Amy Stern (bigbrotherreads) wrote,
Amy Stern

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Media Literacy: a Reader (part 2: literacy)

Macedo, Donaldo and Shirley R. Steinberg, eds. Media Literacy: a Reader. New York: Peter Lang, 2007.

Key Excerpts:

Working with students as young as preschool age, Vivian Vasquez (2003) encourages them to ask the following questions: "Whose voice is heard? Who is silenced? Whose reality is presented? Whose reality is ignored? Who is advantaged? Who is disadvantaged?" (p. 15). (14)

Awareness of the fact that media are constructions with imbedded points-of-view opens them up for critical evaluation and analysis. In other words, media education teaches that, even though media content is presented as if it were true (from a single perspective), it may not be. (183)

More quotes:

Chapter 1: Critical Media Literacy, Democracy, and the Reconstruction of Education
Douglas Kellner and Jeff Share

According to the definition of media literacy provided by one of these organizations, "media literacy is seen to consist of a series of communication competencies, including the ability to ACCESS, ANALYZE, EVALUATE, and COMMUNICATE." (7, citing

The type of critical media literacy that we propose includes aspects of the three previous models, but focuses on ideology critique and analyzing the politics of representation of crucial dimensions of gender, race, class, and sexuality; incorporating alternative media production; and expanding textual analysis to include issues of social context, control, and pleasure. (8)

Luke and Freebody (1999) write that effective literacy requires four basic roles (not necessarily sequential or hierarchical) that allow learners to: "break the code," "participate in understanding and composing," "using texts functionally," and "critically analyze and transform texts by acting on knowledge that texts are not ideologically natural or neutral." This normative approach offers the flexibility for literacy education to explore and critically engage students with the pedagogy that will work best for individual teachers in their own unique situation with the different social and cultural needs and interests of their students and local community. (9)

Critical media literacy challenges the power of the media to present messages as non-problematic and transparent. Because messages are created by people who make decisions about what to communicate and how to communicate, all messages are influenced by the subjectivity and biases of those creating the message as well as the social contexts within which the process occurs. (12)

One of the most important components of critical media literacy evolves from work at the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies in the UK and involves the notion of an active audience, challenging previous theories that viewed receivers of media as passive recipients and often victims. (13)

As bell hooks (1996, p. 3) puts it: "While audiences are clearly not passive and are able to pick and choose, it is simultaneously true that there are certain 'received' messages that are rarely mediated by the will of the audience." Empowering the audience through critical thinking inquiry is essential for students to challenge the power of media to create preferred readings. Audience theory views the moment of reception as a contested terrain of cultural struggle where critical thinking skills offer potential for the audience to negotiate different readings and openly struggle wit dominant discourses. (13)

Working with students as young as preschool age, Vivian Vasquez (2003) encourages them to ask the following questions: "Whose voice is heard? Who is silenced? Whose reality is presented? Whose reality is ignored? Who is advantaged? Who is disadvantaged?" (p. 15). (14)

Chapter 5: Critical Media Literacy for the Twenty-First Century: Taking Our Entertainment Seriously
Pepi Leistyna and Loretta Alper

While capitalism consists of a structural reality built on political and economic processes, institutions, and relationships, its proponents also rely on the formative power of culture to shape the kinds of meaning, desire, subjectivity, and thus identity that can work to ensure the maintenance of its logic and practice. (54)

Because the subject of class is so taboo in the United States, we lack a conceptual framework for understanding television's portrayal of the working class. Having a basic definition of class will not only give us insight into why people occupy their class positions, it will also enable us to make sense of TV's representations and their broader social implications. (55)

As TV evolved into a commercially sponsored medium, advertisers began to pay an increasingly important role in creating programs. Their impact went far beyond on-screen sponsorship to having a hand in the actual production, including scriptwriting and hiring a lot of talent (Barnouw, 1978). (58)

With the exception of a few prominent roles (featuring middle- and upper-middle-class characters) on shows like ER (1994-present), Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (1999-present), and Grey's Anatomy (2005-present), Asian Americans Are still largely excluded from prime time or relegated to bit parts (Hamamoto, 1994). (61)

