Media topics

Technology: We exist in a sea of facts and hype. What is the difference between information and knowledge? What is the role of inspiration? Does real “knowledge” involve activism--doing something--commitment?

Trade-offs: Consuming any medium involves benefits and costs, winners, losers and in-betweeners. Do we look for the trade-offs? What about the Internet? How do we use it with the greatest wisdom? How necessary is it? What is important in nourishing a young mind?

Materials: We increasingly rely on “things,” not self-discipline, family, character, morality. Are media partly responsible? Is what we truly value available in the marketplace? Is the power of advertising on the increase?

Gratuitous Violence is presented as reality, forming a culture which emphasizes quick, decisive, often brutal solutions to problems. The cult of violence leads to family violence and loneliness. Canada “bans” the Power Rangers. Why? The research is strong, but fought hard by the entertainment industries’ PR machines. The research on desensitization is even stronger.

Stereotyping: What can improve our outlook on ourselves, life, politics, races, gender, body image, sexual orientation, relationships, teachers, mathematicians, scientists and, even, the concept of sharing power?

Mean Streets: Do we think the world is more dangerous than it is? Much research says so. Why? What is the effect of this fear? Prisons instead of schools? How many times a year does a police officer draw a gun?

Perception of Reality: Is our very notion of reality - science, fact, scientists, gambling, lifestyles, diamonds, oil companies, pharmaceutical companies, Nike and others--manipulated by those who can afford to buy a media image?

Gratuitous Sex: 98% of TV sex (14,000 sexual incidents per teenager per season) involves almost no responsibility, complexity or consequences (or on MTV or the Bachelor, intelligent conversation). Is this right?

Formative Stories: Who tells our kids stories? Why do they? Who used to? Why? What stories are not told?

Mediation vs. Nature: McLuhan vs. McKibben. Example: Nature teaches “limits.” Media say there are none; be “extreme.” The “global village” turns into the global gas station. The Age of Missing Information by Bill McKibben.

Selective vs. habitual viewing: What are the “opportunity costs” of watching for 30 years of eight-hour work days? When technology and media are good, they are very good (and always let us know), but should we beware of the rapidly growing power of all electronic mass media? Should we be concerned about spending 60% of our leisure time watching screens?

Selling Addictions: Do the Coke polar bear, movies, Budweiser’s Dalmatians, Ford, Capt. Crunch, a deluge of impossibly beautiful and slim models, and even McDonald’s sell addictions? As a nation, we increasingly are fatter, poorer educated, more addicted, and take worse care of our children and the less fortunate. Should we change our media “diet?”

TV Raising Children: Should parents watch screens 1,000+ minutes per week, yet engage in significant talk with their children less then 40 min/week?

Pervasive Power: Psychologists suggest that media can thwart even attentive parents’ attempts to instill values in children. Great Transitions: Preparing Adolescents for a New Century (Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development, 1996), a 9-year study. 50% of our kids are now at risk.

Invisible Ministry of Culture: Are huge transnational Corps (Rupert Murdoch, Time-Warner-Turner-AOL, ABC-Disney, AT&T merges with Comcast, DeBeers, Philip Morris, etc.) controlling our realities? Why are diamonds “forever”? Sixty Minutes was told not to put on a tobacco executive. ABC can’t investigate Disney.

Sweatshops? Building planes that the Pentagon does not want. Enron? Who remembers the savings and loan scandal? Is censorship alive in the U.S.?

Democracy: Can we keep it? 4 of 5 campaign dollars spent for TV ads. What do they mean? The politics of personality. The more one watches, the less one knows, but the more on feels one knows! Informed voters? How do our Presidential candidates debate? News? Local news? Seducing America by Roderick Hart. Why do negative campaign ads work? Media inducing cynicism? Leno and Letterman building cynicism? How much political power does the entertainment industry have? Why have laugh tracks?

Growth of cynicism: Mental health, suicide--Michael Medved’s “culture of despair.” Saving Childhood: How to Protect Your Children from the National Assault on Innocence. Are all politicians corrupt? Does activism make one a radical or combat such cynicism? If so, how can we be more active?

Brain Development: Some responsible science says excessive watching inhibits the actual development of mass in the brain’s highest levels. Endangered Minds by Jane Healy & Screen Smarts by Gloria DeGaetano.

Spectators vs. Initiators: To what extent are children and adults active participators in media or receptacles, voyeurs, couch potatoes--sedentary? Is anything happening to imaginations?

Attention spans: Does commercial TV’s fast pacing with 600,000 powerful ads by age 18 shorten attention spans? Mel Levine says it does.

Consumerism: Is more less? People buy Evian with food stamps. Personal and national debt skyrockets! Lotteries; PBS in danger (Is 80 cents/person/year too little?). What is Coke, cable, credit card interest or Capt. Crunch’s per capita cost-over a lifetime?

Confident incompetence: Flattery is everywhere, and it feels good--Everyone has the one correct opinion; Listen to talk radio. What has happened to philosophy and compromise? Famed pediatric developmentalist, Mel Levine says, “Never in history have kids grown up in as anti-intellectual a culture. School is becoming irrelevant.” Is he right?

Value systems: Are we losing logical, moral thinking--psychological stability? Soundbites have replaced critical thinking and meaningful discourse. Opinion becomes fact (preferably shouted a la Crossfire or Hardball).

Sports mania: Should athletes have religious status? When superficial media heroes go south on us, what then? More cynicism? Where else could our cultural attention be? How to get there?

Teaching tolerance: Is it harder with media’s modeling? News? Stereotypes? Gender? Minorities? Age? Looks? Poverty? Empathy? Other cultures?

Advertise Everything? Use of rebellion and flattery feeding teen addictions/sex? “Just Do It;” Is 100,000 alcohol ads by 18 too much? Whose First Amendment is it?

Manipulation: Is quick-cut, too fast to read subliminalism permissible?

Innocent joys: Should kids discover adulthood slowly? Neil Postman, The Disappearance of Childhood.

Art: has always been persuasion, but how does technology multiply its effects. Berger’s Ways of Seeing.

Children’s TV? Small children are good observers, yet poor interpreters. Is it sometimes okay to participate in a myth, knowing it is a myth? In other cases aren’t we conditioning? Pavlov? Some nations ban ads aimed at young children.

Tabloidization of the “News” Breaking the News, by James Fallows. What do/should we expect of citizens? What does Peter Jennings do in his 21 minutes?

Linear analytic skills: Are they still possible in a sea of dissociated, fragmented, trivialized infobytes?

Vocabulary & History: What is the cost of less of both? Communication? Peace? Problem solving? Knowledge of context?

2003 New Mexico Media Literacy Project


Posted by Michael L Umphrey on 06/03 at 06:42 AM
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2005 Montana Heritage Project