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From Feather Quill to Digital Desk: Teaching Globalization through Mediagraphy

Professor in Media Education, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway

Media education has to respond with innovative approaches to new challenges in the global media environment. However, the didactic methods of global media studies are not well developed. I tested Rantanen’s (2005) method, global mediagraphy, with 45 Master’s degree students at a university. This method can be applied to the study of the role of individuals in the mediated globalization process. The students collected individual life stories from their families over four generations by filling in the globalization factors table and by interviewing family members. The aim was to connect abstract globalization theories to concrete societal, historical and cultural experiences in students’ families against the backdrop of developments in contemporary media. Thus, the students could gain an insight into the globalization process by writing their own family chronicles in the light of contemporary, mediated epoch-making events. In this article I present one such example.

Keywords: Global mediagraphy, digital literacy, globalization, media education, didactics

Global Challenges for Media Education

Globalization studies, an important field of study at universities, emerged in the early 1990s, mainly in sociology and geography (Rantanen 2005). However, the didactic methods used in globalization studies have not been adequately developed, and the situation is even worse in media education. The importance of offering media education from a global perspective was so evident that I tested Rantanen’s (2005) new method, global mediagraphy, in teaching Master’s degree students at a university. Global mediagraphy provides the new perspective of the interwoven relations between the media and globalization. By analyzing the individual life stories of four generations of three families across the world, Rantanen studied globalization “from below” and made each individual’s role in the globalization process visible. The goal of this method is to make a connection between abstract globalization theories and concrete societal, historical and cultural experiences in the students’ own families, and to look into the life histories against the backdrop of contemporary media development over four generations. In this way, the students can gain a better insight into the globalization process by writing their own family chronicles in the light of contemporary epoch-making events.

In my study, the students looked into their own family backgrounds and collected information from key informants covering four generations, where they were the last link. They used Rantanen’s (2005) table with predefined thematic globalization factors, such as education, lifestyle, media use or travel for the data collection (cf. Appendix 1). The students then analyzed the data and wrote assignments resembling life histories in which they compared the generations. This article examines the implementation of the method during four terms at the university, and I present a brief analysis of “Christopher’s” mediagraphy to explain the process.

The new media technology has fundamentally changed the everyday contacts and activities of people around the globe. We can share information and experiences in real time with people on other continents, giving us an impression of living in a global community. The Internet and communication satellites have, according to some scholars, in a way eliminated geographical distance (Hylland Eriksen & Finess Tretvoll 2006). Harvey (1990) uses the concept time-space compression, i.e. shortening time and shrinking space. Giddens (1990) presents a slightly conflicting view by using the concept time-space distanciation, i.e. time and space are being stretched across large distances. Robertson (1992), on the other hand, claims that globalization refers both to the compression of the world and the intensification of awareness of the world as a whole. Theories on the globalization of media and communications have, however, been overshadowed by economic, ecological and technological globalization theories, according to Giddens (1990, 1991).

Thompson (1995) and Waters (1995) have discussed the consequences of globalization from economic, geographical and cultural points of view, but have not looked closer into the individual role of media and communications in the globalization process. Even if the role of media has been an implicit part of globalization, it has not been visible (Rantanen 2005). Rantanen (ibid.) criticizes this exclusion by underlining the close relationship between the media and the escalation of the globalization process. According to her, there has been too little discussion on individual media activities within the frame of social praxis and how these activities can contribute to globalization. The role of the individual’s media activities in the globalization process especially needs closer attention. Rantanen (2005: 8) has defined globalization as “a process in which worldwide economic, political, cultural and social relations have become increasingly mediated across time and space”. Thus, her focus is on the mediated globalization process. Interactive digital media have a key role in this process.

A Research Approach and a Didactic Method

A new methodology is required to provide insight into individual media practices from a globalization perspective. Rantanen’s (2005) method, global mediagraphy, analyses individual life stories on the micro level, in families over four generations, in order to examine the role they play in a mediated globalization process on the macro level. Thus, the method builds a bridge between the macro and micro levels. The method is influenced by Appadurai’s (1996) Theory of Scapes, based on five dimensions of global cultural flows. The various scapes consist of social, cultural and historical factors, and constitute the macro level. Empirical research can contribute to an analysis of how the life of a person within different scapes fits with the simultaneous development of media and communications, and how his or her life has changed over the generations.

