Media Studies sustaining mental environments

By Francis Rodriguez,2014-04-15 15:20
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Media Studies sustaining mental environments

Article and reviews (reviews follow the article)

    Media Studies: sustaining mental environments

    Withstanding the onslaught of consumer culture requires that students be wise to the persuasive power of mass media. Michael Maser offers a multidisciplinary prescription for media literacy.

by Michael Maser

    THIS CENTURY HAS seen the development of more communications technology than all the centuries that preceded. The outcome of these developments, late in the century, is that human society has become a testing ground for numerous electronic media

    television, video, radio, movies, computer software, cassettes, compact discs, laser discs... all of it powerful, yet ushered into our society at the time of development without debate of the consequences.

    The creators of this media would have the public believe that technologies are neutral or value-free, that it is the uses to which technologies are put which should be critically reviewed.

    Such a review reveals that Western industrialized societies (and especially young people) have become subsumed by media, much of it electronic. Yet most people know little of the methods by which media are constructed and delivered, nor are they aware of the profound influences media may be having on their lives.

    Further research points to rocketing growth in the last decade by the advertising, marketing and public relations industries which have increasingly manipulated media technology, and especially television. The most common purpose behind these developments is commercial. Thus, plugged in as we are, we have become consumers (receptacles?) of enormous quantities of media messages customized to sell us something: products, lifestyles, entertainments, ideas. Additionally, commercial interests have come to dominate sporting events, music videos, Hollywood movies packaged on VHS, cartoons, `educational‘ programs, and the content of news shows.

    This commercial blitzkrieg has forged significant impact on our lives and lifestyles, the consequences of which are open to speculation: Are we better informed or better manipulated? Does the consumer lifestyle represent a positive human development or have we become crushed under a mountain of non-essential goods and information? For how much longer can an economy based on excessive consumption and waste production be sustained after we liquidate our old-growth forests, and pollute our fresh water and clean air?

    Governments and school administrators have been very slow to respond to the varnishing of our society by electronic media although some of the implications are painfully evident. Our schools, and young people today, are experiencing increased violence,

    sexism, racism, illiteracy, medical and health problems, suicide, and societal dislocation, which can all be linked to excessive media consumption. In the future their quality of life may suffer because our media-driven commercial culture has jeopardized the sustainability and availability of resources.

    Young people are also dropping out of secondary schools in high numbers. One reason is the irrelevance of secondary education to young people its failure to confer meaning

    on their lives, to make sense of modern culture, to offer strategies of empowerment over domineering media and some of the most debilitating forces they wrestle against.

    TEACHING ABOUT the media is one antidote to these failings of the curriculum. Discussion-centred media studies enhance students‘ literacy through the teaching of media production and values. Once students become aware of the powerful, personal and goal driven links the media forges with its audience, students can better understand popular culture and control their (media) consumption habits.

    Media studies can be implemented meaningfully as early as kindergartern, and every year following, in every subject. Students relish opportunities to discuss, debate and write about their experiences, and there are a range of media-based subjects for investigation. Finally, there are opportunities for students to create their own media campaigns and reach out in meaningful ways to peers, and to school and local communities. Teaching effectively about media is best done on an inquiry basis by following divergent questioning and allowing students to discuss and seek a range of answers. Commonly, teachers don‘t know the answers to many student questions about media; this is perfectly acceptable, yet there are many excellent periodicals, newsletters, texts and organizations that can offer support.

    If you wish to support the formal inclusion of media studies in your curricula, Ontario is the model to follow as they represent the only jurisdiction to mandate media studies, taught as part of the English program in grades 7-12. Most other provinces have bodies of educators, newly formed or otherwise, that are lobbying educational ministries for the inclusion of media studies. US administrators, sad to say, are reluctant to endorse media studies, but teachers are enthusiastic. Overseas, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Israel and several Latin American countries have endorsed media studies in conventional curricula. In support of Richard Mitchell who contends ―true education is not an adjustment to the world but a defense against it,‖ the time is now when we must recognize that our mental environment is as polluted as our physical environment, and develop effective educational strategies in response. Avoiding this responsibility means nothing less than the failure of educators to help the younger generation understand the nature of modern culture and defend themselves against debilitating effects of the media. Media studies in schools offer hope for sustainability.

