Assessing Media Messages

This week note three mass media messages you’ve received in various formats. What was the original message in each? After applying critical thinking, and analyzing the messages, did you note any more subtle messages? If so, what were they and how were they framed?

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Summary: Mass Media Literacy The vocabulary for media literacy begins with knowing terms like mass media and mass communication. Mass media are vehicles that carry messages to large audiences. Major media are print media (primarily books, newspapers, and magazines), sound media (primarily recordings and radio), and motion media (primarily movies and television). The Internet also is a medium but one whose nature blurs earlier distinctions. Mass communication refers to the process of crafting messages and delivering messages.

1.1 Media Exposure Two-thirds of our waking hours are spent consciously or subconsciously consuming mass media. The media is a major part of our environment. Mass media is so pervasive in our lives that most of us engage in media multitasking without even thinking about it. We can be oblivious to the media’s effects on us and those around us, unless we cultivate an understanding of how the media works and why. This understanding is called media literacy.

1.2 Purposeful Mass Communication Mass communicators have a purpose. Sometimes the purpose is to inform, sometimes to amuse, and sometimes to persuade. Media literacy requires understanding of the purpose of a mass message as part of assessing the content.

1.3 Mediated Communication Technology has expanded the original forms of face-to-face human communication. Today, we send amplified messages to great numbers of diverse people in mass communications. This sometimes is called industrial communication because the underlying technology requires large capital investments. Communication by social media, a 21st century invention, offers low-cost entry for both broad and focused communication and potential for immediate feedback.

1.4 Literacy for Media Consumers Media literacy begins with a factual foundation and becomes keener with an understanding of the dynamics that influence media messages. There are degrees of awareness, including abilities to understand and explain media behavior and effects and to identify significant media issues.

1.5 Assessing Media Messages Media messages come in many different forms—sometimes the message is clear and direct and sometimes it is masked, such as a political message that is designed to be persuasive but is framed to be informational or entertainment.

Chapter 2 Media Technology

Watch Google Tensions. When Google’s Gmail system was hacked in 2011 for access to messages among U.S. diplomats and other government officials, Google blamed the Chinese government. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that the United States took the cyber-attack seriously and noted that a new U.S. military doctrine provided for military responses. China denied it had authorized the hacking—a skirmish in a new era of cyber-war.

A Cyber-War Tool As an early hacker, John Draper is legendary, bordering on mythical. Maybe that’s why they call him Cap’n Crunch. His hacking often had an edge of carefree whimsy.

When Richard Nixon was president, a 20-something Draper cracked a White House telephone code and used the password “olympus” for a direct line to the president. Then he proceeded to tell the president about a toilet paper shortage in Los Angeles. Or so goes the story.

With the advent of personal computers, hacking assumed dark proportions—far beyond Draper’s sophomoric pranks. Mass-targeted mini-software programs anonymously destroyed the hard drives of personal computers. These programs, known variously as viruses, worms, and trojans, were more than petty annoyances. Some malware from hackers disdainful of establishment institutions focused on banks and other high-visibility targets like government agencies and caused widespread damage. Foreign criminals with an international reach found ways to infect the average user’s personal computers through e-mailed links and other nefarious tactics. More recently, some hackers from as far away as Nigeria have managed to hack into personal computers in the United States and gain control of victims’ personal documents, demanding payment for their release. Police agencies worldwide have created investigative units to catch hackers, but it’s a challenging endeavor due to the international and covert nature of hacking.

Hacking has also made its way into international politics. For instance, Israel and its ally the United States had long suspected that Iran was trying to build nuclear weapons to attack Tel Aviv. Although not officially confirming it, Israel and U.S. agencies designed a worm, Stuxnet, to infiltrate controls in Iran’s uranium-refining centrifuges. Stuxnet was unleashed secretly in 2010. Within months, 384 of Iran’s 3,900 centrifuges were wiped out. Israel and the United States took comfort in believing that an Iranian weapons development program had been slowed by years.

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