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Media Literacy  

Renee Hobbs

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Communication. Please check back later for the full article. The concept of media literacy has been circulating in the United States and Europe since the beginning of the 20th century as a means to acknowledge the set of knowledge, skills, and habits of mind required for full participation in a contemporary media-saturated society. The concept continues to morph and change as a result of rapid changes in digital media, mass media, social media, popular culture, and society. There are a number of competing approaches to media literacy in the United States and around the world. But the acquisition of digital and media literacy competences cannot be conceptualized merely as a set of technical and operative skills; rather, these competencies are embedded in a process of cultural change. Empowerment and protection have long been identified as the two overarching themes in the media literacy education community, reflecting a dynamic and generally productive tension between those who see media literacy education as a means to address the harms, risks, and challenges of growing up in a media and technology-saturated cultural environment and those who see media literacy as a tool for personal, social, cultural, and political empowerment. Contributing to these distinctive perspectives is the rise of a community of scholars and practitioners who conceptualize media literacy as an expansion of literacy, which has traditionally been understood as the sharing of meaning through spoken and written language. Media literacy can also be understood as a form of advocacy or as a social movement, aimed in particular at young adults, children, and parents; many see it as a specialized academic field associated with either media studies or education. A set of key concepts and core principles have been developed as a result of increased contact among members of the media literacy community, through national and international conferences and increased publication in academic journals. These concepts emphasize the relationship between authors and audiences, messages and meanings, and representation and reality. Among educational practitioners and scholars, an interest in media literacy pedagogy has developed to explore how critical analyses of media texts, tools, and technologies are integrated into elementary, secondary, and higher education, as well as in libraries, museums, and other informal learning settings. As media literacy has entered the education and cultural system, a number of policy issues have emerged. The rise of media literacy in Europe, led by a mandate from the European Commission, has exacerbated an interest in examining policy issues that either support or limit the implementation of media literacy education in relation to economic development or the preservation of cultural heritage. Today, media literacy initiatives occurs in many nations; it is evident that differences in cultural values, press freedoms, media systems, education structures, education policy, and media technology all shape the specific direction, goals, implementation, and assessment of media literacy initiatives.


Political Entertainment: Historical Traditions and Contemporary Genres  

Heather LaMarre

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Communication. Please check back later for the full article. The term “political entertainment” refers to a broad category of literature, media, and performance art in which politics and entertainment are comingled. Because of its varied and complex nature, there is no singular definition for political entertainment. However, to be considered as such, the content should have a primary or secondary political focus and generally include implicit or explicit references to socio-political issues. Within political entertainment expository, rhetorical and narrative structures are used to offer socio-political information, commentary, or critique. The content ranges from historical accounts to contemporary issues and often includes some type of moral imperative, civics lesson, policy preference, or desired outcome. Sometimes the purpose is simply to entertain, while other times the purpose is to engage, inform, or persuade mass audiences. Moreover, political entertainment is multi-functional, offering audiences a variety of ways to consume hedonic and eudaimonic political content. In recent decades, there has been a marked increase in political entertainment such as documentaries, fictional dramas, historical reenactment films, political music, animated series, and online videos. These forms range from short films, one-time events, and single audio tracks to feature length films, serial productions, and full television series. On a global scale, political podcasting has become increasingly infused with entertainment. Sometimes referred to as alternative or emergent media, political satirists and public opinion leaders use online formats to offer entertaining political commentary and social critique outside the bounds of traditional media systems. Additionally, made-for-cable, online, and on-demand outlets such as original HBO and Netflix series are quickly gaining ground as alternative political entertainment formats. The mixing of entertainment and news has also created a popular form of political entertainment known as soft news, infotainment, or news hybrids. These take the form of morning and daytime talk shows, online and cable news programs, radio, television, and podcast opinion shows, etc. With the increase in partisan political news and the proliferation of subscription-based outlets, it has become increasingly difficult to separate traditional news and opinion from news hybrids and related forms of political entertainment. The roots of political entertainment can be traced back to ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome, wherein satire (the earliest known form) was found in literature, graphic, and performing arts. Satire, as the forbearer of political entertainment, was traditionally studied from a humanist tradition and remains an important aspect of literary studies. Contemporary political entertainment research has broadened to include multiple disciplinary perspectives, mediated formats, cross-cultural orientations, and international viewpoints. Modern political entertainment literature traverses the humanities and social sciences, offering critical, qualitative, and quantitative assessments of the nature, content, and impact these media have on different democratic societies.


Tourism and Intergroup Communication  

Hiroshi Ota

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Communication. Please check back later for the full article. Tourism connects people across geographical, chronological, and cultural borders. In Henri Tajfel’s terms, it is a prime example of intergroup process where collective and interpersonal factors play major roles. People become tourists to fulfill their self-derived motivations, including sensation-, novelty-, and pleasure-seeking, or even good will. Their motivations to travel are influenced by group-related factors, such as media portrayals of the destination and the sense of connectedness to the place of visit. Moreover, contextual variables, such as the presence of diplomatic relations or the level of peace and security, should indicate whether the borders are permeable and open to the tourists, and if the destination is accessible as a viable option for them to visit. Needless to say, simply wanting to be different from one’s everyday selves or desiring to be in a different environment are legitimate reasons for one to be a tourist. Tourists have contact with other people at various phases of their travel to and from their destinations. Through contact, tourists as guests communicate with their hosts, who are local residents of the destination and tourism-related service providers. Guest-host contact often takes place in limited contexts, and tends to be fleeting, non-intimate, and power-structured, often cast in a “they-us” frame. However, such contact can ultimately bring important social consequences to the tourists and to the destination. Communication accommodation holds an important key to some of the major outcomes of host-guest contact. Accommodation involves adjustment of one’s linguistic and non-linguistic behaviors during communication for smooth interaction and social approval from others. Successful contact through accommodation can bring positive outcomes to the communicators such as an increase in positive attitudes toward the other and advances in intercultural communication competence, while exploitation, deception, and maintenance of power-differentiated relations are also likely associated with communication accommodation. Likewise, contact between tourists and local residents has potential to contribute to long-term changes in the macro cultural milieu of the destination, including the resurgence or erosion of the traditional culture and languages, increased presence of foreign languages, and building of peaceful relationships between societies, all of which in turn become precursors to the further development of tourism.


Video-Mediated Communication  

Sean Rintel

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Communication. Please check back later for the full article. Video-mediated communication (VMC) has a long history. Fictional depictions of variously named VMC systems began appearing in late 19th century illustrations and novels as plausible extensions of telegraphy, telephony, and filmic and televisual moving pictures. AT&T demonstrated experimental one-way combined telephone and television streams in 1927, and the German Post Office had a fully operative public videophone system as early as 1936. However, despite the apparent early progress, VMC has had a surprisingly rocky path to mainstream use—indeed, it might even be argued that VMC is still not the ubiquitous medium one would assume of “the next best thing to being there” (as Julius Molnar said of the AT&T Mod I in the 1960s). Commercial VMC and research have intertwined themes. Changing technologies and difficulties in institutional and domestic commercialization are set against research into the value, form-factors, and member methods for conveying social presence over distance. These issues are as relevant to current VMC as they have ever been, and augmented reality technologies will introduce yet more new opportunities and challenges.