Suggestions For Implementing Environment-Focussed Media Studies

    Social Studies

    ; Debate and assess the influence of media on significant environmental events

    such as wars, migrations, agricultural development and urban growth

    ; Investigate the impact of media on environmentalism

    ; Create and implement media campaigns focusing on a subject or issue of

    students‘ choice


    ; Examine media culture and assess its mental and physical impact ; Determine which human actions can be linked to media consumption and assess

    the environmental ramifications

    ; Discover the nature of the advertising/marketing industry and assess the

    implications of excessive resource consumption

    ; Create and implement media campaigns focusing on a subject or issue of

    students‘ choice

    ; Teach peers and other students about media

    ; Sharpen critical skills pertaining to media, advertising and marketing


    ; Investigate and compare various media-derived images of foreign cultures ; Assess the commercial interests behind media-driven images of foreign culture ; Assess the impact of media on foreign cultures

    ; Assess the impact of media on natural resources

    ; Investigate the influence of media on resource management and conservation


    ; Create and implement media campaigns focusing on a subject or issue of

    students‘ choice

    Science & Technology

    ; Investigate the role and influence of contemporary media on issues related to

    science, technology and the environment

    ; Assess the limitations of media presentations on

    ; environmental issues

    ; Debate and assess the environmental impact of technologies

    ; Assess the willingness of the media to promote

    environment-friendly products or technologies (i.e. solar power, widespread

    bicycle transportation, etc.)

    ; Create and implement media campaigns focusing on a subject or issue of

    students‘ choice


    ; Investigate, debate and assess the links between (excessive) media consumption

    and violence, sexism, racism, medical, health problems, and environmental


    ; Discover the physical responses to media consumption and assess long-term

    health consequences

    ; Assess the influence of advertising and health and lifestyle choices ; Create and implement media campaigns focusing on a health-related subject or



    ; Investigate, debate and assess the environmental impact of media production and


    ; Create and implement media campaign focusing on a subject or issue of students‘


    ; Business/Commerce

    ; Investigate and assess the impact of media on management and conservation of

    natural resources

    ; Assess the role of the media in promoting or informing the public about

    environment-related business issues

    ; Assess the role of the media in promoting or informing the public about

    `alternative‘ environmental-friendly products or technology

    ; Create and implement media campaigns focusing on a subject or issue of

    students‘ choice

    ; Resources for media studies


    Adbusters Quarterly, The Media Foundation, 1243 W. 7th Avenue, Vancouver, BC, V6H 1B7, (604) 736-9401, $16/year individuals, $32/year institutions. (Alternative media critiques, media literacy, lesson plans, activist strategies, grades 7 and up.) Mediacy newsletter, Association for Media Literacy, 40 McArthur Street, Weston, Ontario, M9P 3M7, (416) 394-6990, membership $20/year. (Teacher-focused, media literacy and resource information)

    Clipboard newsletter, Jesuit Communication Project, #500-<M%-1>10 Mary St., Toronto, Ontario, M4Y 1P9, (416) 923-7271

    (media literacy and conference information)

    Blinkity-Blank newsletter, National Film Board, contact your regional office (film, television, video deconstruction projects, grades 9 and up)

    Media and Values Quarterly, Centre for Media and Values, 1962 S. Shenandoah, Los Angeles, California, 90034, (215) 559-2944. (Teacher-parent media literacy information, lesson plans)

    The Media Mess-age newsletter, Train of Thought, Inc., Box 311, Redmond, Washington 98073-0311, (206) 883-1544. (Teacher-parent media literacy information, resource reviews, lesson plans)

    Strategies newsletter, Strategies for Media Literacy,

    #410-1095 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94103, (415) 621-2911. (Media literacy information, elementary curriculum guide, Media and You)

    Telemedium newsletter, National Telemedia Council, Inc., 120 East Wilson St., Madison, WI 53703, (608) 257-7712. (Media literacy information, conference information) Jump Cut magazine, Box 865, Berkeley, CA 94701

    (Alternative film, television and mainstream media critique, grades 11+) The Comics Journal, Fantagraphic Books, 7563 Lake City Way N.E., Seattle, WA 98115.

