Topic 2 Media; Digital Literacy and Critical Thinking

Center for Media Literacy has identified five core concepts based on synthesis of scholarly work in several countries.

These five concepts reflect the five key questions that audiences are encouraged to ask when they engage with media:

Who created this message? What techniques are used to attract attention? How might different people understand this message differently? What lifestyles, values, and points of view are represented in or omitted from this message? Why was this message sent (Center for Media Literacy n.d.)

1. Who created this message

  • Media texts are not “natural” although they look “real”. The media message we experience was written by someone, images were captured and edited, and a creative team with many talents put it all together.
  • The second insight is that in this creative process, choices are made. If some words are spoken; others are edited out; if one picture is selected, dozens may have been rejected. Media get taken for granted and their messages can go unquestioned.
  • Media are not “real” but they affect people in real ways because we take and make meaning for ourselves out of whatever we’ve been given by those who do the creating.
  • The aim is to create the critical distance we need to be able to ask other important questions.

2. What techniques are used to attract attention?

  • Explore the ‘format’ of a media message and examine the way a message is constructed, the creative components that are used in putting it together – words, music, color, movement, camera angle and many more.
  • Build an internal checklist that students can apply to any media message anytime, by first noticing how a message is constructed. Keyword: Format What do you notice… (about the way the message is constructed)?, Colors? Shapes? Size? Sounds, Words? Silence? Props, sets, clothing? Movement?  Composition? Lighting? Where is the camera? What is the viewpoint? How is the story told visually? What are people doing? Are there any symbols? Visual metaphors? What’s the emotional appeal? Persuasive devices used? What makes it seem “real?” • • • • • • Five Key Q

3. How might different people understand this message differently from me?

  • Each audience member brings to each media encounter a unique set of life experiences (age, gender, education, cultural upbringing, etc.) which, when applied to the text – or combined with the text – create unique interpretations. A World War II veteran, for example, brings a different set of experiences to a movie like Saving Private Ryan than a younger person – resulting in a different reaction to the fi lm as well as, perhaps, greater insight.
  • We may not be conscious of it but each of us, even toddlers, are constantly trying to “make sense” of what we see, hear or read. The more questions we can ask about what we and others are experiencing around us, the more prepared we are to evaluate the message and to accept or reject it. And hearing multiple interpretations can build respect for different cultures and appreciation for minority opinions, a critical skill in an increasingly multicultural world.
  • Finally, students and teachers don’t experience the same media the same way. The goal of media literacy is not to ferret out one “right” interpretation that resides in the head of the teacher but rather to help students think through the “constructedness” of a media message and then substantiate their interpretation with evidence.

4. What lifestyles, values and points of view are represented in, or omitted from, this message?

  • All media carry subtle messages about who and what is important.
  • Public need to be able to locate alternative sources of both news and entertainment and to be able to evaluate the alternatives as well for their own embedded values.
  • Less popular or new ideas can have a hard time getting aired, especially if they challenge long-standing assumptions or commonly-accepted beliefs;

5. Why is the message being sent?

  • Exploring how media content, whether TV shows, magazines or Internet sites, makes viewers and readers of all ages receptive target audiences for advertisers creates some of the most enlightening moments in the media literacy classroom.
  • Examining the purpose of a message also uncovers issues of ownership and the structure and influence of media institutions in society.