Panel 11: Ecomedia Pedagogy



Panel 11: Ecomedia Pedagogy

“Miyazaki, Seriously: What Would It Mean to Put Anime into the Teaching Canon of Ecomedia?”

Anthony Lioi (Associate Professor of Liberal Arts and English, The Juilliard School)

“Open Educational Resources and Ecomedia Pedagogy: Surveying the Landscape”

Dan Platt (Assistant Professor of English, Graceland University)

“The Ecology of Media Objects: Teaching Ecomedia with the Ecomedia/sphere Heuristic”

Antonio Lopez (Chair and Associate Professor of Communications and Media Studies, John Cabot University)


Q & A

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22 replies
  1. dreadfulbard says:

    Hi Dan, this is Anthony Lioi. I love your idea and I think it would generate widespread interest as a project among other ASLE members. So, practically speaking, I’m wondering if you’ve considered applying for an ASLE grant to fund it as a project. But pedagogically, I am wondering if you can say more about the difference between making this project with general education in mind versus making this project for majors, broadly conceived across EH disciplines. At Juilliard, the humanities courses are all gen-ed, so this problem of aim is interesting to me for immediate personal reasons. Thanks!

    • danjplatt says:

      Thanks for your comments about the talk, Anthony! Right now, I’m working with the folks on the ASLE OER Working Group to figure out some good next steps for OER in the environmental humanities, but I think you’re right that applying for an ASLE grant could be a great idea!

      Good question about the difference between an audience of humanities majors and a “gen ed” audience here. This is really important to me, because I’m convinced that broadening the audience for study in the environmental humanities is essential to ASLE’s long-term vision and mission, and I think OER can play a role in that effort. For me, the two most important components of the shift from an audience of humanities majors to a general education audience (or to an even broader audience that might include high school students or the members of a community environmental organization) are:

      1. Making the case that cultural texts have a meaningful impact on the world. I think part of my teaching in the humanities relies on the fantasy, shared between my students and me, that books and movies have magical transformative power . . . I know I could do a better job setting out the foundations of that belief for the skeptical.

      2. Using inclusive language. My experience teaching environmental humanities to non-majors is slowly teaching me how many of my language choices in class send a subtle message that the course is “not for them.”

      I don’t mean to suggest that we’re not already doing these things—making a case for texts or using inclusive language—in our classes or in ASLE in general . . . but I do think OER could help us to do them better.

      In your experience teaching environmental humanities as “gen ed,” what do you see as the biggest barriers to engagement with the course? What have you found to be the most successful strategies for breaking down those barriers? A 9th symphony soundtrack and periodic application of eye drops?

  2. dreadfulbard says:

    Hi Antonio, this is Anthony Lioi. Thanks for explaining the media/sphere approach to analysis–I can imagine organizing an entire course around this framework. But I am wondering how the framework translates into writing assignments. Do you ask students to do what you did with Fury Road, e.g. “Select a film, put it into the media/sphere, and see what happens”? What does the prompt look like? Does it require a lot of scaffolding? I am really curious about the way this plays out in terms of assignments.

    • alopez says:

      Ciao Anthony, thanks for your comment. I really enjoy your work, so I’m glad you asked about the mediasphere. I’ve approached it different ways. In terms of analyzing texts, in my recent ecocinema class, I had not finalized the version you see here in my talk, so what I did was assign a paper that was based on Adrian Ivakhiv’s multi-perspective model of process-relational analysis (which is available in the appendix of his book, Ecologies of Moving Images). For each perspective, he has listed a number of questions and prompts, which I plan to do for the mediasphere (it’s a work in progress for my forth-coming book, Teaching Ecomedia, and I’m still working on it). However, I have used this directly in my Digital Media Culture and Media and Environment classes. Here I had students do a multimodal project about their personal gadget. They literally reproduced the mediasphere as a Prezi in which they embedded various media artifacts and commentary. For example, in the political economy section they embedded marketing videos for their gadget. In the materials systems section they embedded research they did on their gadgets. For the lifeworld section I had them do media fasts and write up their experiences, and then record their thought as videos. For the culture section I had them include information about the cultural impact of their gadgets. For this assignment I gave them prompts for each scape. Again, this came later in the semester because I wanted to scaffold each section first. So, my advice is to do it as a final project.

      If you’re interested, I would be willing to discuss with you a way to collaborate and see if we could co-design an assignment (perhaps drawing on what you wrote about in Teaching Ecocriticism).

      • dreadfulbard says:

        Thanks, Antonio, that’s very generous of you, and I will take you up on that offer once my EH course rotates back into the schedule, which won’t be for another couple of years.

    • danjplatt says:

      Hi Antonio!

      I really appreciate this “scapes” framework (the “Mad Max” example was very helpful), and I think you’re right that it would make for a great in-class textual analysis exercise in any environmental humanities class. I’m adding it to the portfolio – thanks!

      Your talk raises some broad pedagogical questions for me about how and when we deploy these sorts of tools in our environmental humanities classes. When I sat down to think about it for a minute, I realized that I teach *a lot* of frameworks and cognitive mapping tools: from the wilderness/pastoral/metropolis continuum to the social/environmental/economic framework for sustainability.