    (Comprehensive comics review and criticism, grades 10+)

    Recommended Texts

Media Literacy Resource Guide, 1989, Ontario Ministry of Education, contact the

    Association for Media Literacy, 40 McArthur, Weston, Ontario, M9P 3M7, (416) 394-6990

    Media Images and Issues, Addison-Wesley Ltd., 1989.

    Taming the Wild Tube: A Family’s Guide to Television and Video, 1991, R. Schrag,

    University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, NC.

Films and Videos for Secondary Level Media Studies

    Calling the Shots: The Advertising of Alcohol (Cambridge Documentary Films, 1982,

    28 min.): Students are quite fascinated by air-blown images of penises in ice cubes, ―death wish‖ imagery, and the selling of success and sexuality. Highly recommended for

    grade 11+.

    Killing Us Softly: Advertising’s Image of Women (NFB, 1979, 28 min.) and Still Killing

    Us Softly (NFB , 1987, 30 min.): The psychological impact of advertising and its role in perpetuating negative images of women. A good primer for students and teachers on how to deconstruct ads; stimulates discussion about stereotyping and the media‘s power to shape attitudes and behaviour.

    Media and Society (NFB, 1989): Three videos for secondary schools: 1) Advertising and Consumerism (80 min.) - Techniques of persuasion, the media‘s shaping of values and ambitions, the relationship between corporate interests and TV programming. 2) Cultural Sovereignty/ Shaping Information (95 min.) - Connections between power, politics and the news media, forces that shape and distort information. 3) Images of Women (54 min.)

    - Relationship between media images and the way women see themselves and are defined by others.

    Rich, Thin and Beautiful (Films, Inc., 1983, 60 min.):

    A documentary suggesting that the fashion industry has turned us into a society obsessed with physical beauty and self-improvement, often to the point of self-mutilation. Stale Roles and Tight Buns: Images of Men in Advertising (Canadian Learning, 1989,

    30 min.): Examines the myths, promulgated by advertising, that define the North American male.

    The Thirty-Second Dream (Mass Media Miniseries, 1978, 15 min.): Looks at the

    standard appeals used in

    advertising and how advertisers create unrealistic <M%-1>expectations, false ―needs,‖

    and a desire for instant gratification.

    The World Is Watching (NFB, 59 min.): A Genie Award winning documentary which

    looks at who decides what‘s news; how news gets distorted; and the pressure placed on journalists by deadlines, demands for sensationalism, and editorial decisions often made far from the action. Focuses on journalists working in Nicaragua. An abridged version is available under the title Only the News That Fits (NFB, 1989, 30 min.).

    The following are the guidelines that our reviewers followed when writing their critiques. You may find that knowing what our reviewers were looking for provides some context when reading

    their reviews.

    (actual reviews to follow)

What am I looking for?

    a) From an educator‘s point of view, how useful are the perspectives, information or curriculum ideas presented in the article?

    b) What, if anything, is uniquely valuable in the article? (We want to know whether the article contains useful ideas, information or perspectives that one would not readily find in other resources.)

    c) Comment on the currency and regionality of the article: Is any information out of date? Is the information too specific to a particular place? Please be specific, i.e., say what exactly is out of date, and/or comment on why the place-specific nature of the article would reduce its value for readers in other regions.

d) How clearly written, well-organized and well-developed is the article?

    e) What improvements can you recommend? (This is wide open and includes writing style, organization, development of ideas, illustrations, updating…any and all improvements that you can think of.)

    f) Please make any additional comments not elicited by the above questions and give a summary opinion on whether or not you think the article should be included in the book.

    Note: You do not need to point out typographical errors, as these will be fixed in editing. In addition, please ignore page references in the text (such as “see sidebar on page 36”). These numbers refer to pages in the issue of Green Teacher in which the article originally was published; they do not match the numbering of this draft. Finally, please note that a blank space on a page is simply a spot where an ad was originally placed in the magazine layout; it does not mean that something is missing from the article.


