Welcome to Media Studies, a course that is essentially about you and your experiences with the world around you.
This course will help you develop and enhance your skills as you work to understand and use the codes and conventions of a wide variety of media forms and genres appropriately, healthily, effectively and ethically.
It’s helpful to spend some time familiarizing yourself with how this course is organized and how you will be asked to demonstrate your learning. This course is organized into four units:
Unit 1 - Investigating media representations
Unit 2 - Understanding audiences
Unit 3 - Exploring values and ideologies
Unit 4 - Experiencing media
Select the tabs for a sneak peek at each of the challenges.
5 things you need to know before you begin
In this course, you will be presented with 8 challenges, two in each of the four (4) Units. The challenges are designed to give you real-world experiences, so in each challenge, you will use what you have been learning about and complete a real-world activity.
At the end of each unit, you will choose one of the challenges to hand in for marks (a total of 4 challenges during the course). Each challenge is worth 17.5% of your course grade. Select the tabs for a sneak peek at each of the challenges.
For this challenge, you will be capturing and analysing three different media experiences from your own life. You will be writing a 2-3-page reflection explaining how each of the 3 representations uses the codes and conventions of its medium to create the illusion that it is realistic. In other words, how doeseach representation construct reality?
For this challenge, be prepared to look at your public self-representations. You will choose two examples to analyse. You will be answering a series of questions about how each of the self-representations uses the codes and conventions of its medium to create versions of reality.
For this challenge, you will find a person in your circle who has had the same media experience (for example observed the same event, watched the same movie, heard the same song, saw the same advertisement)—but who has formed a very different response from your own. You will have a 30-minute conversation and reflect on how different audiences negotiate meaning.
For this challenge, you will create a guide to help people understand some of the important privacy implications of living and working in the 21st century. You will assess your own privacy quality and challenges, describing actions that you have taken or are taking to have a comfortable level of privacy as well as assessing your comfort with the level of privacy that you live with.
For this challenge, you will consider the economic implications of media. You will trace the origins of media you own. This could be media hardware (game console, smartphone, musical instrument, tablet) or a favourite media experience (game, app, song, movie, post). You will choose a presentation format to share your findings.
For this challenge, you will consider how your own media choices shape your values. You will immerse yourself in both a media experience that supports your values and an alternative media experience that challenges your values. You will choose a presentation format to share your findings.
For this challenge, you will choose a work of art that had been adapted into another format and compare how the media experience changes. You will include a discussion of codes and conventions as well as the implications of form and content. You will choose a presentation format to share your learning.
For this challenge, you will choose a remix that speaks to you. You will think about why it appeals to you and then share it with at least one other person in your circle. After analyzing the conversation, choose a presentation format for sharing your reflections and learning.
2. Media Logs
In addition to the challenges, you will be demonstrating your learning through a media log. You will have 8 opportunities to complete media log entries in the four units of this course.
Towards the end of each unit, you will choose one of your media log entries to hand in for feedback--a total of 4 media log entries submitted during the course. All 8 media logs will be handed in as part of your final test. Your final test is worth 15% of your course grade.
Note: If you choose to create an electronic media log, please ensure that you can print it to bring with you to the final test.
This media log will serve as a space for you to reflect on your learning, and as a space to work through and understand some of the content of the course. Select the tabs to for a sneak peek at each of the media logs.
For this media log entry, you will choose a media experience (your smartphone, a room etc.,) and think about how meaning is created using codes and conventions. You will capture your learning in a 1-2-page reflection.
For this media log entry, you will choose a media experience and think about how meaning is created using codes and conventions. You will capture your learning in a 1-2-page reflection.
For this media log entry, you will choose a media experience and practice looking at it from different points of view. You will capture your learning in a 1-2-page reflection.
For this media log entry, you will find a representation of the story of Canada or of being “Canadian”. Search the internet, your neighborhood, your own spaces for media texts. Compare the political and social messages in a 1-2-page reflection.
