Session: “History & Media Literacy Education” – Wed June 28, 11:15am-12:15pm
Charisse L’Pree Corsbie-Massay, Eric Olson, Jason Steinhauer
History today is communicated through a wide array of formats and across a growing variety of media platforms. Audiences include policy makers, federal, state and local officials, educators, students, journalists, funders, pundits, commentators, social media followers, enthusiasts and those with only casual interest. The outcomes and risks associated with these communications have broad consequences for society as well as historians and other history practitioners. Over the past few months, we have witnessed moments of both triumph and abject failure to communicate historical facts, context, and meaning on the world’s largest stage.
Historians have long engaged with the public and communicated historical scholarship: through books, lectures, in the classroom and in the press. As media and technology had evolved, historians adapted, venturing into podcasting, blogging, websites, videos and social media. Yet there has been no unifying field, discipline, instruction, best practices or training for historians to do this work. There was also no community around which historians venturing into this terrain could come together, connect and share ideas. And there was no sustained and united commitment within the field to support and fund this type of work. Additionally, the communications landscape was continuing to rapidly advance and historians were only selectively partnering with communications departments and media to train historians to communicate well across emerging platforms. Hence the need for a dedicated sub-discipline: history communication.
History communication is an emerging new field. It brings together historians and those interested in history around the idea that how we share historical knowledge with non-experts is changing – and that we need to be intentional, innovative, and skilled in how we communicate to our audience through various media.
Why communicate history through these various media? What are the outcomes? What are the goals and motivations? What does it mean to communicate history to different audiences through these channels? Who/what exactly is “the public?” How does one identify various “publics” and determine how to best engage with them?
These were among the guiding questions for a group of history, media, and communication experts who set out to create a dedicated curriculum for the new field of history communication. Drawing upon developments in disciplines like public history and science communication, this course examines the challenges associated with communicating about the past in today’s media-saturated environment. Students will not only become familiar with cases of history communication in action, but will also develop the skills required to participate in these conversations and do so in an inclusive, responsible, and ethically sound manner.
In this workshop, several of the scholars involved in the founding of history communication will demonstrate the importance of this new discipline, how it compares to similar fields and practices, and reveal some of the new tools and resources utilized in the history communication classroom.