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MediaLit Moments

The Heroine's Code

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Male heroes in media aren’t necessarily a dime a dozen, but traditional conventions for the male action hero extend back to at least the 1930s (Superman is now 75), and those conventions can be hard to bend.  Heroines may be few, and often sexualized, but they’re not expected to fulfill male conventions, and they clearly come in different varieties.  For example, Wonder Woman stands for truth and tolerance, while Ripley from the “Alien” series is a hard-nosed survivalist.  In this MediaLit Moment, your students will learn how to articulate the moral and ethical codes of media heroines.  In the process, they’ll gain new perspectives on familiar characters, as well as new perspectives on themselves.

Have students compare their code of ethics with those of various media heroines

AHA!: I like these characters, but I might not want to be just like them!

Key Question #4: What values, lifestyles and points of view are represented in, or omitted from, this message?

Core Concept #4: Media have embedded values and points of view.

Grade Level: 7-9

Materials:  pencil, paper, imagination

Activity: Ask students to name some different media heroines.  Here’s a sampling:  Katniss Aberdeen from “The Hunger Games,” Captain Janeway from the “Star Trek Voyager” series; Xena, Warrior Princess; Sarah Connor from the “Terminator” series, Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series; Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  And, of course, Wonder Woman.  Do they have any favorites?  Do any of these characters seem to fall into particular types?  What might those types be?  Play clips from selected films/shows if you wish.  You may find useful background material in a PBS documentary released this month titled “Wonder Women!: The Untold Story of American Superheroines.”

Next, ask students to work in pairs or groups.  Ask them to select two heroines, preferably of different types, and ask them to write down the goals of these characters in the stories in which they appear.  Next, explain the meaning of the term “code of ethics.”  Everyone has an underlying philosophy of life, and some people are more “up front” about their philosophy—they “stand” for something.  It might help to give them a model like the Golden Rule.  Next, ask what is the ethical code that these characters live by?  Students should be able to say what those codes are, but allow them to use different modes of expression if they feel like doing so (comics, song, role-play, etc.). 

Next, ask, what’s their philosophy of life?  As students answer, lead a whole class discussion in which students compare their philosophy with those of other characters.  Do they like characters more or less after writing out a code of ethics for them?  Do any of them identify with characters based on that code?  (Boys don’t have to closely identify with a female character in order to appreciate their philosophy of life).  Do they like a character, but would like to “tweak” their code so it’s a bit more in line with their own?

The Five Core Concepts and Five Key Questions of media literacy were developed as part of the Center for Media Literacy’s MediaLit Kit™ and Questions/TIPS (Q/TIPS)™ framework.  Used with permission, © 2002-2013, Center for Media Literacy, http://www.medialit.com

Last Updated ( Monday, 29 April 2013 08:28 )
 

When Disability is in the Imagination of the Beholder

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A single photographic image can convey a metaphoric resonance which speaks of something larger than the image itself.  By the same token, it can deliver a shorthand message which becomes little more than a stereotype.  Such is the challenge of representing an individual with a physical disability.  In this MediaLit Moment, your students will compare depictions of amputees across different media.  In the process, they’ll learn how to articulate the differing responses each representation elicits from them.

Have students compare a still image of an amputee with an animated story about someone who lost a limb.

AHA!: When I look at the news photo, I focus on the missing limbs.  When I watch the cartoon documentary, I imagine what that person is thinking and feeling!

Core Concept #4: Media have embedded values and points of view.

Key Question #4: What values, lifestyles and points of view are represented in, or omitted from, this message?

Core Concept #2: Media messages are constructed using a creative language with its own rules.

Key Question #2: What creative techniques are used to attract my attention?

Grade Level: 9-12

Materials: computer, high speed internet connection, data projector, screen

Activity: Begin by asking students what comes to mind when they think about people who have lost a limb.  Tell them that they’re about to see a news photo of an amputee.  You may want to assure them you’re not going to show them anything gory.  As you display the photo, ask, whose point of view is represented?  What does the photo seem to “say” about the subject?  What are their responses to it?  Covering the caption can aid students in the process of visual analysis.  (The people shown in both media have been victims of landmines or cluster munitions, so there is plenty of narrative context to discuss later on).  You’ll find the photo at:  http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2012/06/afghanistan-may-2012/100310/ Look for photo number 7 in the series.

Next, show them a sequence from cartoonist Patrick Chappatte’s “Death in the Fields,” an animated documentary on the dangers that unexploded cluster munitions pose to civilians living in southern Lebanon.   The sequence tells the story of Chappatte’s visit with Rasha Zayoun, and begins at about 5:20 into the video, and ends at about 7:00:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8KFfP4wiluA&ref=patrickchappatte

Ask, how is her amputation depicted?  From whose point of view is the story told, and where is audience attention directed?  How are Rasha’s wishes and dreams conveyed?  What are their responses to this sequence?  How do these compare with their responses to the photo?