Appadurai’s (2003:33-36) five dimensions are:

  1. Ethnoscape consists of persons on the move, either emigration due to conflicts, war, occupation, economic hardship or tourists, immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers or guest workers.

  2. Mediascape refers to the distribution, production and dissemination of information by the electronic media. This scape is often closely connected to technoscape.

  3. Technoscape deals with information technology that creates the frame for technological transmission that moves at high speed across previously impervious boundaries. Examples: the Internet and mobile phones.

  4. Financescape deals with currency markets, currency transactions and national stock exchanges that move at high speed across national frontiers. Financescape also takes profession, class and lifestyle into consideration.

  5. Ideoscape consists of ideas and images that represent ideology, religion or political opinions (for example democracy, capitalism or fascism). Personal values, such as freedom, welfare, rights and representation are important ingredients.

Rantanen (2005) added two supplementary categories to Appadurai’s scapes, since, according to her, language and time have a fundamental significance in the globalization process. All scapes are linked together by the media and communications:

  1. Languagescape deals with how education and knowledge of languages can both unite and divide people.

  2. Timescape deals with construction of time, artificially created time zones, calendar time and individual perception of time (for example, generation time that reflects significant political upheavals (Rantanen 2005, Vettenranta 2010).

We can consider global mediagraphy both as a didactic method and a tentative research approach that needs more elaboration. As a research method global mediagraphy takes us further than an ethnographic approach as it goes beyond the generations and compares globalization processes simultaneously in several places around the world. It resembles methodological studies of life histories (cf. Goodson 2000).

Studying Globalization from below

Rantanen’s (2005) mediagraphies offer an overview of how the people from different generations have been exposed to globalization. Societal, historical and cultural factors play a key role in this respect. Rantanen’s approach grasps a phenomenon that Beck (2002) calls the globalization of biography, where the life of an individual is seen in the context of contemporary historical, social, political and cultural development.

Mediagraphies are based on biographical stories and interviews of primary sources, while other parts are based on secondary sources, for example, children’s narratives about their parents or grandparents. The students have also collected documentary material and historical data from various sources, including newspaper articles, photos, history books on the residents of rural districts and parish registers about their great-grandparents. Mediagraphies also resemble life histories in that students have attempted to capture critical events in the informants’ lives and work, events that have had decisive influence on their opinions and ideology. It has been important to see the key intersections between the informants’ life histories and social history in the light of media development. This gives an opportunity for the students to better understand the possibilities, the alternatives or the choices – or the lack of them – that the previous generations had.

The method was presented during the first seminar, while the following seminars were used to generate new ideas, make sketches and hold discussions between the teacher and students on how the various societal, cultural and historical factors interact with globalization theories. The students conducted qualitative interviews and structured the key information using Rantanen’s schedule of predefined globalization factors. The students chose one side of their family. At the same time, the students tried to recognize how this was connected to the parallel media development. The student exercises resulted in mediagraphies of their own families. By interviewing their parents and grandparents, the students composed a mediagraphy for each generation, and by comparing the generations in relation to a number of categories, the students could discuss differences and shared features (cf. Appendix 1). This sheds light on the connection between the media and globalization on the societal macro level, and on the individual experience of identity on the micro level.

To begin with, the social and historical backgrounds of the family members were presented, followed by an analysis of the significance the access to different media, the media content and media use might have had for their experienced identity and cultural belonging. When filling in the tables, the students compared the generations in relation to such globalization factors as education, lifestyle, ideology and media use by discussing the differences, the common features and the turning points. In a mediagraphy it is essential to illustrate how historical and cultural events and the lives of the people are mutually dependent on each other. It is also crucial to identify the turning points in the course of individual lives and connect them to the different scapes. The turning points might be a christening, death or marriage at the micro level or a war, economic collapse, natural catastrophe or terror attacks at the macro level (Vettenranta 2008, 2010).

