TLDR: Media Literacy by W. James Potter

5min read

I’ve been reading the Media Literacy (8th edition) textbook by W. James Potter recently. It’s a super interesting topic. Here’s a few passages that I’ve underlined in the text (I’ve read about half of the textbook so far).

Hopefully reading a few of these passages encourages you to pick up a media literacy textbook and start learning about the topic so that I can talk about it with you!

“[…] while choice is attractive, too much choice can paralyze us into inaction. When we feel overwhelmed, we rely more and more on automatic routines, and leads us into a deeper and deeper rut of doing the same things over and over.”

That moment when you stare at the hundreds (thousands?) of games in your Steam Library and proclaim: “I don’t know what to play” or “I guess I’ll just play «insert predatory MOBA or CCG here»”.

“The reason faulty beliefs are such a dangerous trap is because they are self-reinforcing.”

cough cough Flat Earthers cough cough Anti Vaxxers cough cough

“The mass media construct audiences so they can rent those audiences out to advertisers. In constructing those audiences, the media focus on particular niches where they can provide content that serves a need not already being met. They attract particular kinds of people into those audiences then condition them for repeat exposures.”

If you take a step back and really think about what the porn industry has been able to do in the last 15 years or so, it’s bananas. How many kids have grown up with instant access to an infinite sea of porn accessible anywhere and at any time? A lot. How many of them have been seriously harmed psychologically by this? At least one.

“Successful websites, whether they deal with information, entertainment, music, video, or the printed word, all try to do the same thing. They offer you apps that you can download and use for free on your mobile devices. They want to condition you to continually use their services so it becomes a habit that you cannot live without.”

Is being constantly on Twitter really making your life better? Or have you been conditioned to such an extent that you can’t live without it and whenever someone asks you why you’re still on Twitter, you reply like an addict.

“It is likely that there are many adults who are not as highly developed cognitively, emotionally, or morally as many children.”

There’s enough sick burns in this textbook that the author is clearly moonlighting as an inflamatory standup comedian on weekends.

“We are the consumers, and our resources include not only our money but, even more importantly, our time and attention.”

Over the course of your life, the amount of free time you have tends to shrink and the amount of money you have tends to grow. And that shapes the way you interact with the media.

“[…] the singing ability of Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, and Justin Bieber, although good, cannot alone account for their huge popularity; that is, these recording artists have some inexplicable ability to attract large audiences that cannot be explained solely by the artistic quality of their singing ability.”

Absolutely savage.

“Advertising gets people to look beyond the product features to consider product images as well as psychological advantages of using the product.”

This product will make you fuck because yes absolutely that’s how the world works. You slap on some awful smelling body spray and your inside someone else quicker than you can say “false advertising”.

“This strategy of increasing revenue streams can also be seen in all the merger and acquisition activity across all media industries. When a media company becomes a conglomerate, controlling the distribution of messages in many media channels, it can easily market a single message across many channels and thus quickly create multiple revenue streams for that one message.”

Can’t stop, won’t stop, consolidation.

“[…] it is less costly emotionally to watch characters in a movie try to meet each other, establish relationships, break up, and learn from their mistakes than it is to go through all of that in real life to learn the same thing. Audiences therefore have a strong, continuing motivation to seek out messages in the media. They search for messages that have two general characteristics. First, those messages must appear real. […] Second, those messages must present a little more than their every day reality. […] people want media messages that are not so real that they are the same as their everyday lives. But neither do they want media messages that are so far removed from their experiences and needs that the messages have no immediate relevance. So people want messages that are one step removed from real life; they want messages that show what is easily possible and make it seem probable and even actual.”

Reality TV and Youtube vloggers say hi.

“We all live in two worlds; the real world and the media world. Attaining higher levels of media literacy does not mean avoiding the media world. Instead it means being able to tell the two worlds apart as the two merge together under pressures from new message formats and newer technologies that seem to make the boundary lines between the two worlds very fuzzy.”

Say it with me, parasocial relationships are not real relationships.

“Most of us feel that the real world is too limited; that is, we cannot get all the experiences and information we want in the real world. […] We are continually entering the media world to get experiences and information we cannot get very well in our real lives. We enter the media world to expand our real-world experience and help us understand the real world better. But those experiences we have in the media world are different than if we had experienced them directly in the real world. We often forget this as we bring media-world experiences back into our real world.”

And that’s all for now folks. Textbooks are lonnnnnnng. But I don’t mind.

Follow me with fraidycat, or an RSS reader, to be notified whenever I write something.