As an interdisciplinary concept, media literacy can be explored and developed through several different approaches. It is important to recognize that none of these approaches by itself constitutes the totality of media literacy. For example understanding and appreciation of the language of film/television, which falls under the Aesthetic/Appreciation approach, becomes much stronger when fused with Production. Knowing the language of film, is enhanced by practical experience producing and utilizing that language.
Aesthetics and Appreciation
The study of the language, grammar, vocabulary of film, television and other media. Recognition of the way elements such as lighting, sound, mise en scene carry and convey meaning in the composition of the frame. Also relates to literature through the codes and conventions of a genre and key elements such as character, conflict, resolution. Clearly utilized in areas such as art, Language Arts and Media Arts.
To give hands-on experience. While aesthetics and appreciation can be taught through analysis and critical viewing skills, they may also be fostered through the hands-on application of and utilization of these production values and techniques. This might include photography, cinematography and video production. Teachers experienced in this work frequently note that cooperative learning is a necessary outgrowth of the production experience. In the process students must also research, write and script, as a result of which they develop traditional literacy skills. When student projects are connected to community issues, production can be fully integrated into Social Studies.
One of the most basic aims of education is to develop responsible citizenship for a democratic society. Clearly responsible citizenship involves more than voting. It involves informed decision-making. Media literacy promotes the critical thinking skills necessary to understand the complex issues facing modern society. Frequently these complexities are over simplified by the media. U.S. News and World Report for example has said: "Television is so focused on pictures and so limited by them, that in a normal run of reporting it cannot begin to provide the context that gives meaning and perspective."
It gives students the ability to distinguish style from substance, issue from image, policy from personality and rhetoric from reality. In this day and age such skills are at the heart of the future of an informed society. U.S. News and World Report expressed it this way: "America thinks it is a meritocracy, but in fact it has become a medeiacracy... ruled by those who know how to manipulate symbols, information and the media."
To develop resistance to media's influences. One of the most traditional approaches to media literacy has been based on the widespread belief that the media "makes" people do things i.e. that there is a relationship between what we see and hear and what we think and do. When the U.S. government banned cigarette advertising on television, it demonstrated this belief. Today, there is much concern about explicit sexuality, graphic violence and obscene language in film and television. New technologies merely add to the problem so we now find the U.S. congress discussing "cyberporn". Some people want to protect impressionable children and adolescents by banning or legislating offensive sights and sounds. Others point to the First Amendment and express concern about censorship. While politicians and parents are attracted to the quick and simple fix provided by a V Chip that blocks out offensive material, media literacy suggests that critical consumption leads to critical production. Educating students, parents and citizens to recognize the persuasive techniques advertisers use to promote alcohol, tobacco and other potentially harmful products, offers another form of defense. Health educators working with at risk individuals, and the problems associated with substance abuse, teen pregnancy, self-esteem, dieting disorders etc., can explore media literacy as a component of refusal skills and demand reduction.
Elements of media literacy, particularly the technical skills associated with production can offer employment opportunities. While it is unlikely that the media industry itself provides sufficient jobs for future workers, technical design and production skills associated with media literacy are consistent with the demands of the workplace. SCANS (Secretary's Commission on Achieving necessary Skills) notes that workers in the 21st century would need to be technologically competent and capable of accessing and processing information. In addition, since media literacy fosters critical thinking skills, it provides training in problem-solving which American business leaders say is another important job skill in the economy of both today and tomorrow.
partly adapted from David Considine: Approaches to Media Literacy
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