For this media log entry, you will use your understanding that a literate person in the 21st century is a media literate person. You will research a career that interests you but that is not explicitly about media. Additionally, you will choose two possible careers that are directly in media and research the pathway to employment.
For this media log entry, you will explore different ways of being Canadian and how this is reflected in media texts.
For this media log entry, you will choose a social media app and reflect on the value, social and political messages that are shared. You will share your learning in a 2-3-page reflection.
For this media log entry, you will choose a media experience and reflect on the aesthetic experience of the media text. You will share your learning in a 2-3-page reflection.
Not all your media log entries will be fully developed. Some will just be notes, thoughts and wonderings. But at least 4 of your media log entries should be fully developed and submitted for feedback. A media log entry should include an adequate explanation and description to show you understand what has been learned. Remember to use evidence (from the learning activity, your life, your media experiences, etc.) to back up your ideas.
Take a look at two sample media logs to help you better understand what is required. Remember to date and title your media logs clearly. These are only samples. Each media log will have its own unique requirements.Sample media log
As you go through this course, you will find it very helpful to keep a notebook, either digital or paper-based. Your notebook is a place to:
- Capture notes and reflections on specific learning experiences throughout the course;
- Keep a collection of links, clippings, artifacts with accompanying thoughts, questions and reflections;
- Record your response to media texts that you encounter in your day to day life;
- Record your responses to media texts that you create;
- Reflect on your learning, including success, challenges and next steps; and
- Complete course tasks, including brainstorming, planning and rough work.
Your notebook is for your use only and will not be submitted at any point in the course, but a great deal of learning is going to happen there.
4. Culminating activity
At the end of the course in Unit 4, you will be creating media as your culminating activity. You will create your own Remix Project. This project is worth 15% of your course mark. Don’t worry, each of the challenges you complete prior to unit 4, as well as your media log entries will help you complete this final task.You can get a sneak peek at the Remix Project. (Opens in new window)
5. A note about terminology
In this course, we would like you to be careful and deliberate about your use of the term “media.” As a demonstration, try this experiment.
List the first 10 words that come to mind when you think of “media.”
How many of your words referred to companies that create or distribute media experiences? How many of your words were media forms like television, films or books? These are very different kinds of media.
Try it again with a peer or family member. Were their answers different from yours?
Many people use the term “media” to refer to those companies that create the media texts we consume, like those companies that report the news. In this course, we will call those companies news media. Other media we will call sports media, entertainment media, business media, and social media. This distinction is useful to our understanding because it avoids confusing media with the people and organizations that create and distribute media experiences. Similarly, we will refer to the form of media, television, film, print etc., as different mediums.
Specifically, this course will use the word media to refer to images, words, sounds, and numbers. A media text is an example of something that uses a combination of images, words, sounds and or numbers.
Don’t worry, this will become clearer as you progress in the course.
We hope that this course will be more than just a credit for you. We hope that it will encourage you to think about and understand your relationship with media—and our mediated world—more deeply. We hope it encourages you to live and interact with media in all its forms and most importantly to do so intelligently and with agency.
Let’s get ready to think about media.
Watch the opening sequence from the police drama, Hawaii Five-0”.
If you have never been to Hawaii, what would you learn from the program’s opening?
This program ran from 1968 to 1980. Did you know that the state of Hawaii paid some of the production costs? Why might they have done that?
The show started in 1968, only eight years after Hawaii had become an official state. Very few people in the United States would have travelled to Hawaii outside of World War II. Government funding allowed the program to showcase the new state. The backgrounds of the scenes in the TV show promoted the beautiful Hawaiian countryside and encouraged people to visit. A significant part of the show, almost 2/3 of each episode, was filmed on location in Hawaii. In other words, “Hawaii Five-0” became a 12-year advertisement for Hawaiian tourism.
Imagine that you have just won a trip to anywhere in the world. It must be somewhere you have never been but have always wished to see/visit.
