To browse other articles on a range of HSL topics, see the A-Z index.
Media literacy (related: transliteracy for librarians) refers to the ability to "sift through and analyze any information on the web" including any media that informs, educates or entertains. Along with navigational skills, media literacy includes the ability to think critically and evaluate media from video and film to virtual and augmented reality. According to the Media Literacy Project, "...Media literacy is the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and create media. Media literate youth and adults are better able to understand the complex messages we receive from television, radio, Internet, newspapers, magazines, books, billboards, video games, music, and all other forms of media." Some librarians view media literacy as part of information literacy while others suggest it belongs to emerging concepts such as transliteracy. While there is obvious overlap in the various literacies referred to (see chart above), media literacy introduces some new requirements that take digital learners beyond their text-based literacies that have been acquired within their analog print environments. Media literacy moves learners towards informed and critical understanding of the nature of media in the Internet age and includes the techniques used by media outlets to communicate; this includes the impact of self-publishing media (i.e., social media). The role of the study of media literacy is to increase the understanding and enjoyment of how media work, how they produce meaning for learners, how they are organized, and how they are part of the constructing of agency, propaganda and reality. The ability to create media is also part of media literacy. Schmidt (2013) shows that learning the skills of media literacy starts in the primary grades in the United States and that, over time into college and university, media literacy is dealt with in an interdisciplinary fashion across the curriculum. (See Post-secondary media literacy education model.)
Someone media literate is able to navigate media, skillfully creating and producing relevant online content, and demonstrates an understanding of effective use of media in all (many ) forms. Although not specifically digital in nature, media literacy in the 21st century suggests the ability to navigate the text and moving images in various formats on the Internet. Moreover, the ability to create new media and participate as an active citizen in these new media and web spaces is increasingly desirable. Some of the competencies that inform effective use of media contribute to an overall understanding of mass media and popular culture. Quite simply, as these new knowledge forms and 'texts' proliferate and permeate our learning, our analysis and evaluation of their usefulness or lack thereof becomes paramount. By transforming the process of media consumption into an active, critical experience, we can (as librarians) gain a better feel for and awareness of media misrepresentation and manipulation (especially via commercials, infomercials and marketing of products, and social media). This will extend to the role of civic media and participatory spaces in expressing identity and collective action.
According to Tallim , media literacy is the ability to navigate and evaluate "...messages that inform, entertain and [are sold] to us every day. It's the ability to bring critical thinking skills to bear on all media— from music videos and Web environments to product placement in films and virtual displays on NHL hockey boards. It's about asking pertinent questions about what's there, and noticing what's not there. And it's the instinct to question what lies behind media productions— the motives, the money, the values and the ownership — and to be aware of how these factors influence content..."
And, according to Wikipedia, "...media literacy education is actively focused on the instructional methods and pedagogy of media literacy, integrating theoretical and critical frameworks rising from constructivist learning theory, media studies and cultural studies scholarship. This work has arisen from a legacy of media and technology use in education throughout the 20th century and the emergence of cross-disciplinary work at the intersections of scholarly work in media studies and education...."
Does media represent reality?
The idea of 'representation' is an important principle in media literacy. Any medium that provides its viewers or audience with a view into a given world, will aim to provide a representation of that world. Media representations will sometimes allow viewers to see something in very specific ways; in some cases, they will (en)force those views by using techniques such information propaganda or, as Peirce might say, powerful signs and symbols (semiotics).
Audiences will invariably compare what they see in various media against what their own lived experience tells them about the world. Subsequently, the audiences make their own judgments about the representations and how realistic they have been shown to be. Some media images are very real, even when viewers know that they are seeing something imaginary. Think of certain actors and the characters they portray, and how we have come to view them (and even refer to them) by those characters.
In interrogating media, consider the following ideas:
What is media literacy?