What does Mickey teach us about ag?

Mikcey_Featured-460x280Watching my 20 month old explore and learn the world around her I can’t help but think back to my theoretical courses in my PhD program that discussed how individuals form their views of the world around them. Being in agriculture and in communication I find myself constantly looking to understand how people shape their views on food and fiber. There are tons of theories in education, psychology, and communication that help us understand this phenomena. Whether it is social cognition, semiotic analysis, schema, or any number of theories that you use to conceptually understand how we shape our view of the world, they all explain that your environment, culture, and upbringing have huge influences in how you first shape your cognitive understandings. A colleague of mine (and previous student of mine) and I have been discussing this more and more in relation to entertainment media. She recently finished a dissertation looking at popular movie portrayals of agriculture and I had a master’s student look at top 20 movies in the last 10 years and how they banner_2777portray agriculture brands. We have even more recently started thinking about this early formations of understanding (as research shows it is hard to change these original views learned through media and society) about agriculture. What do cartoons teach youth about agriculture? If we want to help our world understand modern agriculture, how is it being represented in their first experiences with it? Watching shows with my little one has given me a whole new chance to view such representations of agriculture from the view of a toddler and a parent. I think back images-1to my early learning and remember cartoon episodes I watched that taught me about our world. So what do these “representations” of agriculture teach society? Does it enforce the real image of agriculture? One of science, sustainability, good animal husbandry? Or does it give children a false sense of the world? We are getting ready to embark on such a study. I can’t wait to see what we find. Will we be able to change these representations? Probably not, but it would help us understand where to start as we work to change the negative views of our industry that are out there. So next time you turn on Mickey Mouse and he is racing after jumping sheep think about what it is really showing our youth?

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