The Scientific Umbrella

The scientific umbrella is the phenomenology, where the starting point is in the experiences of an individual with the outer world in the background. In mediagraphies, the outer world, society on the macro level, creates the frame for the students’ experiences when studying the individuals’ life-worlds at the micro level (Creswell 2007, Thagaard 2009). The mediagraphy also represents a hermeneutic approach that emphasizes the importance of interpreting the human actions by studying the deeper meaning that can only be understood in its context, as a part of the whole (Thagaard 2009). The method in this study was anchored in Vygotsky’s (1978) socio-cultural perspective that focuses on how development can be created, not only through interaction with other people, but also through the use of artefacts – in this case the media (Buckingham 2003).

From a socio-cultural point of view, meaning is created within an interpretative community, in interaction with other people. Vygotsky’s (1978) perspective is based on the understanding that cultural knowledge is created through a dialectic relationship with more experienced persons who can impart values and traditions, combined with the artefacts in the society the persons are living in. As learning tools artefacts could be psychological, such as language, or physical, such as the media. The students’ thinking on the one hand is dependent on concrete experiences and knowledge in everyday life and on the other hand on systematic, abstract and theoretical knowledge. Global mediagraphy can build the bridge between the students’ everyday knowledge and the concept of mediated globalization. If the teaching is based on experiences from the student’s life-world, the scientific concepts can open a zone where the student’s everyday concepts can develop into more advanced spaces.

Christopher’s Family Chronicle: The Global Journey

In the following I present Christopher’s mediagraphy. He provides the individual biographies, the table of his ancestors and short interpretations of each biography. Since I elaborate further on his thoughts and interpretations, this is to be regarded as double hermeneutics (cf. Giddens 1987). Christopher’s mediagraphy (presented in Appendix 1) covers three generations, from the grandfather, who grew up as a Jewish boy in a poor village in Ukraine, to his grandson who is studying at a university in Norway. This example is chosen since it illustrates a comprehensive global journey. Christopher has chosen his father’s side of the family for the analysis. Since his grandfather is dead, his father has provided information about him. Christopher wanted to study how emigration and local belonging has developed within the family seen in the context of media and globalization. He wanted to look at the family chronicle specifically in the light of ethnoscape.

Grandfather Jacob: A Pogrom Refugee

Christopher writes that his Jewish grandfather Jacob was born in 1888 and grew up in a small village south of Kiev in Ukraine, which at that time was a part of the Russian Empire. His childhood was marked by poverty and hardship from living in a society that experienced the pogroms, the persecution of Jews.1 It is fair to speculate that a key reason for Jacob’s emigration was the increasing level of persecution. At around 1905, at the age of 17, he emigrated to the USA. Jacob travelled to Boston via New York and started to work in a shoe factory. As time went by, he thrived in the factory, became a partner and accumulated a huge fortune. Already in his twenties he had become a millionaire, but then the stock market crashed. Jacob lost most of his money and assets, but managed to rebuild his position.

Since Jacob was curious, adventurous and had a talent for languages, he joined a boat travelling to Africa. He spoke Yiddish, Ukrainian, English, Greek and Portuguese, and he understood French. Jacob travelled several times to Cape Verde before settling down there, first in the capital Praia on the island of Santiago. Cape Verde is an archipelago spanning 570 km off the coast of Western Africa. Jacob established several shops and became prosperous in business. In São Vicente he met a young girl with whom he established a family. They did not marry even though they had nine children, the first when the girl was 17-18 years old. Jacob was not especially interested in politics, but he expressed his resistance against “everything Russian” and communism. Presumably he read newspapers, and might have had access to the telegraph, like many businessmen at that time. Communication was based on correspondence by letters around the world. Jacob was a kind but somewhat naive man who allowed customers to buy on credit and loaned people money. After some time it was difficult to keep the business going. The family had rented several houses and shops and everything was lost. At the end of his life he was making his living as a tailor. His death was as dramatic as his life: in 1957 he was killed in a fight with an Englishman.

