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Media Use and Misuse: At Odds With a Sustainable Future

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The paradox is that although alleviating poverty may be the fastest way to reduce poverty and family size, it is also the fastest way to increase individual ecological footprints. Clearly, a delicate balance is required with a compromise between fewer people and more people with fewer needs, desires and wants. This means that changing behaviour and common practices to ensure a sustainable future is the primary role for educators, policy makers and researchers today. It also means bridging the gap between theory and practice. No where does the disconnect between the two persist more than in the field of media content, communications technologies and cultural policy - where they are leading us, how to harness their enormous potential, and where the balance between regulation and cherished freedoms ought to lie.

But time is running out. Building safe, liveable communities now includes the added overlay of unfolding complications due to climate change, shrinking resources and financial instability. The need for a new economic order that encompasses modes of social and economic organization based on co-operation and social responsibility designed to serve life rather than accumulation requires an examination of how profit-driven, corporate media block such objectives with emphasis on materialistic definitions of desirability and success. Countless studies have been done and books written on the subject. The task ahead is to translate this accumulated knowledge into effective policy before it is too late.

Peter Nicholson, President of the Council of Canadian Academies, tells us that as we become information-rich, we are becoming attention-poor, an inevitable side effect of the digital revolution. “Economics teaches us”, he says, “that the counterpart of every new abundance is a new scarcity - in this case, the scarcity of human time and attention.” (Nicholson Sept 12, 2009). Additional observations and reports warn us of radiation overload from too much cell phone use and screen time, ways in which ever intensifying stimulants first initiated by television diminish our capacity for imagination and creativity, and how these accumulating side effects still receive little attention in policy-making circles (Robbins 2010).
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2011

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