Summer Programs Faculty Focus: About Media Literacy with Dr. Allison Butler

    Posted by Lily Cigale on Feb 10, 2016 12:30:00 PM

    In UMass Amherst, 2016

    Allison_Butler.jpgDr. Allison Butler is a lecturer and advisor in the Communications Department at UMass and is the Director of the Media Literacy Certificate program. She grew up in Maryland outside of Washington DC and has been working to expand her own critical understanding of media since Middle School, when she began participation in a Magnet program focusing on Media Literacy, an interest that has stuck with her through her academic career. Dr. Butler got her undergrad degree at Fordham University and got her MA and her PhD at NYU and now makes her home in the Pioneer Valley where she co-runs Mass Media Literacy, a grassroots organization supporting legislation for teacher training in media literacy.

    Media is all around us and has a huge influence on our society and our selves, yet in high school you were probably never given an opportunity to learn about the language of media. As in most things, it is important to be able to be critical of our media.

    Create/Critique: Media Making in the Digital Age (July 24 - 30, 2016)

    “We live in a world surrounded by the media, yet we in the US are not always given the opportunity to study that” Dr. Butler told me when I met her in her office. “We spend lots of time and energy and money on media, but know very little.” If you are intrigued by media and want to learn to be critical, or enhance your existing critical analysis, Dr. Allison Butler’s pre-college summer program may be the perfect fit for you! The program is called “Create/Critique: Media Making in the Digital Age” and students who enroll will learn to read and create media. The class will give an introduction to media analysis, and give students a chance to do hands-on work practicing the theories that they learn in discussion. Students will interact with and think critically about varying types of media including film, TV, music, magazines, news, politics, current events, and anything else they may be interested in. Students will learn to ask questions of their media and to ask questions of themselves. 

    In Dr. Butler’s course, students will learn to be self-reflexive and to think about and tell their own stories. Students will use this self-reflexivity to create context for pieces of media they interact with and by the end of the course, to create their own media. Students will have access to state-of-the-art equipment including recording studios, filming and editing equipment, and website design, and will use UMass facilities to create any piece of media they would like. There will be screenings and discussions of the pieces during the last day of class.

    Current Research

    Dr. Butler’s current research projects fall into two categories. First, she focuses on teacher training in media literacy and finding ways to bring a media literacy curriculum into K-12 public schools. She also studies social media use in young people, particularly looking at security, privacy, secrecy, and publicity. She does data collection on this topic and attempts to make sense of the many stories she encounters. Dr. Butler is always excited to work with young people because she admits that they have much to teach her about social media and just like you she is excited to learn! If you find yourself in this summer program you will have an opportunity to participate in Dr. Butler’s study and learn more about her fascinating research!

    For more information about our wide variety of pre-college offerings, visit our website:

    Website and Application

    If you want to learn more about media literacy and Dr. Butler’s work, check out her most recent book, Majoring in Change: Young People Use Social Networking to Reflect on High School, College and Work (2012).