Answer the following questions in your notebook:
- Where would you go? Why?
- How did you find out about that place?
- Picture the place in your mind. What do you see?
- What experiences do you imagine you might have there?
- If you’ve never been, how do you know what that place is like? Consider one or more of the following sources:
- I have seen that place in a picture.
- I have read about that place.
- I have seen movies/video set in that place.
- I have researched that place online.
- I have heard about that place through word-of-mouth (friends, family).
- I have heard music/songs/soundscapes from that place.
- I have seen that place in the movies.
- Other – please explain.
- How big a role did media experiences play in your decision to want to visit this place?
- How many different media experiences have contributed to your understanding of this place? (Language, sound, images, video etc.…)
Why study media?
What we see, hear and experience influences our perceptions and our realities. Like most people, you already process vast amounts of information from a large variety of sources. You experience thousands of messages and likely consume hours of sounds, images, and digital platforms every week. You are challenged to embrace newer and newer technologies at faster and faster rates, and all of this contributes to your perceptions, attitudes and beliefs. How do these experiences help us understand what is real?
Think about how you would answer these two questions. Write your answers in the space provided.
- Why do you imagine that many people seek and consume a variety of media experiences? Why are we not satisfied with just print, or just video, or just music?
We use multiple senses at the same time and so we need multiple ways to interact with the world around us.
- Why does the average person have over 100 apps on their smartphones? Couldn’t we do just as well with 3? Why do we generally seek so many different media experiences?
Answers will vary. One way to answer this question is to consider that people unconsciously sense the gaps between reality and a mediated experience. As a result, we may seek a variety of media experiences to gain a more complete understanding of our world. Apps serve different purposes and appeal to different senses. Some are video, others are audio and others still, are tied to broader sensory experiences.
These may sound like strange questions or questions with obvious answers, but this course will ask many questions about things that we haven’t noticed or just take for granted. It will encourage you to be mindful of your media experiences and your relationships with those experiences, specifically how those experiences might be enjoyable and/or influence your thinking and behaviours.
Because media play a large role in our personal, professional and civic lives, we can be more effective in all those parts of our lives if we understand how to use media—and how media use us—comprehensively and effectively.
Understanding media through the eight key concepts
This course will address the Eight Key Concepts of Media Literacy. Each concept informs a different aspect of media literacy and taken together, they help us understand and appreciate media and our relationships to them.
Review the Eight Key Concepts of Media Literacy (Opens in new window) and think about which ones you may already have some experience with. Don’t worry, each concept will be unpacked one by one as you continue in the course. This is just an opportunity for you to get an overview of each concept.
Listen to this podcast to learn more about the first two key concepts of media literacy.
Media construct reality
The first key concept, Media construct reality, explores the relationships between real experiences and media experiences. Knowing the difference between real and realistic is useful in understanding this concept.
Real is our living, real-time eyes, ears, nose, hands, and feet life experiences.
Realistic is a media experience that reproduces seemingly-real parts of experiences. A media experience might seem real but is missing some part of a real experience.
When we have a real experience, all five of our senses are providing information about the sights and sounds of our experience, but also its feel (temperature, humidity, wind, air pressure) and its time. Reality is an immersive experience because we are immersed in our environment and sense it in multiple ways, simultaneously.
This is different from a realistic experience. When we have a realistic experience, we are having a mediated experience.
Consider this photograph of a person sitting in a roller coaster car in motion. For her, in the moment, the experience is real. She can feel the wind on her face. She can hear the sounds of the moving car. She can smell the popcorn and feel the safety restraint across her shoulders and lap.
For us, the experience is mediated through the photograph. It’s realistic but not real.
Understanding mediated experiences
Mediated—usually recorded—experiences represent subsets of real experiences that are produced to seem like accurate representations of life. For example, like the girl in the roller coaster earlier, photographs can represent the look of objects as seen from realistic distances, angles and perspectives, but are not real because they are 2- rather than 3-dimensional and do not move.