The ability to demystify social reality requires both theory and action. Theory in this sense is how people interpret, critique, and draw generalizations about why the social world spins the economic, cultural, political, and institutional webs that it does. From this working definition, theory is the ability to make sense of all levels of the every day- that is, the why and how of what has been happening in people's lives, and not simply a focus on what is occurring and how to effectively respond. As an integral part of any political project, theorizing also presents a constant challenge to imagine and materialize alternative political spaces and identities and more just and equitable economic, social, and cultural relations. It makes possible consciousness raising, coalition building, resistance, activism, and structural change. (72)

Chapter 10: Television Violence at a Time of Turmoil and Terror
George Gerbner

Unlike other media use, TV viewing is a ritual; people watch by the clock and not by the program. Ratings are determined more by the time of the program, the lead-in (previous program), and what else is competing for viewers at the same time than by program quality or other attractions. (105)

Most people watch by the clock and not by the program. The television audience depends on the time of the day and the day of the week more than on the program. Other media require literacy, growing up, going out, selection based on some previously acquired tastes, values, and predispositions. Traditional media research assumed such selectivity. But there are no "previously acquired tastes, values, and predispositions" with television. Viewing starts in infancy and continues through life. (107)

The role of violence in that world can be seen in our analysis of prime time network programs and characters. "Casting" and "fate," the demography of that world, are the important building blocks of the storytelling process. (108)

Chapter 16: Media Mindfulness
Gina M. Serafin

how much we consciously attend to the messages we consume is debatable. Deciding what deserves our attention requires not only how to approach the media, but a desire to engage with them critically. Mindless media consumption is a consequence of a culture inundated with information. (178)

Being mindful of our media consumption means that the media consumer is aware of what is seen, heard, or read and is constantly negotiating meaning by drawing novel distinctions. The audience member is situated in the present. He or she is engaged with the content an aware of the context of the communication; constantly aware of more than one perspective in what is read, viewed, or heard. (179)

As individuals not taught to view or consume media mindfully from a young age, we must recognize tat our habits of 'seeing' are deeply rooted. In order to change this, we need to:

1 have the ability to read texts more meaningfully
2 be motivated to do so regularly
3 practice mindfully attending to our media consumption (180)

Media mindfulness is a cognitive approach for teaching, learning, and practicing media literacy. We "practice" media literacy and mindfulness because they are processes and not end states. We never stop developing or using these skills. Cognitive approaches to learning are concerned with the role played by thoughts that are generated both during and after message reception. (181)

Awareness of the fact that media are constructions with imbedded points-of-view opens them up for critical evaluation and analysis. In other words, media education teaches that, even though media content is presented as if it were true (from a single perspective), it may not be. Being situated in the present, the viewer recognizes the context of the communication. He or she also understands that there are multiple ways to see the text, and that individuals interpret messages differently. In addition, the understanding and recognition of the unique characteristics of each medium allow viewers opportunity to find novelty in how messages are constructed depending on the media. (183)

Teachers may promote media mindfulness by consistently encouraging students to see new things in familiar media content. Langer (1997) found it was easier to pay attention when participants were asked to notice new things in a stimulus, and that the process of noticing new and novel aspects of the stimuli made the activity more likeable. (184)

Chapter 19: Putting Reality Together: The Media and Channel One as a Platform of Antidialogic Cultural Action
João Paraskeva

Paulo Freire's theory of antidialogical cultural action helps us to understand and transform the way the media "put reality together" by imposing the views and interests of the dominant groups over the oppressed. (206)

We confront a particular form of ideological control that is profoundly related to what Bourdieu (1996) calls a "show and hide" strategy. That is to say, "television can hide by showing very specific aspects [of a given event] as a function of their particular perceptual categories, the particular way they see things [categories] that are the product of education, history; [in other words] they used [specific] [eye] glasses." Thus, and as Fiske and Hartley (1998) highlight, since "television is a human construct and the job that it does is the result of human choice, cultural decisions and social pressures," reading television is being radically aware of its "manifest [and] latent content." (207)

A third curricular impact of Channel One is what Apple calls the politics of pleasure. Based on a study conducted by DeVaney, Apple (2000) points out that students "do not always engage in such deconstruction of the news process" because, quite often they are talking to each other or doing homework during this segment of the Channel One broadcasts, but become interested when commercials air. (213)

