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Media education
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New Media and Communication: Technology matters, but people matter more !

Brussels, October 6th, 2015 (SIGNIS/GC) Dr Jan Servaes, who had studied at the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium in the 1980s was one of the special guests in 2009 at the SIGNIS congress in Chang May where he gave a highly appreciated talk about the new trends in media and community.

He has been interested in the work of SIGNIS for years and informs us also about his research and whereabouts. He is a specialist in journalism, communication, new media, social change and development. He taught at universities in Belgium, Australia, Thailand, The Netherlands and the US. Now, he is professor and the Head of the Department of Media and Communication at the City University of Hong Kong. He holds the UNESCO Chair in Communication for Sustainable Social Change and is also the Director of the SBS Center ’Communication for Sustainable Social Change’ (CSSC) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA.

Servaes edited in 2014 the book " Technological Determinism and Social Change " for which he brought together a dozen of specialists in this field : Valentina Bau; Melissa Brough; John Hartley; Ellen Hommel; Yalong Jiang; Rico Lie; Rich Ling; Patchanee Malikhao; David Morley-Morley; Christine Ogan; Yong Jin Park; Emily Polk; Song Shi; Marko Skoric; A.M. Smelik; Colin Sparks; Jo Tacchi and Karin Wilkins. The aim of this book was to shed new light on this theoretically and above all practically significant issue, and to question the role of technology and culture in social change.
It challenges us to reconsider and rethink the impact of new information and communication technologies on civil society, participatory democracy and digital citizenship in theoretical and methodological contributions, through the analysis of specific cases in Australia, Bangladesh, Belgium, China, Colombia, Kenya, Netherlands and the United States.

Almost all chapters are eye openers. One can be mentioned because it could help in the interreligious dialogue with Buddhists in the field of media. Servaes presented them in his introduction.

Buddhism, ethics and media

Patchanee Malikhao’s chapter concerns the critical sociological studies of mediated culture, intercultural communication for development, technology and Buddhism. Critical sociology aims at studying how the meaning, values, attitude, norms, belief or disbelief systems, and worldview of the audience in a given postmodern culture change due to the messages perceived from media institutions.

She complements this from a Buddhist phenomenological perspective in order to find strategies to alter the unfavourable changes embedded in media technology and media institutions to more sustainable orientations. Further is noted that Phra Dhammapidok, a famous Thai Monk, argues that the root cause of unsustainable development lies in the lack of ethnics. Sustainable development and social change is impossible without a change in the way of thinking that mankind can steward nature by using technology. Technology has become a tool of the cult of success, implying the dwelling on growth and progress in line with the modernization ideology.
To achieve desirable social change of sustainability, according to Buddhists, is to develop “evolvability”, or the potential to live in Harmony with other human beings, wildlife, and nature. This needs a redefinition of Western ethics, is one of the conclusion: “Intercultural communication for a sustainable social change and the competencies associated with an intercultural sensibility are presented as possible ways out of the stalemate”.

Access to information and communication technologies

Furthermore, what this books underlines is that the access to information and communication technologies is a necessity, and the importance of access should not be trivialized, but a plea for digital literacy implies recognizing that access is the beginning of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) policies and not the end of it.
Digital literacy requires using the Internet and social media in socially and culturally useful ways aimed at the inclusion of everybody in the emerging information/knowledge society.

Technology matters, but people matter more.

Professor of Media, Religion and Culture at the VU University Amsterdam Cees J.Hamelink said about this book that it provides—through its scholarly contents and excellent structure—essential guidance to understand how deterministic approaches stand in the way of putting people first and facilitating sustainable social change. Invaluable reading for researchers, teachers and policymakers!

SIGNIS

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