In a world of fake news, hyper-connectivity and rapidly advancing means of communication, the humanistic and critical perspective of famed media theorist – and University of Toronto professor –Marshall McLuhan can feel almost prophetic. So it’s fitting that, this week, hundreds of scholars will converge on U of T’s downtown Toronto campus to address many of the most important and challenging questions about media and society today.
From June 27-30, the University of St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto and U of T will co-host the Media Ecology Association (MEA) for its 20th annual convention. This year’s theme is “Media Ethics: Human Ecology in a Connected World,” and the itinerary includes 80 sessions and events that feature 300 speakers from 30 countries.
The international conference is timely, with elections on the horizon in both Canada and the United States.
“Given St. Mike’s long tradition of teaching and research infused with a focus on ethics and values, it’s fitting that we, along with U of T’s Faculty of Arts & Science, Faculty of Information, and the Centre for Ethics, have joined together with the MEA to inspire the next generation of media scholars,” said St. Michael’s President David Sylvester.
Paolo Granata, an assistant professor of book and media studies, is the chair of this year’s conference. He organized the event with an eye on a technological society developing so quickly that lawmakers and ethicists are struggling to keep pace. Granata explores these ideas in his research and teaching, including the McLuhan Seminar in Creativity and Technology, an SMC One program that features a learning experience in Silicon Valley for first-year students. A number of Granata’s students will also be on hand to participate in and support the proceedings while making connections with scholars in the field.
The proceedings will kick off on Wednesday with a pre-conference panel discussion on how the internet is affecting civil society featuring Mark Kingwell, a professor in U of T’s department of philosophy. Presented by the Toronto Reference Library and the McLuhan Salon Series, “The Social Cost of the Information Age” networking event is free and open to the public.
The formal opening of the convention is on June 27 and will include remarks from the Honourable Karina Gould, Canada's minister of democratic institutions.
“The Media Ethics conference provides an important space for Canadians to discuss how they use platforms, the information they are seeing on these platforms and the level of trust they have for these platforms,” says Gould.
“Democracy is rooted in the trust of the people in the process and in the legitimacy of the outcome.”