      What other frameworks do you find useful for students? Also, do you ever formally assess your students’ understanding of the frameworks you teach? (I hesitate to “test” students on frameworks because I’d prefer that students see them as tools for reflection rather than as educational ends to themselves . . . but I also recognize that assessment helps students to process and remember the concepts.) Do you ever find your students suffering from “framework fatigue”?

      Anyway, thanks again for your talk. Wishing you all a peaceful weekend!


  3. alopez says:

    Dan, this is a.lo (AKA Antonio Lopez). Thanks for your talk. It articulated something I have been thinking about for a long time, especially the importance of having resources about the environment being open access. As you say, it makes sense pedagogically, but also in term of system designs. If we want to be more like the change we envision, open systems are the way to go. In terms of textbooks, I agree that there is something practical about having a central text that has been peer reviewed and is good quality. For my ecocinema class I was able to use a good textbook (Ecocinema Theory and Practice ) but I was able to supplement it with a virtual course reader of chapters through our library’s ebook collection, which happened to have pretty much every book I needed.

    One platform that might be good for an OER project is Omeka (, which is an open access archiving platform. I can imagine that it would be good for curating collections of texts for analysis, and it could be built up with the help of students.

    Anyhow, I’m glad you are initiating this discussion. It is something I’ve been thinking about and it seems like the right time to launch.

  4. alopez says:

    Anthony, a.lo here (AKA Antonio). I have two main comments. The first is that I’m surprised that Miyazaki is not central to ecocinema studies. When I was planning my course I was shocked by how few articles I could find on his work. I just assumed that he would be front and center. It turns out that Princes Mononoke was the biggest hit of the semester. On the other hand, I found a bunch of excellent video essays about his films on YouTube. Anyhow, I’m scratching me head on this one. I don’t know why he’s not part of the canon.

    The other thing I wanted to comment on is your discussion of didactic pedagogy, which has been an on-going debate in media literacy for years. Usually it comes down to the Paulo Freire camp versus the constructivists. I think it is important for students to reach their own conclusions (when they research their gadgets–as mentioned in my previous comment–they are usually quite shocked). As you say, it’s out of respect to them and their learning process. However, I struggle with the right way to discuss capitalism, because it’s impossible to not begin from a critical stance. One way I try to address this is to go back in time and to go into the history of how the current system is designed. It seems to work well to use historical documents, which creates some distance (I think you discuss this in your chapter in Teaching Ecocriticism). Anyhow, thanks for your talk. I enjoyed your insights.

    • dreadfulbard says:

      I’ve had a lot of exposure to Freire as a compositionist, and though I love and respect him, I don’t think the conscientization of a base community is the right model for teaching EH to American students. Freire assumes a kind of theopolitical homogeneity among his students that is simply not the case with mine. I would rather follow Max Weber in thinking that we cannot offer students a system of values, but we can offer them techniques for clarifying their own ethical commitments.

    • danjplatt says:

      Thanks for this talk, Anthony! Like several other folks who have responded so far, I’ve had great success in teaching Miyazaki films to undergrads, and I applaud your work to expand the reach of these works. Princess Mononoke has been a perennial student favorite, and I find it’s a valuable way in to discussions about the concepts of “ecological balance” and “pollution” and “pastoral.”

      I really enjoyed your discussion of Lady Eboshi, who is definitely one of my favorite cinematic “villains.” I also appreciate your discussion of the conference’s “clockwork green” frame (and your insightful point about ecocritical pedagogy’s romantic commitment to the bildung) at the beginning and end of the talk.

      In a “real” conference, I would frame this question with some kind of self-deprecating comment about not having had time to form a fully realized question . . . but this digital format has taken away that convenient excuse! Anyway, my half-formed question is about Miyazaki and nationalism. Many of my students view environmental issues first and foremost through a U.S. nationalist lens: protecting America’s resources, achieving energy independence, etc. Miyazaki has made films (and made some comments) that are critical of Japanese nationalism, but I think you could also argue that films like Princess Mononoke draw on eco-nationalist myths. Do you see environmental nationalism as a meaningful component of Miyazaki’s films? Do these issues come up in your discussions of the films with students?

      Thanks again – hope you have an awesome weekend!

      P.S. Miyazaki is also one of my favorite sources of reaction gifs, and I find myself sending this one at least once a week:

  5. alopez says:

    Hi everyone, when I recorded my talk I had really bad allergies. I recommend that you activate the closed captions (CC) so you can understand me better.

  6. danjplatt says:

    Hi Anthony and Antonio! Just logged on to apologize for being late to the party. I’m in Kansas City grading AP English tests until Monday, so I haven’t had many spare moments to check in with the conference. Look forward to watching your presentations and officially joining the conversation some time in the next few days!

