Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your UMass Amherst user name and password.

Non-UMass Amherst users, please click the view more button below to purchase a copy of this dissertation from Proquest.

(Some titles may also be available free of charge in our Open Access Dissertation Collection, so please check there first.)

Media literacy in cyberspace: Learning to critically analyze and evaluate the Internet

Julie Danielle Frechette, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This dissertation demonstrates the findings and implications of a study inquiring into the existence and range of models equipped to integrate new telecommunications technology in the classroom. The research methods employed included: (1) a discourse analysis of the socio-cultural narratives and quasi-solutions addressing the appropriateness and filtering of Internet content, (2) a content analysis of the print or online marketing strategies used to validate and promote the purchase of Internet rating systems and blocking software devices, and (3) a content analysis of various technology-based curricular programs funded across schools in Massachusetts. By adjoining bodies of research in media theory, cultural studies, and critical pedagogy, this study articulates a vision of critical learning directed at providing teachers with student-centered lessons in online communication content, grammar, medium literacy, and institutional analysis. Through the analysis of mainstream print and online media sources, my findings suggest that “inappropriate content” constitutes a cultural currency through which concerns and responses to the Internet have been articulated within the mainstream. Although government regulation has been decried as undercutting free speech, the control of Internet content through capitalist gateways—namely profit-driven software companies—has gone largely uncriticized. I argue that this discursive trend manufactures consent through a hegemonic force neglecting to confront the invasion of online advertising or marketing strategies directed at children. By examining the rhetorical and financial investments of the telecommunications business sector, I contend that the rhetorical elements creating cyber-paranoia within the mainstream attempt to reach the consent of parents and educators by asking them to see some Internet content as value-ladden (i.e. nudity, sexuality, trigger words, or adult content), while disguising the interests and authority of profitable computer software and hardware industries (i.e. advertising and marketing). The next component of my research describes the results of my analysis and assessment of 74 technology initiatives in Massachusetts' schools sponsored during the 1998–1999 school year through the Lighthouse Technology Grants. With few models offering higher levels of critical learning with and about technology, the final segment of my research outlines a model of educational empowerment over censorship through the theoretical and practical considerations of media literacy in cyberspace.

Subject Area

Mass media|Social studies education

Recommended Citation

Frechette, Julie Danielle, "Media literacy in cyberspace: Learning to critically analyze and evaluate the Internet" (2000). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9978496.