Final Reflection

Recent studies have found that the average adult consumes two and a half hours of media per day. Media includes everything from using the internet, to watching television, to playing a video game, to even reading this blog post. In an age where screens are constantly inches from our fingertips, we are consuming media almost constantly without even being aware of it. While the world’s population at large is constantly facing different formats of media, not many know how to conduct good media literacy practices. It is absolutely crucial that citizens learn the importance of practicing these media literacy techniques because they will be used for something that everyone uses almost constantly every single day. According to Wikipedia, media literacy, “consists of practices that allow people to access, critically evaluate, and create or manipulate media. Media literacy is not restricted to one medium and is understood as a set of competencies that are essential for work, life, and citizenship.” Good media literacy practices can include adopting a “slow-news” approach, being aware of our own confirmation biases, being aware of misinformation and hoaxes, learning about advertising and “influencers”, and more.

NAMLE, the National Association for Media Literacy Education, has presented the public with general questions they can ask themselves when confronting any media. These questions are posed to the author and audience, the messages and meanings behind media, and the presentations vs. the realities. A study published by Stanford University found that middle school, high school, and college students were the age groups that had the worst understanding when it came to discerning the “fake” news from the real news. While this is surprising given that this age group was raised within a digital environment being constantly presented with so much news and other media they hardly spend the time to fact-check sources. Professors are finding a potential solution to this risk is to encourage their students to ask questions and to become hyper-observant when it comes to any and all media. With questioning and observances being strongly encouraged, teachers and professors are becoming hopeful that through these practices “fake” news, misinformation, and hoaxes will become less of a threat to society.

Beyond the current and political hot topic of “fake news”, perhaps what is most widely discussed by the global community is online security and privacy. The #1 goal for media and marketing companies is to sell something. Whether that is an idea, a news article, or a physical item, they are willing to invade everyone’s personal privacy to do so. A shocking case of such an event happened a decade ago when Target’s marketing system realized a girl was pregnant even before she knew. From an article posted in Times, there is a quote about how Target knew before she did, “As Pole’s computers crawled through the data, he was able to identify about 25 products that, when analyzed together, allowed him to assign each shopper a “pregnancy prediction” score. More important, he could also estimate her due date to within a small window, so Target could send coupons timed to very specific stages of her pregnancy.” Not only did this feel like a huge invasion of privacy to the girl and her family, but the world also started to realize the huge effects that marketing has. Everyone has a right to their privacy and even if you feel you have nothing to hide, these targeted ads are proven to affect behavior and emotions, as is discussed in Professor Zuboff’s interview. I suggest using this list of 12 simple things you can do to protect your privacy and be more secure online. Although targeted marketing is not going to go anywhere anytime soon despite more people doing more to protect their privacy, it is vital to take these steps so that companies and marketing can’t take even further steps to invade our personal privacy. The more that people protest against giving their privacy away to big corporations such as Google and Facebook, the less money they will start to receive and the more they will have to listen.

From the California Newsreel, Patricia Aufderheide discusses general principles in media literacy. What I believe is the most crucial element that Aufderheide discusses is how audiences negotiate their own meaning in the media. As with experiencing real-life events, while multiple people can experience the same event, view the same Instagram post, or watch the same YouTube video, everything will be interpreted differently by each individual based on their history and opinions already formed. This is why it can be important for journalists and other media creators to discuss or link to other sources discussing different points of view on the same topics. This idea of the audience negotiating meaning also directly relates to a different topic that is very important to media literacy: confirmation bias.

Confirmation bias is what I view to be the most important aspect of media literacy. It directly correlates to almost everything else including what hoaxes and misinformation we are vulnerable to and what sources we naturally reach out for when we want to learn more about a topic. Everyone is at risk when it comes to having confirmation bias; it is impossible to avoid. As a personal example, I consider my Twitter newsfeed to be my morning newspaper. While I logically know strangers on the internet will not always, in fact probably rarely are, the most trustworthy source, I follow people that are like-minded to me and like to see tweets that relate to my confirmation biases. In an article posted by Masterclass, an online education system where classes are taught by professionals in their fields, the author discusses three different ways we can practice combating our own confirmation biases. The first way to reduce confirmation bias is to, “allow yourself to be wrong.” Perhaps the simplest of the steps but also the first step needed to be taken in order to allow yourself to grow as a person and widen your perceptions. It is very easy for humans to be scared of admitting they are wrong, however, it is becoming increasingly more important to accept fault. Mistakes are needed in order to grow. In an article posted by Gile, a foundation in Budapest whose aim is to support young people’s media literacy skills, they present the solution towards confirmation bias as playing your own devil’s advocate. Try arguing the opposite of what you believe and fact-check information sources when possible.

All of this information about media literacy, “fake” news, privacy, and confirmation bias will feel intimidating to anyone. Who can you trust and can you trust even yourself? This is where civic imagination can come into play. Civic imagination can be defined as the capacity for individuals to imagine current, social, and political events. Christina Evans defines it as, “the capacity to imagine strategic uses of technology to address social and political issues from digital tools typically used for personal and social purposes.” Through the use of this new technology and access to all different platforms on social media, people can share different ideologies and movements to progress civic imagination; such as the #MeToo movement or the #BlackLivesMatter protests. In 2018, a group of university students was asked questions to re-imagine the world in 2060. Questions such as “Who creates the news?” And “What skills do journalists need?” Their answers largely displayed empathy, humanity, and participation. This is what younger generations want to see in the world growing around them and what we can build towards as a society. It is not just university students who should be learning about media literacy, but everyone of every generation, not only so they may protect themselves, but so they can find ways through these practices to help others and to help create a better digital and physical space for everyone.

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