Introduction to Media Literacy (Media Literacy Project)


Hi Everyone,

Please post your discussion questions to the Media Literacy Project's "Introduction to Media Literacy" (starts on p. 283 in the course pack), below.

Your discussion question should:
(a) reflect on the usefulness of one or more of the concepts put forth and demonstrate this usefulness by pointing to a particular example from media or (b) pull out a concept/s that you found surprising or confusing and relate it/them to a specific example from media.

Remember to bring an example from media (a link to a video, an example from print media, etc.) to class for our group discussion.


After I finished the Media Literacy reading, my mind was flooded with all of these perfect examples of media that the terms in the reading described. Just by turning on the TV the knowledge that this particular reading provides is immediately put to use. However, there was one particular section of the reading I’d like to emphasize for my post. The section in which the reading focuses on how media affects our thoughts, attitudes and actions (pg. 284) to me stood out the most. To me, this is the primary objective of media. The whole purpose of media is to draw its viewer’s attention and to give them something to think about (even if it’s only for a few moments). In my opinion one of the most effective cases of media working its magic on people is with food commercials. Everyone gets hungry and by catching a commercial for McDonalds as you’re leaving home might just get you to swing through the drive through on the way. Sometimes food commercials even make feel hungry. It’s clearly obvious to me that all they want me to do is buy their product, sometimes I still can’t help it because the image of a juicy hamburger is embedded in my mind. There is no question that media affects us, the question is how do they do it?

On page 287 gives us an example of a text and subtext of a magazine ad: "Got Milk?" We often see this type of advertisement on picture at a subway train station, bus stop, billboard, in a magazine etc. Is there another example of this we see outside of picture advertisement? What about commercial advertisement or radio? Where else do we see this type of advertisement where there's a given text and subtext?

On page 287 it talks about the differences between text and subtext in advertisements. They use an example of Sheryl crow to break down what each may look like. I find it useful to have it be broken down in this manner and it makes for the concept to be better understood. However after reading this chapter it makes me wonder which is more important? If you were to get rid of the text and just have Sheryl Crow in a a dingy room drinking milk would it effect that way we viewed that advertisement or see milk as no longer glamourous? Bringing in the concept from page 285 that images are processed differently then words (making TV ads more effective then print ads) I wonder if the words on the print ad are what sells it or if its the picture (the text or the subtext) ?

While reading through the article, The section I found most interesting was the section on persuasion techniques. I have heard of most of these techniques, but some I had never heard of at all. After reading, however, it became clear to me what types of advertisements used them, and it was easy for me to think of my own examples. One of the persuasion techniques that I had never heard of before was "Glittering Generalities". This technique talked about "virtue words" that the persuader would use to get people to accept their argument without actually examining the evidence behind their claim. There are many advertisements that use this technique like presidential candidates claiming that they are the most patriotic people, or vacation destinations claiming their beaches are the most beautiful in the world. A great example I found was from a classic McDonald's ad:
McDonald's claims some things in this ad that may or may not be completely true, like "we're the best" for example.

One concept that I thought was useful was number 13: Media are most powerful when they operate on an emotional level from the intermediate concept group. It is useful because the media outlets use this to grabs its viewers’ attention to whatever they are promoting or getting at and whatever targeted groups they focus on they hope that it will have a connection to them. One example that I think works well are the ads about what happens if you smoking. I agree that when an emotional charge symbol is involved it gets to the viewer’s personally and it is more effective. Now how effective are these advertisements? I am a smoker myself and I understand all the bad things associated with it but I still continue to smoke. Could there be a better way to help people quit instead of throwing away millions of dollars?

The notion that is presented on page 284 that "media messages affect our thoughts, attitudes and actions," is not a new one to me. I have always just assumed that commercials are effective in what they do, why else would they still be on tv? Even knowing this, I always felt that I was not someone who was swayed by advertisements but by personal experience or recommendation. However, when I think about it, I know that certain commercials sway me. Most of the commercials that I watch that have an effect on whether or not I use that product have that effect for a negative reason. For instance, I would never buy progressive insurance because I hate Flo. I think she is annoying and I don’t want to see or hear her on tv anymore. I am more apt to not buy something based on a commercial than buy something, which I found interesting. When not applied to commercials, the notion put forth on page 284 becomes stronger to me, as I am sure it does with many people. Things I see on the news or on ESPN play a huge role in how I view athletes. For example, being a native Chicagoan, I grew up liking Notre Dame Football so naturally this year I was enthralled with their star player Manti Te’o who played through the loss of his grandmother and girlfriend in the same day earlier this season. Then recently ESPN, among other sources, breaks the story that the girlfriend never existed. Immediately my opinions about an athlete I enjoyed watching flipped completely. Another idea that the text said that I found interesting was the use of fear. According to page 290, fear by intended audience to promote a solution is a tactic that is used by the media. I had never really thought about how companies use fear to promote their products. The first thought that came to my mind was those commercials about what tobacco use can do to a person. I personally don’t use tobacco so the commercial’s main effect was lost on me, but I always thought that they went too far. When using fear, the media has to be careful not to go too far and ruin the message they are trying to send. The people I know that use tobacco products haven’t stopped because of those commercials, they just think the commercial is too extreme and doesn’t apply to them.

One concept that stood out to me was how images are stronger than written or spoken word. In the article it says on page 285 how our brains process images and words differently and on page 296 it states the importance of pictures by saying words can be easily forgotten while images are easily remembered. I wholeheartedly agree with this for me personally. For example, I strongly remember the details of the Sheryl Crow "Got Milk" ad, but struggle to remember the written details (of course this partly due to the length of the written portion). I guess my question could be why haven't all advertisers caught on to this concept? Are spoken/ written words even necessary in advertising/ media today?

I was curious if this example would relate to how subtle media effects are in regards to product placement. In the tv show Weeds, Nancy Botwin is rarely seen without a Diet Coke or an Iced Coffee in her hand. I noticed that while I watched this show I found myself craving Diet Coke and Iced Coffee, to assimilate myself to Nancy, despite her criminal behavior. Would this prove on of the media literacy concepts correct as it relates to how subtle, yet significant these media effects are?

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This page contains a single entry by zimme313 published on January 28, 2013 10:08 AM.

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