This learning module aims to equip students with the critical skills to better understand the threat of misinformation. Students will learn about different ways to analyze emerging forms of misinformation such as “deepfake” videos, as well as how new technologies can be used to create a more just and equitable world. We view media literacy as the constellation of tools and techniques that allow students to locate, interpret, and evaluate a variety of media. At the same time, it involves facilitating new ways through which they might create media that play a civic role within our society. We focus primarily on the causes and implications of misinformation within the U.S., but also acknowledge the global scale of the crisis.
The module consists of three interconnected sections. We begin by defining and contextualizing some key terms related to misinformation. We then focus on the proliferation of deepfakes within our media environment. Lastly, we explore synthetic media for the civic good, including AI-enabled projects geared towards satire, investigative documentary, and public history.
In Event of Moon Disaster, an award-winning deepfake art installation about the “failed” Apollo 11 moon landing, serves as a central case study for our module. The project is an MIT Center for Advanced Virtuality production. It was selected for exhibition at the Tribeca and Cannes Film Festivals along with media showcases and museums around the world. The project features a synthetic media video (a “deepfake,” as some would say) of Richard Nixon reading the contingency speech his administration had prepared in case the mission was unsuccessful.
A suite of Educator Resources includes items that resonate with the themes and learning goals of the module. We encourage teachers to draw on and adapt the Bibliography, Syllabus, and Design Prompts for the purposes of their own classes.
References for more on media literacy frameworks, see the Center for Media Literacy, the National Association for Media Literacy Education, UNESCO’s Communication and Information initiative, and communication scholar Patricia Aufderheide’s 1993 white paper from the Aspen Institute: Media Literacy – A Report of the National Leadership Conference on Media Literacy. For more contemporary, project-based approaches to media literacy, see Paul Mihailidis, Civic Media Literacies: Re-Imagining Human Connection in an Age of Digital Abundance (New York: Routledge, 2018).