Media Literacy: An Introduction
Note: If you've been watching my site the last few days, you've probably noticed a few changes here and there. After giving it a lot of thought, I have decided that along with creative design, I want to focus my work on visual marketing and media literacy.
I realized a couple weeks ago that even though I'm pretty careful about the media I consume (TV, music, websites,) I'm not as careful about the media I create. To be honest, I don't really know how to create media that's healthy and positive. I know my designs look good, but does that mean they are good? I'm not a terribly academic person, but I want to be smart about the work I publish online. So while I'm still going to share design tutorials and organizational tips on this blog, everything will be based on principles of positive media creation and consumption. You can read more of my thoughts on positive media on the WELCOME and RESOURCES pages of this site.
With that introduction, I wanted to write something today about media literacy. As an Advertising/Communications major at BYU, I learned a lot about media and its ethics and effects. Even though media is something we literally see ALL THE TIME, it can be really boring to talk about. So my goal is to write about media in a way that's straightforward, smart, and easy to understand. Enjoy!
What is Media Literacy?
Media literacy is the ability to access and interact with media. That includes books, TV, and anything on the internet. Basically anything that you consume with your attention rather than your mouth or your wallet is media. Creating media (writing books or publishing a blog post) and consuming media carefully (muting commercials or tuning in to a specific podcast) TOGETHER make up media literacy.
Here's a definition of Media Literacy that I really like:
". . .a constellation of life skills that are necessary for full participation in our media-saturated, information-rich society (1)."
-Digital and Media Literacy Plan of Action, Renee Hobbs
Why is Media Literacy Important?
I did a little research to explain how relevant Media Literacy is. The Institute for Communication Technology Management shared a report on American consumers in 2015 and they estimated that Americans consume both traditional and digital media for over 1.7 trillion hours total, which comes out to approximately 15.5 hours per person per day (2). That number seems almost impossible, but when you calculate all the time you spend watching TV and looking at Instagram at the same time, it adds up pretty fast. Media Literacy is important because there's so much media in the world. Too much for one person to ever read and see and digest everything. Some media is good and some is really really bad. Media literacy gives you the ability to spend LESS TIME with the bad media and MORE TIME with good media. I know that sounds like something a Kindergarten teacher would say but it's true! Media literacy gives you the tools to create your own media, which is important because we can become artists and advocates for our own causes.
I think it's important to note that Media Literacy is not "Anti-Media." The National Association for Media Literacy Education says that Media Literacy is for anyone who wants a more enlightened way of understanding our media-driven environment.
"Today’s information and entertainment technologies communicate to us through a powerful combination of words, images, and sounds. As such, we need to develop a wider set of literacy skills helping us to both comprehend the messages we receive and effectively utilize these tools to design and distribute our own messages. Being literate in a media age requires critical thinking skills that empower us as we make decisions, whether in the classroom, the living room, the workplace, the boardroom, or the voting booth (3)."
How Can I Become More Media Literate?
This is something I hope to address more in future posts, but the basics of media literacy are:
1. Accessing media
2. Analyzing the media we see and knowing whether it's positive or negative
3. Choosing what media we consume
4. Creating our own media messages
Once we learn what makes media positive or negative, we can more carefully consume and create our own media. I really believe we need to have a better understanding of media literacy to survive in the modern world and I hope I can help people (myself included) achieve that understanding.
If this is Media Literacy is something that interests you, here are some great online resources for media literacy education:
Media Literacy - Partnerships for 21st Century Learning
Digital and Media Literacy: A Plan of Action - Renee Hobbs
Media Literacy Defined - National Association for Media Literacy Education
What is Media Literacy? A Definition and More - Center for Media Literacy
Thanks for reading!
(1) Hobbs, Renee. "Digital and Media Literacy: An Action Plan." 2010. Web.
(2) "USC Marshall School of Business." How Much Media? Web. 18 Feb. 2016.
(3) "Media Literacy Defined." National Association for Media Literacy Education. 2010. Web. 18 Feb. 2016.