Father José: From Cape Verde to the Cold North

Christopher continues with telling the story about his father José who was born in São Vicente in 1946. Cape Verde2 was uninhabited before the Portuguese colonized the islands in the fifteenth century. The Republic of Cape Verde achieved its independence in 1975. The Portuguese wanted to educate people in the colonies to become employees and teachers. José attended school, but dropped out after the fifth year. When he was a teenager, a war broke out in several colonies, in Angola, Guinea-Bissau and later on in Timor, and there was also a resistance movement in Cape Verde. Many young people participated in the struggles against the ruling power; many young people left the islands for the DDR to acquire weapons skills and returned to fight against Portugal. José’s older brother was arrested in a riot and was imprisoned for five years. The Portuguese dealt harshly with the local population. Cape Verdean books were prohibited, but according to Christopher’s father, a summary of a well-known book was passed around from hand to hand. However, there was a rich music life on the island when José was a child and an adolescent. Resistance messages were often hidden in the lyrics. Small transistor radios could receive programmes from abroad, and the local outdoor cinema was also important, even though the films were comedies, cowboy films and romantic dramas from America. A small Cape Verdean newspaper was published with carefully censored contents.

At the beginning of the 1960s the jungle telegraph informed the inhabitants that Europe needed workers. The young men had three options: to be called up into the army, to be put in prison or to leave the island to get a job. José borrowed 6000 escudos and left. It did not take long before he became a sailor on a Dutch ship that sailed between South Africa, the Caribbean, the USA and Canada over the course of a year. It was a hard life for a 17-year-old boy. José sailed for three months between Belgium, the Netherlands and Norway. Then he stayed in Gothenburg, Sweden, where he took a course for welders on a wharf. Afterwards, he continued on his journey and ended up in Oslo. Unfortunately he was robbed, but was lucky enough to get signed up on a ship’s crew. His life at sea was as an adventure for 15 months. He experienced that the work was well organized, the workers had equal rights and they were well treated. This was José’s first memory of what it was “to be a Norwegian”. After José signed off, he spent four months in Oslo as a tourist. When he had spent all his money, he had to find work again – this time in a factory.

Christopher describes his father as "a soul searcher", often called the “philosopher”. He joined a religious community, the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Here he met Christopher’s mother who got a job in a city in central Norway, where they settled down. They had four children, but they were later divorced and José had another son, Christopher’s half-brother. Like the grandfather, the father has skills in several languages. His mother tongue is Cape Verdean Creole, and he speaks Portuguese, French, English, Spanish and Norwegian fluently. He can also communicate in Italian and in sign language. José has a thirst for knowledge; he loves to tinker with technical equipment, surfs the Internet and has a mobile phone, reads newspapers and books and has a dedicated interest in films.

Son Christopher: Local Patriot with Creole Heritage

The third generation, Christopher himself, was born in a city in central Norway in 1975. He writes in his mediagraphy that he has four siblings and a half-brother. After some years in eastern Norway and in Oslo he returned to central Norway to work as a teacher. He is cohabiting with his girlfriend. Christopher has travelled in several European countries; his longest trip was to Cape Verde in 2006. It was an important journey for him, to find his origins and to visit the home country of his father. Christopher has always had access to newspapers, telephone, TV and radio. He uses both international and Norwegian media and often surfs the Internet, which he has had since he was 18-20 years old, and he had his first mobile phone at the age of 22. He is more occupied with ideological issues than his father and grandfather. Christopher does not believe in God, and considers himself to be a humanist. Even though Christopher’s parents are divorced, he has inherited his father’s name, and his reflections and attitudes are influenced by his father who comes from another culture. He identifies with many of the descriptions of a cosmopolitan person, but he feels Norwegian and is strongly connected to his native town in central Norway.

Christopher considers himself to be a Norwegian middle-class cosmopolitan with an academic degree, social democratic political leanings in favour of tolerance and human rights and is against racism and discrimination. His identity is clearly Norwegian, even though he is proud of his Creole heritage. Christopher has a multicultural family background and has contact with cultures outside of Norway through his father’s relatives. He has access to several of what Rantanen (2005:124) calls the five zones of everyday cosmopolitanism: he uses different forms of media and communications, including digital and social media, he speaks several languages, he has family members living abroad, and he has grown up with, and lives with, family members from other cultures.