All media products are representational in that they are visual and/or sound representations of reality, but are not real, because of the parts they cannot reproduce or the qualities they cannot reproduce.
To illustrate the idea that media represent real experiences, French painter René Magritte painted “The Treachery of Images”, a painting of a tobacco pipe that includes the words, “Çeci n’est pas une pipe.” (This is not a pipe.)
The pipe’s colours, proportions, lighting and angle are realistic, but it’s a 2-dimensional image. Magritte’s image—and especially its words—remind viewers that the image is a realistic painting of a pipe but not a real pipe.
For you, looking at this online, it is NOT EVEN a painting of a pipe—the original of which resides at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art—but a digital image on a screen of a painting of a pipe.
For you, the image of this pipe is 2 times removed from a real pipe!
This image is called “The Treachery of Images”. What does the word treachery mean to you?
Did you come up with words like deception, bad intent or sneaky? Some students do. Was your definition primarily negative or positive?
Consider this dictionary definition:
Now that you know the meaning of ‘treachery,’ consider carefully the implications of the title of Magritte painting by answering these questions in the space provided. When you’re ready, compare your thinking to the suggestions.
- Why do you think Magritte might have titled his painting “The Treachery of Images”?
Answers may vary but consider what the artist is saying about the conflict between the real and the realistic. This painting could be a betrayal, as we believe we are looking at a real pipe but of course, it is only a representation of a pipe. The artist may have experienced a real pipe but in painting it, there is a gap between the producer and the audience.
- What ‘treachery’ do you think he was warning his audiences about?
Answers will vary but it is usually believed that the artist is stating that people mistake symbols for real objects.
We take in images through the eyes the same way that we take in actual objects. Since the process is the same, it can seem “real”. However, it’s a mirage. We may see a picture of food, but it will not satisfy any kind of hunger. In fact, it often does just the opposite--makes us even more hungry.
- What ‘treachery’ do you think might be represented by a video?
Like the photograph, or a painting, a video is still a mediated experience. The treachery is that media seem to provide reality and authority when they don’t.
Digging Deeper - optional
Here’s an additional opportunity to think about how media construct reality. Answer the questions in your notebook.
What treacheries might we experience in movies, advertisements, news reports?
How might Magritte’s “The Treachery of Images” painting be relevant to the media messages we receive every day? Hint--have a quick scroll through some of your social media.
Pipe smoking has become so rare that some people might not know what Magritte’s 1929 painting is representing. What image might you select to represent the treachery of images today? Why?
At the end of each learning activity, you will find a Consolidation section. In this section, you will be asked to reflect on both what you are learning and how you are developing as a self-directed learner. This is where you will also find your Challenges and Media Log prompts.
People regularly record moments of their lives, then share them on social media apps. Choose 3 posts from your social media connections that you would like to work with. Document them in your notebook.
Copy this chart into your notebook. For each example, note the accuracy of the posts’ representations of reality and what parts of the real experiences are missing. Describe or add pictures of the social media examples you are using.
*if you do not wish to work with your own social media, search online for social media posts from a celebrity, art or sports figure that is publicly available.
|Posts||What parts of reality are present/shown?
Hint: Try using some specific examples from your own experience in your explanation.
|What parts of reality are missing?
What would make the experience more ‘real’?
Which of the media experiences do you think best captures the real experience? Why? Use the words real and realistic as you write about how your media experiences may be constructed.
Hint: Review the definitions of ‘real’ and ‘realistic’. Have you successfully used the language in your description?
The description of the first Key Concept of Media Literacy, Media construct reality, focuses on how media represent subsets of real experiences that are made to seem like accurate representations of life. For example, photographs are realistic, representing objects as seen from a distance, angle and perspective, but are subsets of reality because they are not three-dimensional and do not capture taste, smell, touch and sound.
In your own words, how would you explain this concept to a friend or family member?
Hint: Try using some specific examples from your own experience in your explanation.