Media literacy is the talent or capacity to analyze and discern information that informs, sells goods or services or entertains people via the media on a daily basis. It is about understanding and using critical thinking skills to absorb everything that concerns buying through the media, such as advertisements for products placed in films, virtual displays on sports boards as well as music videos. It is about noticing what is placed in front of you and having the ability to ask the right questions about the motives and the values. It is about realizing the influence these items have on the content.
Media literacy involves the crucial understanding of the mass media. It entails examining the institutions that are involved in the production, the technologies and techniques that went into bringing the product to the masses. It is the capability to analyze from a critical point of view the messages that are being transmitted, albeit subtly, and realizing the role played by the audience in making meaningful assumptions from those messages. Media literacy looks to delegate citizens and to convert their apathetic relationship with the media to a critical active engagement that may have an influence on the media. It would like to empower the audience to challenge the structures and traditions of the commercialized private media culture and to find new ways to begin citizen dialogue and discourse.
Media literacy is a very broad term that includes three stages of knowledge and realization about the power of the media. The first stage is being cognizant of the importance of managing one's daily dose of media exposure; deciding how long to spend each day with television, films, electronic games, videos and print media, and perhaps to reduce that intake.
The second stage entails the acquiring of the special learning skills of critical viewing and in learning how to analyze, question and evaluate what is seen in each frame, what is the message, how is it fashioned and what if anything has been omitted. The best avenue for acquiring critical viewing skills is through interactive group discussions and through inquiry-based classes.
The third stage involves the political, social and economic analysis aspects and explores the deeper meaning of the frames and delves into the facts and thoughts behind each frame. The kind of questions asked are who produced this item and what is the purpose of this production; who decides, who profits and who loses. In this stage one also tries to understand how the mass media has such an effect on the world consumer economy and what meaning most people make from this media experience. Grasping and understanding the true meaning behind the media production and what its goals are can lead the way to challenging and redressing of public policy or other corporate practices.
The practices and principles of media literacy are not limited to the electronic media, but are also applicable from everything from print media to billboards to the Internet and even to t-shirts.
Media literacy is more than reading and writing. To be media literate in our media-saturated environment, adults and children must have the ability to read and grasp the messages that sell to us, inform us and entertain us every moment of the day. With the explosion of the Internet which is becoming an integral part of daily life, critical thinking skills have become extremely important in order to navigate through traditional media.
The goal of the media is to sell public consciousness. They try not only to get the people in the audience to buy a certain product, but simply to get them to buy. People who are media literate realize this concept and understand that the media wants to transmit information, news and ideas from another person's perspective. Media literate people know that special techniques are used that carry with them emotional effects and they are capable of identifying and recognizing those techniques and their intended effects. They know that the media are there to benefit only some people and media-literate people can decipher that hidden information and try to understand who benefits and for what reason. Media literate people know how to use the media for their enjoyment and advantage and at times utilize other sources of entertainment and information.