  7. Joseph Heumann, Eastern Illinois University says:

    Hi Anthony:
    Thanks for championing Miyazaki. Robin Murray and I have been writing about animation and eco-criticism for more than ten years now, so we are always happy to see people take on this project. It does demand a worldwide set of surveys and Miyazaki is a rich source for examination. But as we point in our book That’s All Folks? Eco-Critical Readings of American Animated Features (2011) Disney is not the only game in town. There are numerous features that do not follow the girl meets boy marries etc, and in the past decade that even includes Disney productions. The work from UPA, Warners, The Fleischer Brothers, Paramount,Aurora and others have a far larger range than you might suspect. Then, of course, the work of Ralph Bakshi and his acidic take on the nature of cities cannot be left off. The Secret Of NIMH (Directed by Don Bluth for Aurora) for example, champions both animal rights with a very sharply observed examination of the role of technology and science.
    We certainly agree with your call for animation and ecocritical studies to be placed in classrooms everywhere.
    I am certainly interested in your take on two of Miyazakis’ later films, Ponyo and The Wind Rises. The latter which was an enormous box office success in Japan was attacked elsewhere for his slavish adoration of the inventor of the Zero fighter plane. His take on technology thus is complicated from your own analysis of his previous works.
    Your observations that Miyazaki produces beautiful films should be witnessed by seeing them on the biggest screen possible. We always run out to see his latest work before having to see them on smaller screens.
    thanks again for championing this artist

  8. Joseph Heumann, Eastern Illinois University says:

    My note was broken up by some technical snafu, so let me add the following:
    You might want to take a look at Diedre M Pike’s Enviro-Toons:Green Themes in Animated Cinema and Television (McFarland 2012), where she takes on some of Miyazaki’s feature films.

    • dreadfulbard says:

      Hi Joe, thanks for your response. I have admired your [plural, J + R] work for some time and I look forward to viewing your presentation later this week. I have not read the Pike, but I will track it down.

      I agree that Disney is not the only game in town, and I didn’t mean to make a historiographic claim about American animation.(The Iron Giant is another great example of an American animated film that has many of the same virtues as Miyazaki and has nothing to do with Disney.) What I mean is: Disney has trained my students, at least, in what to expect from an animated film plot, and though Pixar has made a dent in this problem, there is an even greater “Disney princess” issue than 20 years ago, now that Disney owns Marvel and Star Wars. So my argument is that Miyazaki is useful to us pedagogically because he has the international status, popularity, and cultural capital to talk back to Disney, and the ideological sophistication to disrupt Western nature/culture dualisms. (Also, cf Sianne Ngai, kawaii!!!) I love the Fleischers, etc., but my students know them only if I teach their work, and they certainly haven’t influenced student expectations about plot. But I teach only non-majors at a conservatory, not a university: I am sure you have had different classroom experiences.

      To your point about The Wind Rises: I think Miyazaki is aware of the irony of his love of flying war machines. But the film, as you suggest, is unironic, and that is an interesting tension. Ghibli is named after an Italian fighter plane, so it’s not like Takahata and Miyazaki didn’t know there was a tension. I admit that I have not taught either Ponyo or TWR yet, so I don’t know how they play with students studying EH. You?

  9. Joseph Heumann, Eastern Illinois University says:

    Hi Anthony, the Dreadful Bard:
    Miyazaki is essential. Students are divided into at least two camps. Those who read and watch anime in a variety of ways, which includes comic books, novels, film, tv, video games etc. They know Miyazaki. Then there are those who know nothing about anime and have to be introduced. And then there are those that might be occasionally hit some some form of anime and they are either on the big M or not. It’s a mixture.
    I showed Ponyo and it went well. The Little Mermaid connection didn’t hurt.
    The Wind Rises is so esoteric. Japan fought the USA in a war? When? But it sure looks great on the big screen.
    Have you seen April and the Extraordinary World (2015)? Steampunk Anime. You’ll dig it and it’s on netflix. It’s French/Belgian/Canadian. It certainly has it’s eco/technology connections. Right in your argument’s wheelhouse.

  10. rlmurray50 says:

    Hi Anthony. Thank you for your interesting focus. My students love Miyazaki–not only my film students, but English majors in digital writing and literature classes. They’ve created video essays evaluating Miyazaki’s style, for example. Do you think Miyazaki’s place in ecocinema studies might also point to a “plague” found in film studies in general–that animation and anime serve subordinate roles in film and media studies and are neglected in their critical studies?

  11. rlmurray50 says:

    Hi Dan. Thank you for your very informative talk.

    I love OER and include them in my online classes, especially. It would be great to construct an OER e-book (open textbook) in ecomedia studies. Thank you for incorporating multiple levels of students for this intriguing project–and for proposing this useful working group project. Perhaps we might contribute resources to a dropbox folder we share to get this important project started. I’m intrigued.

  12. rlmurray50 says:

    Hi Antonio, Thank you for sharing your interesting Ecomedia/sphere Heuristic. The Hopi worldview deepens Western visions in productive ways. I would love to see your and Anthony’s co-designed assignment. Perhaps we need a resource page for this conference, as well.

  13. Everett Hamner, Western Illinois University says:

    Anthony, you’ve singlehandedly convinced me that I need to get a second Miyazaki film into my syllabi. Thank you! Everett

Comments are closed.