Viewed from this perspective, to me it seems like José scores highly in every zone of cosmopolitanism, and is eager to interact with foreigners. He is a genuine cosmopolitan, a global citizen of the world. Mediagraphies of all three generations seem to reflect cosmopolitan identity. Tomlinson (1999) claims that a cosmopolitan needs to have a sense of belonging to the wider world, a reflective awareness of the world and an ability to live in both the local and global contexts. In that sense both Jacob and José are representative of the cosmopolitan. Persecutions, conflicts and economic misfortunes have forced them to settle far from their birth places. Jacob grew up in Ukraine, lived later on in the USA and ended up in Cape Verde. Furthermore, he made many long journeys around the world. It is likely that his identity must have been cosmopolitan. The relatives in Norway and Cape Verde keep in touch across continents by combining both personal communication and mass media.

Scapes revisited

In my interpretation I will elaborate further on Christopher’s mediagraphy. As we see, the development towards ethnoscape can be discerned clearly in the lives of Christopher’s father and grandfather. The grandfather’s life is connected to historical and political events, such as European migration from the pogroms to America. This resulted both in economic prosperity and hard times for him. The emigration from Ukraine was a consequence of religious persecution that made him cross, not only national borders, but also continents. When we talk about pogroms the concept of diaspora often emerges. Even though the word diaspora originates from Jewish history, it is often used to describe the long-term or permanent expatriation of a person who has been forced to live in exile, without the possibility of returning to their country or place of origin (Beck 2003, Berg & Lauritsen 2009, Kjeldstadli 2008). Jacob is an example of such a person.

A migrant is a person living outside his or her native country. Thus, both Jacob and José are migrants. Motives for migration vary from voluntary or involuntary emigration to economically motivated movement. Jacob’s overseas journey can be seen as involuntary with economic aspirations, while José’s travelling is more likely influenced by economic concerns and his adventurous mind. However, the oppressive regime has obviously also had an impact on his decision to leave the country. Migrants and their descendants, including Christopher, participate in a process called transmigration. Through migration across national frontiers and thanks to facilitated contacts through cheap travel opportunities, the Internet and mobile phones, immigrants can keep in touch with their relatives in their countries of origin. This has contributed to creating transnational identities (Kjeldstadli 2008).

Both the father and the grandfather spoke several languages and maintained contact with different cultures. José has many contacts with migrants in his present home town, and also with other Cape Verdeans. Cape Verde has traditionally had a long history of mixed cultures, especially due to the whaling industry and, earlier, the slave trade. The ruling Portuguese travelled very much and took Indian workers with them, and many of the slaves came from the neighbouring countries in Africa. Cape Verde has also been a significant navigation and docking point for the shipping trade.

Lull’s (2000) concept of transculturation describes a process whereby cultural forms move through time and space and interact with other cultural forms, and in this way new cultural settings and cultural hybrids are produced. A “natural” relationship between culture and a particular geographic and social territory no longer exists and cultural symbols are no longer tied to certain places in time and space. José illustrates this process; he has brought his original culture with his fellow Cape Verdeans to Norway. Beck (2002) argues that in a globalized world many people represent place polygamy; they have access to several places, several languages and several cultures at the same time. In these terms José represents both transculturation and place polygamy.

If we consider Christopher’s family history in the light of scapes, we see that changes appear in all the main persons, albeit to differing degrees within the various scapes. Jacob’s life illustrates the change in financescape, how he raised himself out of poverty to become an enlightened representative of the upper-middle class in the USA. The development in ethnoscape is seen most clearly in José, who because of the political turmoil in his country created a new home on another continent, in a country with totally different traditions.

Mediascape and technoscape overlap and Christopher is the foremost exponent of this in this field. Modern communications technology has played a particularly decisive role in the construction of his identity. Timescape links all the generations together: media time is common to them all. The Cape Verdean and Norwegian branches of the family are able to share important events in real time on both sides of the globe. Languagescape both connects and separates the relatives. Language continues to be an impediment to communications between Christopher and some of his relatives in Cape Verde: Christopher does not speak Cape Verdean Creole or Portuguese. However, he has a common language, English, with some of the younger generation. The changes in the mediascape nevertheless intervene, enabling the two of them to communicate via non-verbal language through the new media. This is also an example of the fact that scapes cannot be considered exhaustive categories, as they overlap and mutually influence each other in a complex network where personal communication interacts with mass-mediated presentation, and where local elements merge with global ones. However, the media play a decisive role in connecting the scapes.

