacity by providing a toolset to prepare you for designing lessons and leading discussions about oppressive digital messages.

We hope to provide folks with :

-Gain a basic toolset for unpacking memes and decoding their cultural context.

-Start to understand how humans and algorithms work together to create the digital landscape we see.

-Be able to examine how memes, videos, ideas, speech function within a broader political agenda.

-Receive advice on how and when to engage with students about hateful ideas.

Conversational Practice

We will present a 10-15 minute visual slide-show to highlight the history of meme culture, its evolution, and repackaging of specific imagery for the insidious purpose of introducing students to the radicalization process of white supremacy culture (as well as highlighting misogynistic and homophobic threats in meme culture too). We will briefly touch on the social, the political, and ethical abdication of social media platforms since the answers to solving this problem cannot be left to their Terms and Conditions of use, but instead the adults in their lives.

We will spend most of the time soliciting scenarios from teachers in the room and reflecting on the processes and outcomes. We will then encourage the group to support one another in finding a method to identify, counsel the student(s) involved, and use the tools of critical media literacy ( the information form the presentation) along with relationship-building techniques to disrupt the radicalization process.

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