What is meant by “the media”, and of what use is it to you?
Perhaps the more important question to ask would have to do with not who “they” are but, what their messages have to do with you and your life.
The word “media” is the plural of the word “medium” which means, in its basic sense, “an intervening agency, means, or instrument by which something is conveyed or accomplished” but can be furthermore technically and commonly defined as “one of the means or channels of general communication, information, or entertainment in society, as newspapers, radio, or television.”
As an “instrument” in its most basic sense, it is a vessel of sorts. It is a virtual roadway, a channel, on which flows information. A channel being something that directs flow, as an aqueduct channels water across a city, the media can be looked at as an information “pipeline” of sorts, flowing information in all directions to all who are “hooked in” to the network.
It is a subject which has been sufficiently obfuscated, not only by its own constituent parts but by educational means of trying to define and describe it using intellectual-sounding but rather empty and meaningless nomenclature and descriptives. In other words, and to use plain English, it is neither well-understood nor well-defined or adequately-described to amount to anything.
The treacherous ramifications of such a confused subject, (both in the practical and educational senses, being the center of the world in which we live and the main source for a large majority to “connect” to the world at large) are sufficiently numerous, including ends achieved that can be construed as less-than-ethical to say nothing of the gains and losses for those at both ends of each conveyed message.
Simply-stated, this means the end product can be all-too-easily unethical, misleading and self-serving.
When is a “source” not a source?
From news stories about political turmoil to governmental propaganda, from commercial advertising to outright slander, these channels have been given a reputation to have a life of their own and to even be evil in nature, to be the “source” of information about things.
But all information has a source and this is also a confused subject. What is a source and what is commonly referred to as one can be quite divergent in definition.
Truth has become “flexible” or relative in this media-saturated age, whatever that means. But what basic truths are being told anyway? Is it really important to know what the Kardashians are thinking and what the truth is behind something crazy they did? The fact of the matter is that, if the Kardashians lived up the street and were not famous, it seems not very likely anyone would care about the “truth” of the same situations shown in their show, let alone about anything they do or say.
How to interpret, select and evaluate data from media channels
So before one attempts to gain an understanding of the so-called “constructs” of media, (as the scholars an intellects like to call it while patting themselves on the back for sounding super-intelligent if shallow), and by constructs is really meant “component parts” of it, one should have a basic understanding of truth, not in a spiritual or natural sense, but what specific personal truths are important to carrying out one’s life and which ones are, for lack of a better term, just noise.
The selection of truth should vary from person to person and should contain several component parts in itself. To one so evaluating information, these parts could be summed up as:
1. The importance of the subject matter
2. The value of the subject and applicability
3. The source of the information vs its correct source
4. The practical use of the specific information
5. The effect the information will create
6. The accuracy and completeness of it
One’s ability to assess information according to these criteria is absolutely essential before any media can be intelligently deciphered and then and only then can a study and attempt to understand “the media” be undertaken with the possibility of success.
More news than you can handle… and we hope you choke on it!
The vastness of the “information superhighway” as it has come to be so colloquially called, can be overwhelming. Assuming an average person gets an optimistic 8 hours of sleep per day, with technology advancing as rapidly as it has of late, information is with one for a minimum of 16 hours per day via smartphones, TV, radio, periodicals and internet, not to mention word of mouth which is at an all-time peak in the form of the ever-so-popular social media networks.
This is also considering that with satellite TV playing hundreds of channels 24 hours per day and an internet that never sleeps, people seldom sleep as well and inflow information well in excess of those 16 hours.
What does this mean and how does this help to gain “literacy” in media?
What can be learned and applied from such an outlook? Well, perhaps for the first time, an understanding can be achieved and control can be gotten over this bombardment of information by the individual, each individual you.
Evaluation of information is far more valuable than the scrutiny of media itself. A testament to this fact, the media is described in many texts as being both consciously and unconsciously being constructed by someone to convey a desired meaning rather than a total collection of basic facts, with some material left out to create a slant in the audience, the very distinction of persuasive versus informative. It is even stated that there is a “collaboration” not between source and author, but between author and audience in that the audience has its own perception, virtually giving audiences author’s credit. And then there is the agenda itself, with stories having commercial, social and political implications. Finally, there is the fact that aesthetics are reported to be used in each medium for effect.
While all of these are interesting to look at, none are basic and none help decipher any of the components of personal truth to the audience, the individual trying to navigate the media story jungle.
If one, however, were to look at a story and start with its importance and work down a hierarchy of components, a funnel would be created with large amounts of media entering, but a sifted and refined, manageable amount of information resulting.
To say nothing of lowered stress and sheer savings of time, this would be a much more liveable and useable way to participate in the exchange of information so relied-upon in this current, high-speed-communication society.
Starting at the top of the list, and without even knowing any definitions or terminology within “the media”, ask yourself, “Do I need to know about what really happened with Bill Cosby? Of what value is that information real to me? Is it necessary I know what the royal family is up to in their personal life? What would my own personal life look like under a magnifying glass and on YouTube and TV? At once it becomes clear that there can be a massive reduction in the influx of information just by selecting out a filter.
Perhaps many of these stories are entertaining but even if they are simply interesting, will you ever know the real agenda? Consider that maybe this story is made to make you feel a certain way so that someone may gain something. Ever hear of “any PR is good PR”? (PR=Public Relations)
You are hereby challenged to challenge what you see and hear, to think for yourself and to make decisions about what is and isn’t important and, from the important, what use that information can be and how it will affect you and your life.
You will find no need to study and memorize the component parts of the news, the mass media or whatever they are calling it these days.
And that may be the best news you ever heard!