Reading the Street

22 Jun

I recently completed my Media Specialist AQ course, and I can not say enough great things about the course and my teachers throughout the three parts. I was lucky enough to learn from the best (thank you Neil Andersen, Barry Duncan, Ian Esquivel and Sylvie Webb)  and I hope that my efforts in the classroom and online live up to the standards they set. I often find myself thinking about what they have taught me outside of the classroom. They changed the way I see the world, and the most obvious way is that I can't seem to help reading the street.

"Reading the street was one of the most interesting activities I did in all three parts of the course. We would take a Saturday and travel to a specific part of the city and then do an extended walk. We were asked to take pictures or record audio or video (usually in groups). We had to create a media text and really think critically about what we saw, essentially making the familiar strange. On the left are a couple of the images I captured on that walk.


Many of the teachers used these images and videos with their classes in really interesting ways. We thought about the key concepts of media literacy, and how they related to our texts. Most of all, I realized that my definition of text was far too narrow. The classrooms I have taught in, the streets I use every day, they are all texts and it is important to know how to read them.

I still find myself snapping pictures as I walk through a mall or down

 a street. Something will catch my eye and I'll think about how it could start a conversation in my Media Studies class. We often do a section on trends, and here's one that I have seen lately, QR codes. It's an interesting blend of old and new forms of advertising, isn't it? When I saw this poster in the food court, I thought about how audiences negotiate meaning. How would different audiences would make meaning from this poster? There is a rather confusing mix of old and new media in this image: the chalkboard and the Facebook logo, nature (the tree) and a QR code. There is a lot to unpack here, a real juxtaposition of varying codes and conventions (yes, another key concept).

I hope that I can give my students what my teachers have given me, a renewed sense of wonder and appreciation for the world we live in in all its complexity.

I'd love to hear your thoughts about this image in the comments below!

Update: July 8

Here's another interesting use of the QR code. This one was found in an upscale mall in Toronto. I wonder why they thought that sticking this code (and its video) as an afterthought (just added to the side of the window) would be a good idea? I wonder how many of their customers have a QR code reader?

An aside, the video (which I watched) spoke about the vibrant colours of India, and the efforts to use fabrics from there, made by women, who would then (presumably) benefit from the business transaction. Looking at the sea of beige in the window, I wonder where those "vibrant" colours are? The sign?

Or are the code and the video a preview of what's to come? And if so, why isn't it  part of a larger campaign? They have the rather large sale banner with "up to" 70% off and the poster with the code is stuck to the window on the side. Is that an indication of the priority of this initiative (to help women in developing nations)? Or is it an indication of the priority of the code itself (and if so, why use it in the first place)?