USC Annenberg screens “Eyes Wide Open: This is Media” documentary

By Olivia Niland

The USC Annenberg Innovation Lab collaborated with the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) on March 6 to present a short screening of Eyes Wide Open: This is Media. The documentary, produced by Participant Media’s Pivot TV Channel, addresses shifts in the way media is used, shared and produced, and was supported by a grant to be shown at colleges across the country.

The screening was hosted by Erin Reilly, Creative Director for Annenberg Innovation Lab, Research Director for Project New Media Literacies at USC Annenberg, and Vice President of NAMLE.

“This sort of documentary is really designed to spark conversation,” said Reilly, who encouraged attendees to use Twitter and an online survey to provide feedback about the screening.

Pivot TV, a recently launched television network aimed at millennials, is currently spearheading social action campaigns through film and television programming including Eyes Wide Open, and has also collaborated with USC Annenberg professor Henry Jenkins Media, Activism and Participatory Politics (MAPP) project to educate the public on digital media literacy.

“We are media producers, and we’re going to try to alter the way you think,” says the documentary’s narrator at the beginning of the film, setting the stage for the following discussion. “We want you to share what we tell you, we want you to buy what we’re selling.”

The twenty-two minute documentary was screened in the USC Annenberg auditorium and traced the history of the internet, social media platforms, and notable events in media sharing and privacy, two topics which were discussed at length by the evening’s panelists.

“I just want to reiterate the questioning part, and the skepticism, and just thoughtfully using and sharing [media],” said Alison Trope, Associate Director of the Institute for Multimedia Literacy and Associate Professor in the School of Cinematic Arts, during the Q-and-A following the film. “Not only pausing and reflecting, but…thinking more deeply about how you want your sharing and your media to represent you as an individual.”

Other topics touched upon by the film and following discussion included net neutrality, fact-checking and crowd-sourcing, particularly in the context of platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Reddit.

The Eyes Wide Open panel also included Virginia Kuhn, Associate Director of the Institute for Multimedia Literacy and Associate Professor in the School of Cinematic Arts, Judy Muller, USC Annenberg broadcast journalism professor, and Nicole Starr of Participant Media.

“Media literacy is such a broad subject,” said Starr. “It really took us a while to craft these three main pillars that we wanted to talk to millennials about; consider the source, recognize their role as a source, and consider the tradeoffs of giving up personal information online.”

Eyes Wide Open and the following discussion, the panelists agreed, was only the beginning of the conversation regarding media literacy, online privacy, and the implications of living digitally--particularly for young people, who are both the largest producers and consumers of digital content.

“You have the tools in your hands to be able to speak out,” Reilly told the audience at the event’s conclusion. “Instead of retweeting what’s been said here, stop, pause, think about what you want to add to the conversation and do it.”