Christopher’s family chronicle presents gateways to social mobility and economic prosperity. While the grandfather was of Jewish origin, his son became a Jehovah’s Witness, and his grandson does not believe in God and is a member of the Norwegian Humanist Association. The area with the most deviation is education or the lack of education. Jacob barely attended school; José had five years’ education, while Christopher has a university degree. Christopher’s father and grandfather differ greatly in two respects from other students’ mediagraphies.

Languagescape is also the field with a significant difference between Christopher’s relatives and the other older generations. While the other students’ great-grandmothers could only speak their local dialect or Norwegian, his father and grandfather were and are exceptionally skilled in uncommon languages.

Benefits and Drawbacks

By carrying out research on their own family, the students gained an impression of how globalization has had an impact on the individuals in their families. This becomes apparent in the mediagraphies that summarize the information the students collected through qualitative interviews. These assignments were interpreted both by the family members being interviewed and the students themselves. The turning points in the informants’ stories were chosen for analytical focus and could give a valuable insight into the individual lives against the backdrop of contemporary society. They could, according to the students, give them better self-insight and the ability to understand their identity in the social, cultural and global media context.

Most students wrote assignments within mediascape, technoscape, languagescape and ideoscape. Even though the family backgrounds varied, we still find common features. Those with Norwegian backgrounds could present gateways to social mobility and economic prosperity. While the great-grandmother was strictly Christian, her great-grandchild could be atheist, agnostic, Taoist, Mormon or Buddhist. Generally, the ideology was radicalized from the great-grandparents’ time to the present, with a few exceptions. World War II, the Vietnam War and the fall of the Berlin Wall were named as epoch-making events influencing ideology (Vettenranta 2010).

The students wrote in their evaluation schedules that they had obtained thought-provoking experiences about the inadequate education of previous generations, the large number of children, the changing ideologies and the lack of access to the media. Many in the great-grandparents’ and grandparents’ generations had only attended a short-term ambulatory school. Some of the great-grandparents had never travelled outside the county. This was especially the case with the female family members, while the males had been forced to travel around looking for work connected with fishing, whaling, factories, mines or forestry. The students themselves have travelled around the globe, from Australia to Cambodia, from Malaysia to Brazil. The languagescape was the field with a significant difference between the generations. While the great-grandmother could only speak her local dialect, her great-granddaughter could articulate in Norwegian, English, French, Spanish or Portuguese. The most prevalent change had occurred within mediascapes and technoscapes. While the great-grandmother only obtained news from visitors or fisherman on an outlying, isolated island in western Norway, with no access to the radio or newspapers, her great-granddaughter possesses all imaginable media technological equipment (Vettenranta 2010).

The students found global mediagraphy to be an exciting, interesting and instructive approach. However, for some students the method had ethical implications. The mediagraphy has questions about religion and ideology, and the students may touch on sensitive issues in their family history. Some students encountered problems in collecting data about deceased relatives or about elderly relatives from abroad. Students with exclusively Norwegian backgrounds were uncertain as to whether their family chronicles had sufficient "global dimensions". This concern turned out to be unfounded. The majority of the students by far had relatives who had taken part in the migration wave to America or who had been sailors, whalers or been stationed abroad (Vettenranta 2010).

The aim of the teaching method, which is to develop the student’s ability to link abstract globalization theories to concrete social, historical and cultural experiences in the student’s own family in the light of contemporary media developments, was satisfied to a great extent.

Towards Global Media Literacy

In this article, I have presented the method of global mediagraphy within the framework of globalization theories and the sociocultural theory. Furthermore, I have presented my reflections on the method as both a didactic method and a tentative research approach. Global mediagraphy is appropriate for teaching media education focusing on problem-based learning and using methods across discipline borders. Traditional lectures can be complemented with methods that create student activity. Mediagraphies should preferably be combined with oral sources, diaries, historical sources, newspaper clippings, photographs and clips from the Internet.

Global mediagraphy does not reproduce knowledge, but creates it through the critical analyses that the students undertake. Thus, mediagraphy can be regarded as a didactic method (Østerud 2011). Mediagraphies increase the students’ awareness about their own and their ancestors’ socio-cultural background. Several students could trace their history back to other countries and continents, as the children of refugees or asylum seekers. This situation has helped them to develop a cosmopolitan identity, an ability to live locally and globally at the same time (cf. Tomlinson 1999). Simultaneously, the students can carry out their own small-scale empirical research and can then connect their practical exercises with the theory they are learning.

