Embracing Pluralism in Media Education in the Changing World


Lauri Palsa, PhD, has been elected as the new chairperson of the Finnish Society on Media Education. In his speech, our new chairperson reflects the expectations of media education in an ever-changing world.

Lauri Palsan puolilähikuva.

I am honored to have been elected as the new chairperson of the Finnish Society on Media Education (FSME). Having worked closely with the Association over the years, I have come to appreciate its expertise and high-quality and impactful initiatives.

The role of chairperson is especially inspiring at this pivotal moment for media education. There is a widespread acknowledgment of its importance, yet its definition remains a topic of ongoing discussion.

Media education offers solutions to many issues..

Media education offers solutions to numerous issues. My decision to study media education at university was originally inspired by the educational potential of media. I realized that education extends beyond schools and local communities; various media devices and content significantly influence the information we access and the mindsets and communities we engage with. Our world is not confined to our immediate surroundings; media in all its forms creates diverse possibilities, freedoms, and spaces for human growth.

Over a decade of work as a media education specialist in governmental agencies, at the Center for Media Education and Audiovisual Media (MEKU), and the National Audiovisual Institute (KAVI), highlighted the growing awareness of media education’s importance. Amidst information influence, polarizing debate in social media, and algorithm-driven digital environments, the need for media literacy is clear and does not require extensive reassurance.

..but is there a limit?

However, the flexibility of media education presents its own challenges. Media literacy is a concept broad enough that it can be introduced as a solution for a wide array of issues. Who doesn’t have something new to learn, knowledge to deepen, or a skill to develop? Well-informed and skilled individuals can identify misinformation, resist deception, actively strengthen democracy, and keep the economic wheels turning.

While the notion is understandable, it can be easily misaligned. Presenting media education as a blanket solution is tempting, but it’s still a long-term and demanding task. Simply delegating responsibilities to media educators will not address underlying issues. Each new public debate about something media-related often introduces some new challenges for media educators’ to-do lists. External demands and expectations can create feelings of inadequacy. Since not all media education is alike, a diverse approach is necessary. Strengthening social cohesion might require different media educational strategies than those needed to prevent digital fraud. A single media educator cannot address every issue; where, then, can we find the time, space, and energy to meet all these demands? In the face of rush, pressure, and media-related threats, narrowing our focus and lowering our horizons can be tempting. Yet, shutting our eyes is not the solution.

A Changing World Requires the Superpowers of a Media Educator

Now working as a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Jyväskylä, I have realized how much I’ve learned from others in the field of media education. Having met and discussed with media educators across various sectors in Finland and internationally, I’m struck by the wealth of knowledge, experience, and insight these individuals and communities possess. Media educators have the superpower to uncover hidden phenomena, understand interconnectedness, view the world through various lenses, collaborate innovatively, and not settle for easy answers.

These encounters have also transformed my thinking: Media literacy alone cannot solve complex social problems, nor can new media education be introduced effectively for every emerging phenomenon. However, acknowledging and discussing the limitations of media literacy does not diminish its value; rather, it clarifies and reinforces its relevance.

I have learned that in our changing world, the strength of a media educator lies in creating space and focusing on what is essential. Different backgrounds, perspectives, and the pluralism of our field enable us to better address the question: What does education mean in this media-saturated age, and what kind of world do we want to build for the future?

As we approach the 20th anniversary of the Finnish Society on Media Education next year, it is a prime time to invite everyone to join the discussion. What does media education mean to you?

Lauri Palsa, PhD, Chairperson of the Finnish Society for Media Education

Post-doctoral researcher, University of Jyväskylä