Media is defined as a communication tool between two parties who are the sender (reporter) and receiver who is the audience, Media is also the process that is based on introducing the public to the future and the present that is to say how the world is and how the world will become through the greatest by presenting the facts, these pieces of information are being sent to various media outlets, including print, television, newspapers and magazines.

When it comes to the point of our subject “Media literacy” we can define it in short, as the proper way of the analysis of messages; it is about an awareness of why those messages are there. It is not enough to know that they are produced, or even how, in a technical sense, they are presented. To appreciate the significance of contemporary media, we need to know why they are produced, under what constraints and conditions, and by whom.

Media educated youth and adults are better able to analyze the components of the complex messages we receive from television, radio, newspapers, magazines, books, billboards, signs, packaging, marketing materials, video games, recorded music, the Internet and other forms of media. They can understand how these media messages are constructed, and discover how they create meaning – usually in ways hidden under the surface. People who are media literate can also create their media, becoming active participants in our media culture.

Media literacy skills can help children, youth and adults:

  • Understand how media messages create meaning
  • Identify who created a particular media message
  • Recognize what the media maker wants us to believe or do
  • Name the “tools of persuasion” used
  • Discover the part of the story that’s not being told
  • Evaluate media messages based on our experiences, beliefs, and values

Media literacy education helps to promote critical thinking and active participation in our media culture. The goal is to give youth and adults’ greater freedom by encouraging them to access, analyze, evaluate, and why not create media. (Introduction to Media Literacy)

 Before the beginning of the 21st century, the definition of literacy had been used to refer to the abilities to write and reading words which were the only significant conditions to distinguish between the educated and uneducated person. However, with the advanced technologies, new ways of communication, and the tremendous amount of information that bombard individuals and made it more complicated for individuals to deal with today’s information that comes to us through the powerful images and sounds via our multimedia culture.

Sahara Spirit Foundation will define the new concept of literacy with its metaphorical meaning that emerges itself to be used in a critical way to solve the need of the 21st century and to refer to some crucial notions like ‘media literacy’ and ‘information literacy’. As a way of example, media literacy which refers to abilities of understanding and interacting with media messages in a way that can benefit the individuals and the society as a whole to live freely in a world where media messages aim to control the individuals mind as well as to transform them to passive consumers.

Sahara Spirit Foundation on its investigation about how these changes on the level of dealing with information and media messages forced us to be face-to-face with these difficulties and ask a major question that hovers around our subject of the matter which will be raised to in public for the aim of knowledge and society prosperity.
During the last month of 1999, we heard that 2500s would bring with it newly developed items and technologies that make the individuals’ lives easier then, what were in 1990s. The answer to the previous question contains four situations as following:

  • Infinite access to knowledge and information through the tool of internet and multimedia culture.
  • Powerful multimedia information analysis.
  • Real-world, real-time learning from multiple sources, mostly visual and electronic.
  • Emphasis on process skills for lifelong learning rather than content knowledge that may or may not be used in life.

General introduction to media literacy:

Media Literacy definition:

“From the clock radio that wakes us up in the morning until we fall asleep watching the late night talk show, we are exposed to hundreds—even thousands—of images and ideas not only from television but now also from newspaper headlines, magazines covers, movies, websites, video games, and billboards”         Media & Values #57

Throughout the history of communication and information, the process of being informed has been considered a complicated task that needs critical thinking skills from the side of people – consumers- to deal with media messages. From the printed materials in China to the last inventions of web2.0 and smart devices, the whole society is bombarded with millions of media messages that contain different values and concepts which may not be true. According to Dale Peskin, Co-Director of The Media Center “there are three essential means to understand how society is informed. The first one, people – consumers- are so naive and will read, watch, and listen to anything. Secondly, people are always in need for an intermediary tool to inform them. Finally, people are so smart to distinguish between what is correct and what is not if the necessary means is given to them?” (qtd. in we media 5).

In the last recent 40 years, media literacy came as a necessary means for people to help them cope with media messages or media products. More accurately, media literacy is an essential form of competency for the literate civilian who empowers citizens to urge and engage with the media delivered and fully get involved in media culture. Moreover, it is the competence in using numerous media and the qualification to take in regard perilously about them.

Core concepts of media literacy education:

“It is the learning, practicing and mastering of the five key questions -over time – that leads to a thorough understanding of how media are created and what their purposes are along with an informed ability to accept or reject both explicit and implicit messages”            Tessa Jolis, CMI, president.