Extension:

Most depictions of amputees convey a sense of tragedy or triumph against the odds.  Ask students to search for and comment on pictures and stories which break these stereotypes (or to produce their own).


The Five Core Concepts and Five Key Questions of media literacy were developed as part of the Center for Media Literacy’s MediaLit Kit™ and Questions/TIPS (Q/TIPS)™ framework.  Used with permission, © 2002-2013 Center for Media Literacy, http://www.medialit.com

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 27 March 2013 13:16 )
 

What's in a Bottle of Coke?

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When advertisements attempt to associate certain values with a brand, they often deploy images which subtly reference those values.  Not so with a brand like Coca Cola.  In 1971, Coca Cola’s “I’d like to teach the world to sing” television commercial forged a direct link between Coke and world peace.  In this MediaLit Moment, your students will examine a 2013 Superbowl commercial from Coca Cola which utilizes a variety of documentary images to make a statement about the brand.  The fun—and the challenge—of the activity lies in identifying the values, lifestyles and beliefs which “fit” within the brand.

Have students analyze how a television commercial attributes positive values to a brand

AHA!:  The producers of this commercial want me to believe that Coca Cola is part of everything that’s good about the world!

Key Question #4:  What values, lifestyles and points of view are represented in, or omitted from, this message?

Core Concept #4:  Media have embedded values and points of view.

Key Question #5:  Why was this message sent?

Core Concept #5:  Most media messages are organized to gain profit and/or power.

Grade Level:  5-8

Materials: computer, high speed internet connection, data projector, screen

Activity: Ask students if any of them watched the Superbowl.  Did they have any favorite commercials? Do they remember any that were really patriotic?  Commercials for Jeep and Dodge trucks might come to mind.  Tell students that they’re going to take a closer look at a Superbowl commercial for Coca Cola which also says that the product stands for something: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sngjAw3TRPk

Play the commercial twice and allow students some time for comments and questions.  The commercial makes use of security camera footage to “discover” people around the world in   their best or most altruistic moments.  Ask, how does the commercial make them feel?  How does the security camera footage in the commercial help to make them feel that way?

If time permits, give them a basis for comparison by playing a Superbowl commercial for Hyundai which utilizes fantasy and wish fulfillment to “say” something about the brand: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CAe-06mUHkI

Next, discuss Key Question #4 with them, and ask them to apply the question directly to the Coca Cola commercial.  If time permits, ask them to consider the music and captions that frame the security camera content.

Discuss Core Concept #5 with students, and ask a few questions about the product and the purpose of the commercial.  Where does the product appear in the commercial?  What do the final images suggest about the product?  Overall, what does the commercial “say” about Coca Cola?  Why would the producers of the commercial want to say this?


The Five Core Concepts and Five Key Questions of media literacy were developed as part of the Center for Media Literacy’s MediaLit Kit™ and Questions/TIPS (Q/TIPS)™ framework.  Used with permission, © 2002-2013, Center for Media Literacy, http://www.medialit.com

Last Updated ( Monday, 25 February 2013 14:36 )
 

Blurring the Edges of Commercial Intent

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In the print era, it was usually easy to decipher how publications were paid for, and who was paying for what.  Ads and subscriptions kept the publisher afloat.  With web publishers, it’s not always easy to distinguish between editorial and advertising content.  The Entertainment Weekly website is one good example.  If an EW.com blogger writes a glowing re-cap of last week’s episode of “Arrow,” is it a plot summary, or a promotional vehicle?  Is it possible that CW Network paid something to the blogger?  In this MediaLit Moment, your students will examine a variety of media texts on EW.com’s “Star Wars Galaxy” page to gain a more refined understanding of the purposes behind commercial content.

Ask students to identify the purposes of different media texts about the same media franchise.

AHA!: A lot of what I’m seeing and reading on this web page is trying to get me to buy something, but it isn’t always easy to tell!

Key Question #5: Why was this message sent?

Core Concept #5: Most media messages are organized to gain profit and/or power

Key Question #2: What creative techniques are used to attract my attention?

Core Concept #2: Media messages are constructed using a creative language with its own rules.

Grade Level: 8+

Materials: computer, high speed internet connection, data projector, screen

Activity: Because the content on the Entertainment Weekly web site is constantly changing, you’ll need to do a little homework on the day before you plan to teach the activity.  With your browser, navigate to www.ew.com, then type “Star Wars Galaxy” in the search bar at the top right of the home page.  Once you’ve arrived at the Star Wars page, browse through some of the content.  Select three different pieces of content which reflect different purposes.  Find a game or movie trailer which is clearly intended to sell a product.  Find a news story which appears to simply report on developments within the Star Wars franchise (e.g., “Rick McCallum Leaving Lucasfilm”).  Finally, find some content which appear to promote the franchise without selling a specific product.  Interviews with SW actors are often a good choice. You may wish to include a fourth item which seems intended to generate positive attention for the franchise (e.g., the White House playfully rejects a whitehouse.gov petition for the U.S. government to build a Death Star).

