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Critical Audience Studies  

Adrienne Shaw, Katherine Sender, and Patrick Murphy

Critical audience studies is the branch of media research primarily concerned with what people do with the media they consume, rather than on the supposedly negative effects of media on people. Critical audience studies has long drawn on “ethnographic ways of seeing” to investigate the everyday uses of media in myriad contexts. This area of audience research has had to define who and what constitutes “an audience,” where audiences are located, and how best to understand how people’s lives intersect with media. Changes in media production and distribution technologies have meant that texts are increasingly consumed in transnational and transplatform ways. These changes have disrupted historical distinctions between producers and audiences. Critical cultural approaches should be considered from a largely qualitative perspective and look at feminist and global reception studies as foundational to the understandings of what audiences might be and how to study them. Taking video game players as a boundary example, we need to reconsider how contemporary media forms and genres, modes of engagement, and niche and geographically dispersed media publics affect audiences and audience research: what, or who, is an audience, how can we understand it, and through what methods might we research it now?

Article

Media Literacy and Communication  

Erica Scharrer and Yuxi Zhou

Media literacy refers to the ability to interact with media from a position of active inquiry, carefully considering media texts, the forces and factors that shape those texts, and the ways in which audiences interpret the texts or otherwise respond. Media access, use, creation, analysis, and evaluation skills are considered essential for citizenship in the contemporary world. Media literacy education encompasses efforts to advance media literacy within a group of individuals and spur their motivation to apply media literacy skills and perspectives in interactions with media. Yet, there are barriers that impede the widespread adoption of media literacy education in various global locations. There is disparity, for instance, in the degree to which local, regional, or national policies support media literacy education in schools as well as in the training, funding, or other resources available to educators. Considerable variability in the assumptions and objectives that scholars and practitioners bring to media literacy education has been identified. Some of that variability reflects differing emphases in Communication and Media Studies paradigms including whether media literacy education should be considered as a means of protecting children and adolescents from the potential for negative effects of media. Sometimes positioned as an alternative to a more protectionist approach, media literacy education can be viewed as a platform from which to encourage young people’s creative self-expression and to emphasize their (and others’) agency rather than vulnerability. The ways in which media literacy education is carried out and how and what is assessed to determine what such education can achieve differs, as well. In spite of these differences, there are overarching commonalities in media literacy conceptualization and empirical evidence that media literacy education can build skills necessary for citizenship in an increasingly media- and information-rich world.