Thus, the audience is indeed a social construction. It is in this context that Grossberg and his colleagues put forward the notion of audience as a market device. (215)

Chapter 30: Buying and Selling Culture: Talk Show Content, Audience, and Labor as Commodities
Christine M. Quail, Kathalene A. Razzao, and Loubna H. Skalli

As celebrity talk show hosts that join us in our living room every day, they carry a socio-cultural power that is evident to younger and older viewers alike. (353)

There are three interrelated sites of content that we have identified and will analyze:

1 The produced program as spectacle
2 The commodified "problems" of the produced show
3 The intertextual commodities used as consumer remedies to commodified aspects of the show (355)

talk shows function as mediated spectacle. Their visual imagery constitutes vulture spectacle, meant to entertain, amuse, and invite participation from the largest segment of audiences and viewers. (355)

In this commercial venue, spectacle determines market value, as families appear on television to throw turkeys at one another, fight over their women or men, and reveal a shocking secret to their fiancé before the wedding. (357)

Chapter 46: The Need for Critical Media Literacy in Teacher Education Core Curricula
Myriam N. Torres and Maria D. Mercado

We frame our chapter within the area of new literacies, which, according to Lankshear and Knobel (2003), implies two things:

a) new forms of literacy based on new digital electronic technologies, e.g., critical media literacy
b) the new literacies as a new way of looking at literacy (538)

-ideological diversity
-political neutrality
-balanced information (543)

Studies of media, specifically TV (e.g., Albert Bandura's 1973 in psychology, and George Gerbner, 1977, in communication studies) have demonstrated the tremendous impact of media on people, especially those more vulnerable such as children and adolescents. (548-549)

This is one of the reasons why Scharrer (2003), a media educator, makes the case for including media literacy in the K-12 curriculum. She focuses media literacy mainly on examining the media critically; developing strategies to mediate the impact of media messages; learning how media messages are created, marketed, and distributed; and developing the ability to participate in wise use of various media. She is very concerned about the effectiveness of literacy education, given the massive bombardment of media messages directed at young people and children, and the alarming number of hours that children are exposed to media programming. (549)

Subsequently we list what we consider the major purposes of critical media literacies:

1 to function as an intellectual self-defense
2 to discover and support the increase in number and in power of independent non-profit media
3 to develop alternative media networks among special interest groups using the new advanced media and multimedia technologies and to make information available on the democratic premise of education for all. (554)

Chapter 57: Critical Media Studies Meets Critical (Hyper)-Pedagogues
Kathleen S. Berry

Each one of these sources of knowledge and values was real for Nina and her friends. By this I mean, although they knew that, for example, Harry Potter was a fictional piece of work, perhaps what they did not realize was they were drawing knowledge and value from that source into their own constructions of self, others, and the world. In addition, recognizing clearly that the media source was a film, a TV show, or a cell phone call, the listeners and readers of Nina's texts will eventually, at a later date, incorporate, reject, challenge and store knowledge and values from this moment and many others into their own realities. Although there are clear boundaries between the media sources, there will be, however, a blurring of the knowledge and values accessed, consumed, and constructed, in many cases, without examination or reflection. Much of the knowledge and values accumulated in that brief encounter on my back porch might disappear over time and space. Much of it will be threaded into other personal and social moments and act as authority and legitimization for thoughts, words, and actions in other times, places, contexts, and rationales. (688)

Followed up by my reactions to all of it:

A lot of this is basically the same thing, repeated over and over in slightly different ways and/or with slightly different references, because that is a relatively unsurprising consequence of using post-it flags to mark up 700 pages before actually copying any of it down.

These quotes basically serve as a long, dense justification of my project. As I work on this research I'm also taking a library science class, where right now we're discussing one of the key components in looking into a topic: Is there anything else on the topic? Is there a need for anything on the topic? (I'm simplifying two weeks of readings there.) So I do kind of feel like I need to answer that question, and it's nice to see so much confirming that my ideas can fill a niche that I'm really amazed hasn't been explored.

