Salzburg Media Academy Inspires Lebanese Program

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Salzburg Media Academy Inspires Lebanese Program

First of its kind Media and Digital Literacy Academy of Beirut launched in Lebanon Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change faculty member Jad Melki speaks at the inaugural MDLAB in Lebanon

Founding Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change faculty member Dr. Jad Melki, of the American University of Beirut, has launched a new media and digital literacy academy in Lebanon - the first such program in the Middle East.

Inspired by his work over the past seven years with Salzburg Global Seminar, Melki, together with his colleagues from the AUB Media Studies Program, launched the three-week Media and Digital Literacy Academy of Beirut (MDLAB) at AUB this August.

Tailored to the Arab world and aiming to promote, vitalize, and advance digital media literacy education in the region, the inaugural program hosted 50 media professors and students from universities in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria.

Jad Melki and May Farah, both assistant professors at AUB's Media Studies program and members of the faculty the Salzburg Academy, co-chaired the 2013 academy, and Lubna Maaliki, an AUB and Salzburg alumna, served as the academy's director, with many of the roster of international speakers coming from the ranks of Salzburg Global Seminar and its Academy program.

Salzburg Global Seminar President Stephen Salyer, one of the speakers at the MDLAB, praised the initiative and expressed his pride at the Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change having been "the seed ground for this exciting new effort".

Staple of education

"Digital media literacy has become a staple of education all around the world, except in the Arab region," said Melki, also the director of the Media Studies Program at AUB.

"We hope to bridge this gap, particularly since media literacy is very important to help solve many of the social and cultural problems we face in the region."

Melki added that media literacy is an international academic movement whose aim is to empower citizens with critical thinking skills so they could understand how media affect their lives and their societies.

"It can also help turn citizens into critical consumers and producers of media so they could actively participate in national and global dialogues using digital media. They can then act as responsible global citizens and civic participants in their cultures."

Like the Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change, which was launched in 2007, the three-week Beirut Academy will be held annually.

The MDLAB program will be mainly open to professors and students from the Arab world, and is being sponsored by the Open Society Foundations, a US-based grant-making operation that promotes democratic governance and social reform.

International faculty

The three-week annual academy, conducted primarily in Arabic, brings pioneering instructors and professionals to teach advanced digital and media literacy concepts and debate skills to young Arab university instructors and graduate students, who will eventually spread the knowledge to their institutions and countries.

In addition to Salyer, the international speakers and trainers included Susan Moeller from the University of Maryland and director of the International Center for Media and the Public Agenda, partner of the Salzburg Academy, Paul Mihailidis from Emerson College and Salzburg Academy Program Director, Salzburg Academy faculty member Moses Shumow from Florida International University, and Renee Hobbs from the University of Rhode Island, who delivered the 2012 Bailey Morris Lecture at Salzburg Global Seminar.

Melki called Moeller, Mihailidis and Shumow "instrumental" in helping design and advise about the Beirut Academy.

Melki hopes to see much collaboration between the Salzburg Academy and the MDLAB in coming years.

"In addition to having more faculty from the Salzburg Academy join, we hope it's also a two way exchange, where participants, both faculty and students, from the Beirut Academy can join the Salzburg Academy later. We also hope to share notes on curricular matters. There are things we applied in Beirut that can be done in Salzburg and vice versa," he explained.

Much like the Salzburg Academy, the MDLAB will also act as an incubator of innovative ideas and a hub for a network of regional universities and media educators.

Staff of the MDLAB hope that "faculty members participating in the academy will carry back the knowledge and curricula to their universities, schools, and countries, while students simultaneously benefit from the teaching and training."

MDLAB was conceived by the Media Studies program after several years of success in teaching media and digital literacy courses, engaging in related study abroad programs, such as the Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change, and organizing public lectures and conferences on this issue, including the 2011 conference of the Arab-US Association for Communication Educators at AUB.