Media Literacy Art Education: Logos, Culture Jamming and Activism

By Chung, Sheng Kuan; Kirby, Michael S. | Art Education, January 2009 | Go to article overview

Media Literacy Art Education: Logos, Culture Jamming and Activism


Chung, Sheng Kuan, Kirby, Michael S., Art Education


American youth live in a world saturated with popular media constructs that not only sway them into purchasing and consuming, but also influence how they experience and learn about the world. Widely disseminated media constructs1 such as advertisements and TV commercials often serve as ideological sites that shape children's perceptions of reality as they formulate attitudes, beliefs, and values. Indeed, Americans immerse themselves in a media-infused culture of consumption manufactured and controlled by megacorporations.

Recent proponents of visual culture art education such as Anderson and Milbrandt (2004), Duncum (2001), and Freedman and Schüler (2002) assert that all visual cultural forms are sites of ideological struggles, representations of cultural practice, and embodiments of social reality. These art educators, along with contemporary media educators (Buckingham, 2000; Jenkins, 1997) advocate critical approaches to media education that validate and utilize student's knowledge and skills as media users by empowering them to critically reflect upon their everyday aesthetic experiences and acts of cultural consumption. Additionally, several current art education articles (Chung, 2005, 2007a, 2007b, 2007c; Jolis & Grande, 2005) feature an integrative art pedagogy that fosters media literacy, aesthetic sensitivity, and critical faculties. Critical media literacy art education teaches students to (1) appreciate the aesthetic qualities of media, (2) critically negotiate meanings and analyze media culture as products of social struggle, and (3) use media technologies as instruments of creative expression and social activism (Kellner & Share, 2005). The importance of such pedagogy lies in its goals of preparing children and youth to function in a predominantly "mediated" society saturated with manufactured media constructs.

In concert with art education practices oriented toward critical media literacy, this article explores the power of logos in visual/media communication and the concepts of "subvertising"2 culture jamming, and media activism. It also describes a media literacy art project developed and implemented in a middle school art classroom. This project allowed public school youngsters to question the domination of corporate America over media advertising and programming and how it plays a central role in influencing what people consume, experience, and believe in their everyday lives. The project further involved them in deconstructing media constructs through logo design, subvertising, and culture jamming. The students applied what they learned to create subvertisements that raise public awareness of important social issues ranging from global warming to cyber safety, consumption and obesity, to child abuse and homelessness.

Logos in Visual/Media Communication

In visual/media communication, a logo is a graphic symbol that allows the consumer to locate a product, service, place, or company. The use of logos as trademarks in distinguishing goods existed as long as there have been traders and merchants. However, logos and slogans we know today first appeared at the beginning of the 20th century, as the industrial revolution and media reproduction processes gained momentum (Jhally & Alper, 2003). Until the industrial revolution, local merchants produced commercial products by hand and on a small scale. With the invention of machines and vehicles, the same products could be manufactured on a large scale in a central location and later distributed to different locations (Klein, 2000). For companies to succeed in this newly competitive marketplace, it was important that their products be easily and immediately recognized. But at that time, a significant portion of the population was still illiterate and skeptical of "outsiders" (Klein, 2000). One solution was for companies to include a logo (i.e., a symbol, sign, or emblem) on their products, labels, and packages that buyers could recognize. …

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