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Meet the Mexican MIL Heroes and Villains: characters who embody the challenges of our media landscape and the skills we need to tackle them. The realities the Heroes confront are closely related to the Mexican context.
Visualization and personification can be of great help in conveying complex ideas and content. That's why in 2020, DW Akademie and Namibian illustrator Karel Swanepoel developed the MIL Heroes. The characters are based on the five MIL competencies to navigate our complex media landscape: Access, Analyze, Create, Reflect and Act.
MIL practitioners around the world can use these visualizations to teach MIL competencies and to make these skills more tangible in terms of visible character attributes. This encourages youth to become MIL Heroes as they can see themselves in the characters. It therefore rose the question if the heroes could have potentially higher personal resonance if their personification was contextualised? In this light, we took the opportunity to adapt the MIL Heroes into the Mexican setting when the Mexican MIL Network (Red AMI México) invited the Heroes to Mexico. They made their first appearance at a MIL Hackathon, organized by the tech start-up Tomato Valley and supported by DW Akademie, UNESCO Mexico and the National Electoral Institute. Since then, MIL Heroes have turned Mexico into their new home to inspire youth to become MIL Heroes.
Who are the MIL Heroes?
Andres, the Mexican "Access" hero, never stops at the first online search result. He can direct you to a wide range of information and reliable sources on any topic. He likes to tap into the full scope and diversity of information – to him it is crucial that everyone benefits from the right to have access to information.
Akaima, the "Analyze" heroine, seeks truth and is not easily fooled. She is aware that behind every news message or shared information there might be an agenda, an interest or at least an angle. She can interpret and critically evaluate media messages on those agendas and angles, based on her media knowledge.
Cristian, the "Create" hero, is convinced that we should be more than passive consumers. Why only read content created by others? He uses his skills, tools and technology to produce quality content on topics of interest, to share his perspective or just for fun.
The heroine "Reflect" is Roxana, known for her empathy. She is aware of the implications her own and others' online behavior might have and understands each and everyone’s responsibility. Roxana can see the bigger picture of our media environment with its opportunities and risks, and can critically self-examine her media consumption as a part of it.
Alejandra understands we can all be influential and that it is an enormous responsibility to make our voices heard. Not without reason she is the heroine "Act": She fights for everyone’s right to confront the Villains. She aims to participate in building a positive media environment that provides more opportunities for freedom of expression, access to information, representation and participation.
Who do they oppose?
Along with the MIL Heroes come the MIL Villains. They visualize the complex challenges and threats of the current media and information ecosystem, such as disinformation, propaganda and hate speech. DW Akademie created these malicious characters in order to make it easier for youth learning about MIL to understand these challenges and how they affect their lives.
All these villains look rather scary and seem like monsters from a distant universe. However, all the monsters in our information ecosystem are in reality human made. Moreover, the villains’ activities are tailor-made for humans, and often target us on an emotional level. Like creating the opportunity to form online groups with similar interests and believes. These filter bubbles can be supportive and feel cosy and attractive. This is what can make them so dangerous: we easily lower our guard about digital security, and we do not engage anymore with different opinions. However, the good news is that, if the villains in this are made by humans they can also be defeated by humans – with the MIL superpowers.
MIL heroes don't have wings or special equipment. They use their MIL superpowers that we can all develop. To support MIL students in activating those superpowers, the MIL Heroes and Villains can be used in trainings, as part of a MIL curriculum or be part of a training. They have already travelled to Mexico, and we are excited to see where they are headed next!