The tentative experiments with global mediagraphy as a didactic method at a university (Vettenranta 2008, 2010), Schofield’s (2010) pilot project in upper secondary school and his in-process PhD thesis, suggest that the method can give the students a foundation for self-insight and understanding of their place and identity in a social, cultural and global media context. Media literacy, i.e. the knowledge, the capabilities and the skills that are necessary to interpret the modern media and media texts through analysis, evaluation and critical reflection, also demands an insight into and understanding of modern society in a global perspective. Global mediagraphy could give the students a base for self-understanding and a platform for figuring out their identity in a social, multicultural and historical media context. In this way the students could acquire improved global media literacy (Vettenranta 2004, 2010).


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Appendix 1: Christopher’s completed mediagraphy (Based on Rantanen 2005)


Grandfather Jacob (1888-1957)

Father José (1946-)

Son Christopher (1975-)


Businessman, trader

Program consultant, executive

Teacher in upper secondary school, student

Home country

Born in Ukraine, emigrated to the USA and later to Cape Verde

Born in Cape Verde, lives in Norway



Rural village in Ukraine

São Vicente, Cape Verde, a city in central Norway

A city in central Norway


From rural to urban setting




Probably attended a school as a child

Upper secondary school, radio/TV repairman, certificate of apprenticeship, sign language interpreter

12 years of schooling (primary, secondary and upper secondary school), B.A., additional studies


From peasantry to upper- middle class

Middle class

Middle class



Eight siblings. Two died as children. Two sons and four daughters

Three siblings: one sister and two brothers, one half-brother, divorced parents


USA, Greece, Europe (e.g. Poland), North-Africa, Cape Verde

Travelled around the world as a sailor. An important journey back to Cape Verde after 14 years (1978). Various holiday trips

Holiday trips to Cape Verde, Sweden, Denmark, Island, Hungary, Turkey, Spain, England, Canary Islands, Bulgaria, France, Portugal, Greece

First journey abroad

USA (17 years of age)

Travelled with troop transport as a 17-year-old from Portugal to Guinea-Bissau. First stop Lisbon

Portugal (three years of age)

Language skills

Yiddish, Ukrainian, English, Greek, Portuguese, understood French

Cape Verdean Creole as mother tongue, Portuguese, French, English, Spanish, Norwegian, some Italian, sign language

Norwegian as mother tongue, English, some French

Media and Communication

Next to nothing of the mass media from birth, possibly newspapers and radio later on

Radio and books from birth. Now: Internet, mobile phone, TV, radio, newspapers, books

TV from birth, newspapers, Internet, radio, books and magazines. Cable TV from approx. 1985, mobile phone from 1998. PC/Internet from 1997


Languages, business

Books, writing, conversation, film

Music (plays in a band), socializing, football, exercise


Liberal. Jewish family, but non-practising. Not politically interested

Joined the Adventists at eight years of age and the Jehovah’s witnesses as an adult. Now: non-practising Christian, soul-searching. Not politically active, non-voter, involved in trade union as shop steward.

Sympathizes with leftists

Member of the Norwegian Humanist Association. Does not believe in God. Participated in meetings for Jehovah’s witnesses up to 15 years of age, dissociates from that today. Votes for the social democrats

Resistance to

Russia and the Soviet Union. Did not want to be called “Russian”. Proud of being a Ukrainian Jew. Did not want to speak the local language (Cape Verdean Creole). Communism

Insignificancy, imprudence, racism

Fundamentalism, injustice, racism, xenophobia, low work ethic, bullying


Transnational and cosmopolitan

Transnational (Cape Verdean and Norwegian), cosmopolitan

Local (Trøndelag), national (Norwegian, but aware of and proud of his mixed background), cosmopolitan

1 Mendelsohn (2006) has interviewed the descendants of Ukrainian Jews who lived in this area about the period of the pogroms and how the Jews were persecuted.
2 See a brief history of Cape Verde: Cape Verde. (n.d.) In Wikipedia. Retrieved on July 6, 2011 from http://en.wikipedia.org./wiki/Cape_Verde

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