In Sahara Spirit Foundation we believe that Learning how media messages are formed and the other central facet of media fixtures that dominate the multimedia culture will provide an efficient scanning of these messages for individuals to live candidly. Moreover, being able to understand the core concepts of media messages will lead to better ways of perceiving and interpreting every single piece of news and information that individuals receive.

When the individual looks at the definition of media messages, they are unable to realize that these messages, which represent the only source of information, influence them in such powerful ways.  Consequently, they become passive people who absorb messages in the way they take for granted what they absorb from media. For this reason, media creators and advertisers produce their messages with exquisite implication to seduce consumers to buy products, or believe a lifestyle or ideology. In 1987, a group of teachers from the Ontario Association for Media Literacy (AML) drew up the key concepts of media literacy as a crucial tool to help individuals to establish the necessary framework for better ways of analyzing and evaluating the media that surrounds them. So, the key core concepts of media literacy are the following:

1-all media are “constructions”. Media, by all its forms, is considered the only source of information and the only tool of shaping and re-shaping the individuals’ culture. According to New Mexico media literacy project, our society and culture – even our perception of reality are shaped by the information and images we receive via the media. Although it seems that all the media products are just so neutral, and they reflect the external reality as it is, they are the results of the combination of various talents. To the point, all the messages that we experience are written by a group of talented people, images are captured and edited, and a creative team put them all together to influence the final consumers individuals. On the side of the consumers, they need to ask some crucial question for better understanding of these messages: who created this message? What is its purpose? What assumptions or beliefs do its creators have that are reflected in the content? Finally, media literacy works towards deconstructing these constructions.

 

2-media messages are constructed using creative language with its rules. Media as the other means of communication has its language that is used in the communication process between media creators and consumers. More implicitly, media creators of all forms use creative language and techniques to attract and influence the individuals. For the sake of explanation, this creative language involves various techniques and items as colors, images, and language; also it includes all the aspects or the elements of a language from grammar to syntax. Educationally speaking, in this case, consumers are urged to develop their way of reading this creative language by understanding how these media messages are created and how these combinations are done to reach beyond the logical of the deepest emotional core.

3-Different people experience the same media message differently. As audiences and media consumers, we differ from each other in interpreting media messages by bringing out our beliefs, values, social and cultural backgrounds. Psychologically speaking, each media consumer relates his experience with every media message that he examines. According to center for media literacy’s manual, each audience brings to the media text a unique set of life’s experience like age, gender, education, cultural upbringing, etc. however, this core concept turns the tables on the idea of the media consumers are just passive by showing the  consumers’ abilities to   interact with, and understand the media messages. More than that, the ability to answer the following questions determine how the individuals can be safe from the negative impact of media products: have you ever experienced anything like this? How to close does it comes to what you experienced in real life?  How many other interpretations could there be? How can you explain the different responses? Are other viewpoints just as valid as mine?

4-Media have embedded values and points of view. Within this core concept, three main important issues are questioned: value, bias, and the connotation of the represented items. Generally speaking, all media messages hold implicit and explicit messages that are shaped by the creators’ ideologies and perspectives. Media creators, while preparing or better to say constructing these messages, are putting the most interest in shaping and reshaping all the aspects of our culture. As a way of example, the different representations of women in media have been constructed according to the ideology of the media creators; we can find someone who believes that women are equal as men, which is clearly seen in his message or product. Also, we find someone who is representing women badly. In this context, media creators need to be so neutral while constructing the content of their messages. More importantly, media was used as an effective tool for politicians to reshape the ideologies of their target society for their main benefits.
5- Media is constructed to gain profit and power. The last, but not the least, gaining profit and power have been the two main aims of media ownership throughout the history of mass media. Firstly, media ownership concentrates on gaining profits by commercializing all its programs in which it turns to become that entrepreneurship project selling goods and products for the society. In this case, media content creators focus on how they can influence the individuals to buy their product which results in forgetting about their noble mission to inform individuals. Not far from this point, gaining control and power are also what media ownership is aiming to achieve. More implicitly, most of the governments use media as their effective tool to control their societies through TV programs in which they transmit their ideologies. According to Noam Chomsky, if you want to control your society’s members, give them a strong media (media control). Concisely, there are no noble media that exists for the sake of informing individuals without controlling their minds and pockets.

