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CHAPT CHAPTER ER 2 Media Literacy and Culture LEARNING OBJECTIVES Literacy has historically been associated with power and success. Literate people have the advantage in the cultures in which they live. With the coming of mass communication, the definition of literacy has been broadened, but its value has not changed. After studying this chapter you should n be familiar with the development of written and mass-mediated communication. n understand the relationship between communication and culture. n understand the relationship between literacy and power. n recognize how technologies change the cultures that use them. n recognize how mass media technologies have changed the definition of literacy. n be aware of the overarching relationships between different mass media and culture, themes to be examined in detail in later chapters. n understand media literacy. n possess the basis for developing good media literacy skills. n be encouraged to practice media literacy. B ABY-SITTING YOUR 3-YEAR-OLD NIECE WAS NOT HOW YOU wanted to spend your Saturday night. But family is family, so here you are, watching television with a little kid. “What do you want to watch?” you ask. “MTV!” she cheers. “No. You’re too young.” “Friends!” “No. It’s too sexy for little kids like you.” “Mommy lets me watch.” “Are you telling me the truth?” “No. How ’bout HBO?” “Compromise. How about Disney?” “What means compromise?” “It means we’ll watch Disney.” You punch up the Disney Channel with the remote and settle in to watch what looks like an adolescent action show. Three preteen sleuths are in a low-speed car chase, pursuing a bad guy of some sort. When the chase takes them into a car wash, your niece asks, “Why are they dreaming?” “What?!” “Why are those people dreaming?” “They’re not dreaming.”
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“Then why is the picture going all woosie-like?” “That’s not woosie-like. That’s the brushes in the car wash going over the windshield. The camera is showing us what they’re seeing. It’s called POV, point of view. It’s when the camera shows what the characters are seeing.” “I know that! But why are they dreaming? When the picture goes all woosie-like, it means that the people are dreaming!” “Says who?” “Says everyone. And when the music gets louder, that means the show’s gonna be over. And when the man talks real loud, that means it’s a commercial. And when stars and moons come out of the kitty’s head, that means it hurts.” “Can we just be quiet for a little bit?” “And when there’s blood, it’s really catsup. And when the. ..” “If I let you watch MTV, will you quiet down?” “Cool. Deal.” “Are you really only 3?” “And a half.” In this chapter we investigate how we can improve our media literacy skills. Before we can do this, however, we must understand why literacy, in and of itsel f, is important. Throughout history, literacy has meant power. When communication was primarily oral, the leaders were most often the best storytellers.
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