MediaSmarts Blog

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Media educator John Pungente’s series Beyond the Screen, airing on Bravo!, now has its own Web site, where teachers can find resources and tips on integrating the series into their classrooms. Father John Pungente, a longtime media educator and founding Board member of MNet, planned the series as a follow-up to his acclaimed Scanning the Movies. Like its predecessor, Beyond the Screen is intended as a way of teaching viewers to “read” movies. In Beyond the Screen Pungente uses clips from current movies and interviews with cast and crew to shed light on filmmaking techniques, genre, and theme. The Web site offers showtimes and previews of upcoming episodes and links to teachers’ guides. (So far the only guide that’s been posted is for Speed Racer, but the guide for The Dark Night should be up shortly; upcoming episodes on Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince should be popular as well.)

Summer is officially upon us, and with it comes the usual lineup of blockbuster movies. Along with the usual cast of superheroes, spies and sexagenarian, whip-cracking archaeologists comes a somewhat unusual hero: Wall-E, the nearly mute robot protagonist of the film of the same name.

Formerly a largely peaceful and orderly place, inhabited by craftspeople, entertainers and wise Jedi, the galaxy – that is to say, the world of Star Wars Galaxies, the massively multiplayer online game (MMO) based on the movie franchise – is now a world of ruthless bounty hunters and blaster-happy fighter pilots. Where success could once be achieved by a number of paths, it now consists of, in the words of the game’s senior director Nancy MacIntye, “instant gratification: kill, get treasure, repeat.”

Note: this is the fifth in a series of blogs looking at the history and future of Web 2.0. The user-participation culture of Web 2.0 has begun to change the worlds of music, movies, animation, games and even encyclopedias, but in no area does the change promise to be as deep and fundamental as in the world of news. While other aspects of user-created content blur the line between authors and audiences, the line remains there: it still takes tremendous skill and effort to make a mashup or a fan movie, even if Web 2.0 has made those things easier to distribute. Some have suggested, though, that it will change journalism in a much more radical way – perhaps altering our idea of what journalism is entirely.

Much of what we believe about the world comes from the media products we see and hear. This is especially true of places and things we might not have actually experienced, such as developing nations and global development efforts. Beyond Media Messages: Media Portrayal of Global Development looks at how the media influences our views of developing nations and global development efforts, how we can learn to read or view media portrayals critically and how we can become media authors to promote democratic citizenship.

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