Media Studies: Sustaining Mental Environments

    by Michael Maser

    p. 147 Media studies: + good for college, - not something I could see being used in

     high school or community (NO) AA

P. 166 ―Media‖ – This article is totally irrelevant. Chop. DK

166 Media Studies- Maintaining mental environments

    a. I liked this introduction to the importance of media as a part of ‗the varnishing of our

    society‘ but I found it superficial and felt it did not fully embrace the idea at the end of the article which stated “Media studies in schools offers hope for sustainability.

    b. It presents an important idea that we have become unwitting consumers of enormous quantities of media messages selling us things.

c. Canada-centric- refers to Ontario being the model to follow.

d./e Clearly written but not well developed. I found the list of “Suggestions for

    implementing Environmentally focussed Media Studies” daunting rather than helpful. Eg the first example is “Debate and assess the influence of media on significant events such as wars, migrations, agricultural development and urban growth.

    Another example-

    Assess the impact of media on foreign cultures”.

    It‟s just too big.

    The Resources for Media Studies included a list of 10 newsletters 4 from Canada and 6 from US and 3 texts 1989 and 1991. I wonder about the currency of the newsletters as they have no dates. There are no web sites listed.

    This article could go well as an introduction to another piece which develops media studies and includes strategies and media literacy for teachers, but this is not included in the draft.

    I do not think this article should be included in its present state. With modifications it may work as an intro to the following article(Global Morning) NS

Page 166 “Media Studies: Sustaining Mental Environments”—

    The article presents a useful perspective and broad list of suggestions.

    Many of the Language Arts textbook publishers are including materials for teaching about the media.

    Unfortunately, the video/film list is very dated. Surely there are more recent possibilities out there1989 was the most recent listing. If we are going to talk media with our high school students, we will of course be using videos, and they‘d best be up-

    to-date unless we are going for the historical perspective. CB

    "Media Studies: Sustaining Mental Environments" How needed these studies are! This article is the base for a whole semester of studies with a book to go along with it. The next Green Teacher book project? JC2

Media Studies: Sustaining Mental Environments (pg 166) Notes

How useful are the perspectives from an educator point of view?

    Many educators are well aware of the level of media over-consumption and saturation in today‘s students, but Maser‘s article is certainly still relevant. Any educator who has competed for attention with cell phones, e-mails, and television programs knows that there cannot be enough time spent on this subject matter.

What, if anything, is uniquely valuable in the article?

    This is the only article in the book dealing with this subject matter.

Currency/regionality of the article: is anything out of date?


    How clearly written, well organized and well developed is the article? The article is well written.

What improvements can you recommend?

    The claims in the first section could be backed up by an appendix of research sources. In addition, the section listing suggestions for implementation is rather general. This is not inherently bad, but the article could be strengthened by adding more detail on activities to accompany the questions posed. JK2

Media Studies

    a) Extremely useful article. A must keep! This one encourages students to take a critical look at several aspects of their lives. Also, to begin to question what they see in the media. This is a subject which we should, as teachers, address in all of our courses and this article will be a great help in doing so.

    b) Very important resource to get students to a look at the media - a message they will NEVER get from conventional (i.e., most commercial) media.

    c) This article is timeless and independent of region.

    d) Very well written. Covers the issue well without getting bogged down in details. The resources section is very useful. Are the resources details current? e) One improvement would be to provide some examples. Although many good points are made, some examples would be helpful to serve as models to direct discussion and spark student thought.

    f) Definitely worthwhile keeping as it is important for students to be aware, educated consumers TG

Media Studies: Sustaining Mental Environments

    The article itself does have much substance. The general idea is clear but is has little specifics or catchy facts. Sadly, media is probably has a greater influence on youth than teachers do and so it is super important to teach youth to be critical of the information they gather in the newspapers, on the internet or on television. I really like how it offers questions for reflection and other ways to integrate media studies into various areas of the curriculum. I also like how it includes a list of resources for resources on media studies. TM

p.166 Media Studies. I also found this article to be very good, with excellent resources

    (which could be updated for the book). I would really like to see Media Studies in the

    book as it is such an engaging entrée to the issues, and will only grow in popularity, I think. CR

     stArticle is dated. This is now the 21 century. Again his article pulls us into segmented

    learning. Both using and reprimanding the media for its impact on students must center on our unwillingness to think for ourselves. There is a whole new genre of media being undertaken by narrative journalism and „new journalism‟ that centers us once again by putting place and character back into our immediate environment. If this articles runs it must be tailored to be more current. GH

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