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By Derek Boles
Any specialized form of discourse has its own unique language and media literacy is no exception. Even experienced media teachers are often bewildered by the seemingly interchangeable terminology used by writers and speakers in the field.
Many of these terms have much wider meanings than are suggested here. We are only attempting to define these terms as they relate to the field of media literacy.
Construct or Construction: As a verb, the process by which a media text is shaped and given meaning. This process is subject to a variety of decisions and is designed to keep the audience interested in the text.
As a noun, a fictional or documentary text that appears to be "natural" or a "reflection of reality" but is, in fact, shaped and given meaning through the process already described.
Critical: A reflective position on the meaning, biases or value messages of a text. Critical Viewing is the ability to use critical thinking skills to view, question, analyze and understand issues presented overtly and covertly in movies, videos, television and other visual media.
Demographics: Recognizable characteristics of media consumers such as age, gender, education and income level.
Denotation: A description of a media text indicating its common sense, obvious meaning.
Docudrama: A filmed dramatization based on fact that combines documentary and fictional elements. In the production process, "based on" allows the creators of the text wide creative latitude. At its best, a docudrama can be a skillful representation of a real person or event.
Ideology: How we as individuals understand the world in which we live. This understanding involves an interaction between our individual psychology and the social structures that surround us. Mediating between these are the individual processes of communication, as well as the technological processes of the mass media.
Industry: The agencies and institutions involved with the production of media texts. The term is also used in a more narrow sense to describe the commercial production of media texts for the purpose of making a profit.
Jolts: Moments in a media text that are generated by a broad comedy, a violent act, movement within a frame, a loud noise, rapid editing, a profanity or a sexually explicit representation—all of which are calculated to engage an audience's excitement.
Mass Media: Media Education The process by which individuals learn the technical production skills associated with creating media texts. Traditionally, it has not included the intellectual processes of critical consumption or deconstruction; however, modern interpretations often include these processes.
Media Literacy: The process of understanding and using the mass media in an assertive and non-passive way. This includes an informed and critical understanding of the nature of the media, the techniques used by them and the impact of these techniques.
Medium: The singular form of "media." This term usually describes individual forms such as radio, television, film etc.
Narrative: The telling of a plot or story. In a media text, narrative is the coherent sequencing of events across time and space.
Negotiate: The process by which members of the audience individually or collectively interpret, deconstruct and find meaning within a media text.
Production Values: Describes the quality of a media production—which is generally proportional to the money and technology expended on it.
Psychographics: A more sophisticated form of demographics that includes information about the psychological and sociological characteristics of media consumers, such as attitudes, values, emotional responses and ideological beliefs.
Text: The individual results of media production: a movie, a TV episode, a book, an issue of a magazine or newspaper, an advertisement, an album, a CD, etc.
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