Visual Languages and Critical Media Literacy

Semali, Ladislaus. “Ways with Visual Languages: Making the Case for Critical Media Literacy.” The Clearing House July/August 2003: 271-77. Web. 1 May 2012.

steampunk_archive_icon_by_yereverluvinuncleber-d5jsav0“Although print media continues to dominate… our lives are increasingly influenced by visual images… Learning how to ‘read’ the multiple layers of image-based communication, media languages, and Internet technologies is becoming a necessary adjunct to traditional print literacy” (271).

“explosion of media literacies has outpaced our pedagogy” (271)

“[E]xamination needs to go beyond the aesthetics, modes, and forms present in the visual work, artifact, or text and locate them in their social and political contexts as well” (271).

“This critical perspective acknowledges the ‘intermedial’ nature (the interconnectedness of multiple forms of mass media and Internet technologies) of the world students live in today” (271).

“[T]exts are copied, pasted, excerpted, morphed, revised, annotated—to offer a web of meanings and new opportunities for constructive engagement with them (Fetterman 1998)” (271).

define media literacy as one’s ability to access, experience, evaluate, and produce media products. However, I must add that in this context, media are seen to represent actual events, but those representations are subjective and incomplete. They are subjective because each individual interprets media messages or stories differently and consequently draws different meanings from the same message. They are incomplete because every iteration of questioning a text means penetrating the layers of the texts. [Meaning]…we consciously engage in a systematic inquiry…symbols… functions; … structure… power; articulate the meaning as whatever it communicates to us within our social context; appreciate that we will not arrive at a definitive interpretation; and come to a deeper understanding that unpacks the contradictions and dilemmas furnished by the text. (Semali 274)

“Media literacy aims to move audiences from awareness to action, from passivity to engagement, from denial to acceptance of responsibility for what each of us can do as individuals…” (275).

National organizations for media literacy “advocate independent media-making as a critical part of a democratic society and vibrant culture” (275).

“As discussed elsewhere (Semali 2001), ‘visual literacy,’ ‘Internet literacy,’ and ‘media literacy’ are often used interchangeably” (275).

typing“media literacy becomes a process of analyzing, comparing, interpreting, and making sense of texts in a way that is different from the usual, routine, and preferred meaning” (275).

“[S]tudent production in the newer media—hypertext, multimedia, the Web—must be encouraged and undertaken with an awareness of the unique strengths and limitations of these media” (276).

[A]s teachers increasingly integrate the new media into their curricula, they need to establish a set of working criteria to evaluate commercial media products for use by their students and to assess the media productions of their own students in a developmentally appropriate fashion. Yet few teachers have been provided with much opportunity to develop a language, a set of useful concepts, with which to think critically about the form as well as the content of these new multimedia texts. (Semali 276).

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