To begin the activity itself, create a causal loop diagram for commercial media texts, much like the one described in our previous MediaLit Moment, “Bringing the Audience into the Loop.”

Ask students to name a kind of media product they like to buy.  A music download?  A video game?  Write a triangular figure on the board.  On the bottom, write “Advertisements produced.” On another side, write “music tracks sold,” or “video games sold.”  On another side, write “You,” or “Audience.”  Complete the causal loop diagram with your students by drawing arrows to connect the items on each side of the triangle.  Explain how media producers create ad campaigns for new products, which catch the eye of potential buyers like themselves.  If those campaigns are successful, they lead to increased sales.  Increased sales are likely to lead to more advertisements, and the advertisements will attempt to heighten (or at least maintain) their interest in the product.  In finishing this part of the activity, remind students how essential they are to all these relationships.

Next, tell students that they’re going to have a look at a few different media messages, some of which are advertisements, some of which are not, and that they’ll need to decide what response producers hoped to receive from audiences with each individual piece.  Navigate to the “Star Wars Galaxy” page on the EW.com site, and play or display the texts which you’ve selected.  With each text, ask, who produced it?  Usually the answer will be Disney/Lucasfilm, or EW.com. Was this intended to sell a specific Star Wars product?  If not, what do they believe to be the purpose of the text?  Draw a triangular diagram for each, this time with the name of the text on the bottom, the name of the producer on one side, and “Audience” on the other side.  Write a description of the purpose of the text near the “Audience” side of the triangle, or more than one if students have offered up more than one possible purpose.

Even if the message isn’t explicitly intended to sell a product, what audience responses might be valuable to Entertainment Weekly and/or the Star Wars franchise?  Why?

When students offer up several possible purposes, you may wish to call attention to Key Question #2.  What’s the media format and techniques used?  What kind of response might audiences have to them?


The Five Core Concepts and Five Key Questions of media literacy were developed as part of the Center for Media Literacy’s MediaLit Kit™ and Questions/TIPS (Q/TIPS)™ framework.  Used with permission, © 2002-2012, Center for Media Literacy, http://www.medialit.com

Last Updated ( Monday, 28 January 2013 08:36 )
 

Looking for truth when the lights are out

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Accessing timely, reliable information is of paramount importance during a severe weather event, and yet, in an era of multiplying media platforms, consumers are reaching for a variety of media, including social media, as sources of breaking news during such events.  Dissemination of false news reports may increase substantially, if not exponentially at such times.  In this MediaLit Moment, a false news item generated during Hurricane Sandy provides a real-world scenario for exploring principles of information credibility and grappling with questions of journalistic ethics.

Ask students to examine the trail of sources associated with a false news report

AHA!:  Establishing the validity of a news report isn’t always easy!

Key Question #1:  Who created this message?

Core Concept #1:  All media messages are constructed

Key Question #2:  What creative techniques are used to attract my attention?

Core Concept #2:  Media messages are constructed using a creative language with its own rules

Grade Level: 9+

Materials: Handout of news story from Poynter Institute; or computer with internet connection, LCD projector and classroom screen

Activity: Hook students by asking them what they know about the Internet as a source for false news reports.  Did they see any false reports for Hurricane Sandy?

Display or distribute the following story on the false report of flooding at the New York Stock Exchange from Poynter Institute, a national organization devoted to teaching the writing and critical reading of news:

http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/mediawire/193564/cnn-weather-channel-inaccurately-report-that-new-york-stock-exchange-is-under-3-feet-of-water/

When students have finished reading the story, ask whether they believe it had been appropriate for Piers Morgan and other CNN commentators to rely on the information they had at their disposal and pass on the story that the NYSE had been flooded.  Why or why not?  Why does it matter?  During the discussion, make sure to ask which sources of information mentioned in the story they believe to be the most credible and why.  Direct their attention to Key Question #1.

Extended Activity:  On the same night that the National Weather Service confirmed that this was a false report, reporters from BuzzFeed, a news and social media site, identified a single Twitter post from a user with the handle @snuglycomfortable as the source.  They also claimed to identify the user.  And indeed, the next day, Shashank Tripathi, a Wall Street hedge fund analyst, tweeted an apology for this and other deliberately misleading posts he made during the storm, and resigned from his position as a manager for a local Congressional campaign.  Ask students, what did Tripathi do wrong?  Should he also have to pay a legal penalty?  Also ask students to consider the medium of Twitter.  Is it reasonable for audiences to trust news from this source, or is it entirely suspect?  Direct students’ attention to Key Questions #1 and #2.


The Five Core Concepts and Five Key Questions of media literacy were developed as part of the Center for Media Literacy’s MediaLit Kit™ and Questions/TIPS (Q/TIPS)™ framework.  Used with permission, © 2002-2012, Center for Media Literacy, http://www.medialit.com




Last Updated ( Saturday, 01 December 2012 14:44 )
 


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