A Joint Symposium on Journalism and Communication Education
By: Caroline Hosey and Arzhia Habibi
On December 2, 2016 NCCU’S College of Communication hosted a joint symposium with the University of Tokyo about the impact of new technology, interdisciplinary study, and internationalization. It was a great honor to engage in discussion with our distinguished guests.
The symposium began with some introductory remarks by the Deputy Dean of the OIC, Hwang Yu-ning, and the Dean of Communications, Professor Lun Yuan-huei. Deputy Dean Hwang Yu-ning outlined her hope that this conference would consolidate the academic interaction between NCCU’s College of Communication and the University of Tokyo’s Interfaculty Initiative in Information Studies Department. The first half of the conference dealt with the impacts of globalization and technology convergence in correlation to journalism and communication, while the second portion covered the importances of media literacy education.
The first presentation was given by Professor Osamu Sakura, Dean of the Interfaculty Initiative in Information Studies (named Joho-Gakkan in Japanese) at The University of Tokyo, entitled ‘Seeking our Niche in Global College Ecosystem’. Professor Sakura received his PhD in Primatology, a branch of zoology that deals with the study of primates, which has undoubtedly given him a unique perspective of the ‘ecology’ Japanese Higher Education. His presentation investigated how Japan can find its place in a global world that is so often influenced by Higher Education rankings, rankings that are often dominated by rivals in the UK and North America. Key to his presentation was the notion of expanding and exploring the ‘East Asian View of Nature’ (based on Taoist teachings such as: 無為自然, wu wei zi ran, meaning submitting to the will of nature and acknowledging that the natural system is essentially an ethical system) which can aid in the construction of Japan’s ‘niche’ within the global education market.
Professor Osamu Sakura’s research posed crucial questions about the intersection between globalisation and localisation, and how Japan can utilise its cultural nuances in positive ways to enrich communication education and research. It was certainly an imaginative and thought provoking presentation that highlighted the heat and pressure that Asian Universities are experiencing in the race to become the best, whilst also emphasizing the need to reconnect with philosophies that were ‘grown’ within Asia.
The second presentation came from our own College of Communication’s Dean, Professor Lin Yuan-Huei. Starting with the founding of the School of Communication in 1989 and other key dates, he went onto describe the close relationship that both the College of Communication and the University of Tokyo have enjoyed over the years, with regular visits and academic exchange that have provided fertile ground for further collaboration. Finally, he went onto frankly describing the issues and challenges the communication department is experiencing today, sharing this openly with both faculty and students to invite us into the conversation of how to collectively resolve them. Some pertinent issues raised included how students can become more autonomous through designing their own curriculum as well as challenges in developing a sense of belonging for students within the department and with their fellow classmates.
These challenges were further explored in the following Q&A session which was a lively space filled with a certain ‘constructive buzz’ to try and improve Communication Education in both Taiwan and Japan. One such thoughtful comment about the pressure of working under Times Higher Education University Ranking system came from the College of Communication’s Professor Trisha Lin, who suggested that the centrality of Asian culture in communication education is of great importance and that perhaps now is the time to think about developing Asia’s own University ranking system to reflect the local nuances found here. Professor Osamu replied suggesting that whilst there are issues with the parameters of the Times Higher Education ranking system, the University of Tokyo must also acknowledge that there are deep-seated problems that are closely connected with their imperialist history as a ‘male-centred society’. This comment certainly brought us into a deeper understanding that NCCU’s Communication Department also has its own set of local problems to face which will require a more profound restructuring and honest conversation about NCCU’s unique history that undoubtedly influences present day teaching, learning and development for academics, students and administrative personnel.
Closing the first session Professor Shih described how both presentations and the stimulating Q&A discussion had challenged both students and academics to think how we can continue developing and enriching curriculum within NCCU’s Communication Department. Perhaps we, as students, can also question how we can be actively part of constructing a more effective communication course that is both multi-disciplinary and a rigorous training experience that allows us to make meaningful impact within the realm of communication in both Taiwan and abroad.
After the first session, a short interview was conducted with Professor Mizukoshi Shin of media studies from the Graduate School of Interfaculty Initiative in Information Studies to glean insights about certain characteristics he had noticed of students within his department and what expectations he had for further collaboration between NCCU and The University of Tokyo. Commenting on the characteristics of Graduate School he described students as ‘very interdisciplinary, independent and humorous’. Presently, he is supervising three students who are of a variety of age ranges and from diverse backgrounds, he went onto describe them as ‘very confident about their position in the field… that they help each other… they are all very communicative…’ Our final question concerned Professor Mizukoshi Shin’s vision for the cooperation between NCCU and The University of Tokyo. He responded by saying that the cooperation could be something ‘festive, collaborative and fun’, and that could be sustainable for an extended period of time, as opposed to a one-off project.
The second half of the conference discussed the importance of media literacy. Media literacy deals with the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and create media. Examining the issues about representation in the media teaches students to think critically so they can actively participate in discussion for the benefit of civil society. Jeffry Oktavianus, a student of IMICS, stated that he believes it is important for students to study and engage in discussion about media literacy so we can distinguish real news from fake news when using social media platforms. He elaborated by explaining that in his home country of Indonesia, there are a lot of fake websites and unfortunately many people still don’t have the ability to filter the news. Therefore, when they are exposed to those hoaxes they believe it which results in a great amount of misunderstandings.
Professor Shin Mizukoshi, a professor of media studies at the Interfaculty Initiative of Information Studies at the University of Tokyo, gave a presentation titled, “Rethinking about the Draft Tokyo Declaration on Collaborative Action for Media Literacy in East Asia.”. He advocated that social-media studies should be based on historical and social perspectives rather than only focussing on communication technologies. From 2001-2006 Professor Mizukoshi’s primary research activity was developing the MELL project which stands for “Media Expression, Learning, and Literacy Project. In today’s lecture, Professor Mizukoshi examined the significance, possibilities, and limitations of the Tokyo Declaration while simultaneously articulating the directions for the future of media literacy.
Professor Hui-Wen Liu finished the symposium with her lecture titled, “Media Literacy in the Era of UGC/UGM. In today’s world user generated content and user generated media have revolutionized the ways in which media is created and spread. For the first time, the audience is empowered to contribute and monitor the production of mass media. For this reason, Professor Liu examined the importance of incorporating user-generated media into curriculum for communications studies. Three of Professor Liu’s grad students also shared their insights of the importance of studying the audience’s perspective when analyzing UGC/UGM. It was enlightening to listen to their analysis of why we should discuss internet framework, the algorithm of social media, how information is designed and evaluated, and the emergence of user generated online media.
Due to the emergence of web 2.0 platforms, it is now of utmost importance for citizens to become involved in the media process. Exchanging ideas and participating in discussion is the most practical way for citizens to have an effect on democratic society. Together we can engage in meaningful conversations and find solutions about how to incorporate technology education into today’s academia.