Key Concept 4: #K12Media

07 Oct

As we progress through this special series of #K12Media chats, our discussion continues with a closer look at Key Concept 4 from the 8 Key Concepts of Media Literacy: Media have commercial implications. Last week we discussed how audiences can negotiate meaning, focusing on the topic of video games.

For a refresher on the concepts:

4. Media have commercial implications

The study of media requires an awareness of how media are deeply rooted in commercial interests and how these interests affect content, technique, and distribution. Profits must be made and thus, ownership and control impact what is produced by the media we consume.

Hot Topic One: Childhood

Products are targeted at different segments of society. Consumers are offered a variety of goods that are marketed in ways designed to appeal to the target demographic on some level. One large market that is big business: childhood. Children are targeted by a relentless stream of consumer messages across a multitude of media; often one product is a gateway to a series of further consumption. In the last few decades, rules about marketing to children (especially in the US and Canada) have become more relaxed (or in some cases, disappeared altogether). Is the targeting of children in the media simply another demographic, or are there greater implications? How do we prepare children to navigate through this unrelenting message of consumerism? What are the potential benefits/drawbacks to these practices?

Hot Topic Two: Pink Ribbon

According to Wikipedia, “the first known use of a pink ribbon in connection with breast cancer awareness was in the fall of 1991…” and took off because the color pink is considered “feminine in modern Western countries”. Fundraising is not, superficially at least, thought of as a for-profit industry—the goal is to benefit society as a whole. However, campaigns like the pink ribbon for breast cancer have increasingly become co-opted by big business interests. Charity and the act of giving, once seen as a pillar of community awareness and civic duty, are becoming more tied to commercial interests. What are the potential benefits/drawbacks to the pink ribbon campaign? Who benefits from the campaign and how do they benefit? Who is excluded from this kind of fundraising and whose voices are not heard? What aspects of the “cause” are emphasized and why? What is hidden or ignored? How does this change the relationship between the persons who have gone from “donors” to “purchasers”? Does purchasing a product that has “proceeds” going towards a charity create a different relationship?

Hot Topic Three: The Male Grooming Industry
For years, women have been inundated with an ever-growing list of products to protect and improve their beauty. From skin cream to hair removers, the list of items needed for women to meet a beauty standard had served to expand profits and create an ideal to which women are expected/invited to conform. However, male audiences are not immune to this pressure; the male grooming industry is a growing counterpart to the female beauty industry and standards are now shifting to create new norms that males are becoming equally bound by.  How does the new colonizing of the male market represent an ever-growing need to capitalize on consumers? What does the new “male ideal” represent? Who is targeted and why? How can we encourage students to see past and through the messages of self-esteem and confidence these industries sell alongside their face creams?

These topics and questions are just the beginning! Vote now and join us on Monday October 10, at 8pm for another exciting #K12Media (on Twitter).

Image Courtesy Hiking Artist