Did your view of media literacy change over the course of the class? How will your consumption of media be affected?
As a result of taking this course, I think I have become a more critical consumer of the media. When I see a commercial, I am hyper-aware of how the product is being positioned in the market, and what types of narratives are being used to play upon the goals and aspirations of the target audience, such as being a 'good mom,' or 'hip and sexy' or even to live pain-free into one's old age. Although I was always aware of advertising, now I am better able to see how advertising works upon the psyche of the consumer. I also notice how certain ads are featured during certain kinds of television programs, or on certain Internet sites, to specifically reach a demographic.
I think I may also be slightly more 'paranoid,' because I have also begun to take note of the frequency with which brands are popping up in my life and the lives of other people. I used to like to think that I was immune to advertising, but we as a society are so affected by corporate culture, from not just the clothing and food we buy, but also in terms of the computers we use, the shows we watch, and the stores we shop, it is hard not to be affected by advertising and branding at least some of the time. Is an iPod really the best MP3 player? Why does my mother swear by Hellmann's mayonnaise and no other brand will do? After a certain point, some brands become so ubiquitous they become a synonym for the products themselves -- they even come to represent the consumer who uses them. Companies have picked up upon this identification of brands with the self, as evidenced in Apple's recent 'Macintosh user' versus 'PC user' ads which show a hip, 'with it' young person to personify the MC, versus a geeky PC user designed to personify the slow and out-of-date PC. Some people even buy products with their favorite brands on them, from Macintosh to Pepsi.
Advertising also seems to be more omnipresent because it is all over the media we use, including our computers and cell phone. The candidates, particularly Barak Obama, were very savvy about this during the past election. Not only did Obama use the media to transmit his message to the public in the form of a highly-anticipated television campaign advertisement, but he also made use of people's cell phones by creating a mailing list of individuals who wanted to hear who his running mate would be, before it was announced to the press. All of the candidates try to 'control' the media, because in terms of whom the media chooses to focus upon, the media is never neutral. Depending on what candidate it fixates its story on, what headlines, and what story, the media can direct public opinion. But the media is not all-powerful -- dispersion of the media into blogs and cable television venues mean that fewer people use the same sources of media. Also, the media does not have unlimited power to set the agenda in terms of news stories -- it could not ignore the recent economic crisis because it affected so many people, for example, even if the actual issues were not very telegenic. On the other hand, however, if certain important issues like government regulation of the banks and the science of global warming were more telegenic, perhaps more people would care about them and they would be given more media exposure before the issues reached crisis proportions.
On a very basic level, being media literate means asking the question of how and why am I the subject of this message, and thinking twice before acting. The more difficult part of being media literate, however, is wondering what stories are not being reported at all even if they are important to know. This is the new level of media scrutiny that all Americans must bring to bear upon the mainstream media and also whatever ideologically oriented segments of the political media they chose to consume.