Critical thinking skills for media literacy:

“People need to know more than core subjects. They need to know how to use their knowledge and skills – by thinking critically, applying knowledge to new situations, analyzing information, communicating, collaborating, solving problems, making decisions…. (They) need to become lifelong learners, updating their knowledge and skills continually and independently.”  Rene Hobbs, Ed.D.

According to Sahara Spirit Foundation, critical thinking skills are the key success elements for individuals to deconstruct and analyze media content. More importantly, the four skills and competencies enable the individuals to deconstruct media content step-by-step and matching what they find to their experience in a logical manner. According to Stella Cottrell, “critical thinking gives you the tool to use skepticism and doubt constructively so that you can analyze what is before you?”(2). So critical thinking towards media content can involve four main skills as the followings:

Access which is the first needed skills for individuals to get and understand media content to which they are entitled to gather all that they need from it. As a way of example, they have to pick all the elements mentioned in the advertisement if they are doing advertisement analysis. Furthermore, it deals also with getting different sources of media content for the same piece of news that makes it easy for the individuals to distinguish between reliable and unreliable sources. In the end, individuals become able to identify: the main source of data from various sources; other people’s positions; arguments, and conclusions.

Analyze comes as the second main step towards understanding media messages. When people analyze media messages, they show their ability to test the design of the message’s form, structure, and sequence. According to Bloom’s taxonomy, analyzing is breaking information down into its components.

Evaluate: According to Oxford Dictionary of Media and Communication, in mass media research, evaluation might refer to a viewer or listener’s evaluation of a fictional character (as Livingstone’s research into viewers of the UK television soap opera Coronation Street (1960-) or to the positive evaluation associated with the attractiveness or likeability of the source in advertising endorsement. Also, while people are evaluating media messages, they are relating their experiences and background to make judgments about the reality, relevance, and quality of the analyzed messages.

Creating which is seen to be the last skill for individuals to complete the task of understanding media content. In this sense, the concrete meaning of creating is the individuals’ ability to reconstruct all the analyzed elements from the previous skills to create the well organized piece of news that will benefit the society. All in all, presenting what they find is a fundamental phase in which they are required to use all the accumulated skills in a smart way.

The importance of media literacy in the 21st century:

Throughout the development’s history of storytelling, people have upgraded numerous approaches of transmitting their messages via different channels. Precisely, it started with Archeology when it comes to cave painting to TV and smart devices in which we conceive and perceive all the pieces of information that we see and hear each moment. As it is mentioned earlier, the means has changed, but the desire to convey the message remained the same, that’s why media literacy appeared as the adequate tool to guide individuals to avoid all the broadcasted ideals and codes of media creators and so on. Furthermore, we believe in Sahara Spirit Foundation that media literacy is highly recommended for individuals to participate freely in democratic societies, enhance their personal growth, and reproduce well-informed media content.

On the level of citizenship: in a multimedia society where democratic activities are done through the presence of the media by its different forms, people are obliged to acquire two crucial skills: critical thinking and self-expression. As a way of illustrating this point, individuals during the election period are the target spot of different political messages through radio, TV, and internet in which their skills of critical thinking are tested in analyzing and evaluating what they receive and express their thoughts in a well-organized form that will inform the other individuals. More importantly, media literacy is highly recommended in the 21st century because of the influence of media messages on shaping perceptions, beliefs, and attitudes. In the end, individuals can think critically and express themselves in an informed way which enables them to be democratically engaged within their societies.
On the level of accessing information: because of the increasing number of media consumption, individuals receive the same piece of news with different interpretations in different forms from different sources, which is the opposite state of the mass communication’s beginning that was limited only to printed materials, now the individuals’ lives are increasingly influenced by the power of images and videos. Consequently, media literacy came to help them learn how to deal with this huge amount of information, how to find what they need to know when they need to know it, and whether it is useful for what they need or not.

In Sahara spirit Foundation our mission through Media Literacy is to build a global network of sustainable and salable social enterprises that improve the critical thinking of the individuals, we believe that empowering the critical thinking among society will make a positive impact on human development as critical thinking is the reflecting which seeks to raise questions about existing real world issues which are not clearly defined and for which there are no clear answers.

We’re empowering the people to improve the policies that affect their lives and build a future where the possibilities, opportunities and dreams are the same for all.

The article made by Mr.Hassan Elhammouchi