Nielsen estimates that adults in the U.S. interact with and consume 11 hours of media each day.
Think about that. 11 hours per day. That’s a lot of media shaping our perception and beliefs.
A free press has always been a cornerstone of democracy. It protects against the usurpation of power and is another balancing restraint in our system of checks-and-balances. But with the proliferation of the internet, our information landscape has become more cluttered with media of varying qualities and agendas.
This requires us to better consumers and produces of media. If we are to be good sensemakers, we must understand how to effectively navigate our information landscape. This practice is called media literacy.
According to Wikipedia:
Media literacy encompasses the practices that allow people to access, critically evaluate, and create or manipulate media. Media literacy is not restricted to one medium.
Media literacy education is intended to promote awareness of media influence and create an active stance towards both consuming and creating media. Media literacy education is part of the curriculum in the United States and some European Union countries.
According to the Canadian Centre for Digital and Media literacy, the following five key concepts provide an effective foundation for examining mass media and popular culture. These key concepts act as filters that any media has to go through in order for us to critically respond.
Media are constructions
Media products are created by individuals who make conscious and unconscious choices about what to include, what to leave out and how to present what is included. These decisions are based on the creators’ own point of view, which will have been shaped by their opinions, assumptions and biases – as well as media they have been exposed to. As a result of this, media products are never entirely accurate reflections of the real world – even the most objective documentary filmmaker has to decide what footage to use and what to cut, as well as where to put the camera – but we instinctively view many media products as direct representations of what is real.
Questions to Ask:
- Who created this media product?
- What is its purpose?
- What assumptions or beliefs do its creators have that are reflected in the content?
Why It’s Important
In the digital age everyone can have a megaphone and a platform. The barrier to creating new media is effectively non-existent. It is often difficult to understand who created a piece of media, why they made it, whether it is accurate or credible, and what that means for us.
While media literacy is now taught in many middle and high school curriculums, the skill of being media literate applies to every human. Practicing media literacy leads to:
- Go Foss stands for Free and Open Source Software and is an excellent resource on how to browse, speak, and store information safely on your computer, phone, and cloud. This resource receie
Nielsen: U.S. Adults Now Spend Nearly Half a Day Interacting with Media (accessed February 2021)
Canadian Centre for Digital and Media Literacy: What is Media Literacy (accessed February 2021)