(Reprinted from Media Literacy Resource Guide: Intermediate and Senior Division. Toronto: Ontario Ministry of Education, 1989.)
1. ALL MEDIA ARE CONSTRUCTIONS:
Media are mediated communication. They are not “slices of life,” “windows on the world,” or “mirrors of society.” They are carefully manufactured constructs with nothing left to chance. They are not, by definition, “real,” although they attempt to imitate reality. The success of these manufactured constructs lies in their apparent naturalness. Our job as media educators is to make media “strange” and problematic to students.
2. ALL MEDIA CONSTRUCT REALITY:
Although media are not real, they can shape our attitudes, behavior and ideas about the world. The WWII broadcaster, Walter Lippman called it “the world outside and the pictures in our heads.” If we haven’t had first-hand experience with a person, place or thing and yet we feel we know something about it based on media information, then media has constructed a form of reality for us. Our job as media educators is to question media culture and to teach our students to think about reality vs. mediated information.
3. AUDIENCES NEGOTIATE MEANING IN MEDIA:
Audiences are not passive entities. We may look passive as we sit motionless in front of a book or a TV, but our minds are working to make sense of the information. This is especially true of fast-paced modern media. We learn to anticipate the codes and conventions in media and to somehow “read” or make meaning of its message. We do this as individuals and in predictable ways, as groups. Our taste in media content and forms changes as we age. Advertisers know this and try to target us as individuals and as audiences. Our task as media educators is to help students become aware of the way that they interact with media personally, and to speculate about the way that others might use media.
4. MEDIA HAVE COMMERCIAL IMPLICATIONS:
Media industries add billions of dollars to economies and are one of the United States’ largest exports. In addition to the business generated by media commodities, spin-off products and services that rely on media industries generate billions more. Commercial factors such as distribution, technical costs, labor costs ownership and potential ad sales influence content. Advertisers are guaranteed a number of consumers who will see their ads and who they target to buy products. Advertising drives media businesses. The commodity that is bought and sold is the audience. Our challenge as media educators is to educate students about media industries and the way that they are intertwined with modern economic systems. We can teach students to question the economic decisions that influence the content of a media product and to become aware of the place of media industries in the overall economy.
5. MEDIA CONTAIN IDEOLOGICAL AND VALUE MESSAGES:
Objectivity and balance are journalistic ideals, but media are not value-free. The notion of objectivity in media is a relatively new idea. Until the first part of the Twentieth Century, audiences did not expect media to be objective. They knew the “Republican” newspapers or the “Democrat” magazine and generally bought them according to their own ideological persuasion. Media content that purports to be objective can hide explicit and implicit values and ideology. Most modern media content maintains a social status quo or “sells” a consumer lifestyle. The role of the media educator is to guide students to uncover ideological messages using media literacy techniques and values education strategies.
6. MEDIA HAVE SOCIAL AND POLITICAL IMPLICATIONS:
Media have irrevocably altered the landscape of modern political campaigning. Media not only seek to sell us products, but they also sell us political candidates, ideas, public health messages, and seek to shape audiences into political constituencies. Media technologies have altered our culture, our families and the way we use our leisure time. Although they may not directly affect the way we behave, media seek to legitimize and reinforce social and political behavior. The job of the media educator is to increase students’ awareness about the political and social messages in media and the way they seek to shape political and social attitudes.
7. MEDIA HAVE UNIQUE AESTHETIC FORM – CLOSELY RELATED TO CONTENT:
People derive great pleasure from their use of media and media literacy skills can heighten that pleasure. We can appreciate the artistry of texts, technical feats, and creative vision. We can also understand that form and content are closely related in media and that each medium has unique codes, conventions, benefits, and limitations that influence its content. Students can learn creative self-expression by producing their own media texts in the classroom, as they analyze the texts of others. They can also see how each medium reports the same event in a different way due to the constraints and limitations of the medium. Hands-on production and critical analysis are two halves of a whole media studies program.