Chapter by chapter:

Chapter 1 is the first of many articles which related media literacy to democracy. I read a bunch of those but by and large ignored them, because I am not exactly pretentious enough to justify "today I watched six hours of Survivor All-Stars" with "because I am truly embracing democracy." I'm pretty sure I understand what they're saying, and I respect the idea of democratizing media, but I think it's a big stretch to make that the ultimate goal for everyone. Ideals are great, but it seems a lot less intimidating and a lot more realistic to say "people should be actively engaged in texts." Making it a political statement seems more self-aggrandizing than anything else.

My notes probably make Chapter 5 incomprehensible. I only copied down things that I thought would be useful in my project, which by and large were things I disagreed with or thought reality television put an interesting spin on. Survivor: Fiji tried to play with class, and one of the final three players grew up homeless. I can think of plenty of Asian-Americans who've played Survivor and Big Brother- including Jun, who won her season of BB, and Shii Ann, who went on to All-Stars Survivor as one of the most memorable players of the first seven seasons- and while I don't think that negates the complaint regarding scripted television, I think it's something which again speaks to ways in which reality television can be more diverse than well-thought-out scripted dramas.

Chapter 10 is really not what I'm dealing with overall- unsurprisingly, neither Survivor nor Big Brother is known for its violence, and while Hunger Games is, I really don't feel like "fictional media portrayals of violence" is the main topic being addressed. But I did like the quotes about how people view television. I disagree with at least some of them (saying TV requires no literacy? Really?), but they're useful quotes to keep in mind nonetheless.

I'm not sure why Chapter 16 came as such a pleasant surprise to me, except that I guess "media mindfulness" had never occurred to me because I am not used to mindless media. Even when I don't feel like I'm engaging, and something's on in the background, I can't help but respond to certain aspects, whether it's questioning whether a plot point makes sense and if that fits the writer's M.O., or passing judgment on a particularly poorly executed fake accent. Am I being incredibly pretentious/showing insane privilege if I say that watching media without identifying it as a construction must be a really boring experience?

Chapter 19 is really only interesting to me because it would be a useful lens through which to read Rob Thomas's Satellite Down. It's great to know that he has ruined an entire branch of media literacy theory for me. I will never forgive that book for existing. I mean, I appreciate the notion of audience as social construction, but I really am kind of stuck on the Satellite Down reading.

I included Chapter 30 largely because I've found some theory on talk shows helpful. The boom of tawdry talk shows in the mid-nineties can be seen as a direct ancestor of competitive reality TV as we know it, and the idea of a mediated spectacle is important to any unscripted media. (This is about the point in reading this that I realized I would probably commit several crimes to get my hands on the syllabus I had for my class in mass media my senior year of college.)

Chapter 46 is both one of the best and the worst chapters I dealt with. I think it boiled down the necessity for media literacy in youth quite well, but I also think it's pretty dismissive of the youth in question. Finding children and adolescents "especially vulnerable" is problematic to me. I don't know if there is legitimately a flaw in that interpretation, or if I'm just being unreasonable because these findings don't reflect my own experience (I could recite whole commercials when I was five, but they were meaningless syllables to me; most of my "I SAW THIS ON TV I WANT IT" has come in the past few years, including the life-sized talking dinosaur).

I really like this specific excerpt from Chapter 57. The entire chapter talks about how children's and adolescents' media consumption is beyond what adults expect or understand, and how this paradigmatic shift can be utilized by educators. Mostly I just appreciated the explicit identification of how all the different types of media literacy interact with each other in ways which aren't as clear-cut as the textbook examples but which are equally good, if not better, launching points for improving media literacy.

The new season of Survivor started today. It's not like I've had any shortage of Survivor (I've been watching Australia and All-Stars), but those are ones I've already seen, and I know how they end. I enjoy some of the ironic editing (HOW MANY TIMES wil people say there's no way for Boston Rob to make f2 or for anyone to take Jenna to f3?), but with this season of Survivor I'm going in cold. I'm even attempting to avoid spoilers and just perform a close reading of the text.

This is my first season of reality TV since I started looking at theory for any purpose beyond justifying paying $15 a month for Big Brother live feeds. While I didn't change my approach to viewing in response to the theory, I find I'm much more conscious of what I'm doing than I use dto be. It's a weird experience. Productive, I think, but weird.
Tags: media literacy: a reader, reality: edgic, research: media literacy
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