Media literacy skills are essential in a world that is bombarded with information, visual stimuli, and media that construct our sense of the world. News media in particular have a powerful influence on people and have the ability to shape public opinion. In a world where ubiquitous connectivity and massive amounts of archived information can be accessed with the touch of our screen, it is important to think critically, rather than mindlessly accept, news media and informative pronouncements. News media construct the historical events through facts, objective and subjective opinions, and biases. News stories and journalistic articles create an audience’s sense of the public and the world. Therefore, I believe that it is important that everyone treats all news media and the information they encounter with skepticism and pursue more research in search of knowledge and differing perspectives. For this alternative media project I have chosen to create cartoons about media literacy concepts, and a website that publishes them along with scholarly journals, books, and articles that discuss media constructs and its impact on how people consume information.
I started this educational website and drawing cartoons about media literacy concepts to enable people who are immersed in the digital technologies of all ages to live a more conscientious life in the digital age. We are living in an age of “faux wisdom” (Powers 2010, p. 113) where archives of information is on our screens with a touch of a screen. People who get their information online should not blindly follow what is constructed by all digital media. Digital technology is embedded in the fabrics of our public sphere of socio-political, economic, and cultural discourses. Having information does not mean having knowledge. Knowledge according to Plato is justified true belief, and a person with genuine knowledge understands how the various parts of information are related to one another to form a meaningful whole (V. Lagemaat 2009, p. 29). Knowledge is more than just a heap of information or mindlessly repeating the opinions of other people. “If you never examine your beliefs, you end up leading a life that is not genuinely your own” (V. Lagemaat 2009, p. 15). In the digital age, people who consume media are lacking the necessary skills to think critically about what narrative or information displayed and exhibited about events around the world. We need to have a balance of accepting information from all media and our own research to form knowledge.
Although people have access to a variety of information, they have the tendency to stay in their own echo chambers and explore media that usually reaffirm their biases and assumptions. “Most people who follow current affairs choose outlets that reflect their pre-existing prejudices” (V. Lagemaat 2009, p. 35). Moreover, a majority of social media users do not know the filter bubbles they are entrapped in through algorithms and advertising interests. People who are immersed in digital technologies need the skills and knowledge of media literacy concepts to learn how to interpret events from multiple view points and “assess news stories for their clarity, accuracy, relevance, depth, breadth, and significance” (Paul, Elder 2008, p. 26). Furthermore, one must think critically and explore where information comes from, who benefits with the story exhibited, and consider other alternative perspectives and opposing views. “Critical thinking is a complex set of skills that reverses what is natural and instinctive in human thought” (Paul, Elder 2008, p. 26) and I hope my alternative medium can enlighten people about various media literacy concepts such as mainstream and alternative media, privacy invasion, surveillance, and the political economy of the hierarchal structures of media.
This website can be a source of information for those already taking media literacy classes or courses. High school media literacy programs are “relatively common in Canada, but to be effective, they need to go beyond critical reading of media texts to provide a wider understanding of the ways in which structural factors, such as ownership and modes of financing, affect the manner in which media represent the world” (Kozolanka 2012, p. 44). My cartoons address most of those structural factors along with providing information for online safety such as being more careful of the information one displays to the public and how one’s information can be exploited for profit.
Medialiteracynet is a not-for-profit website that publishes cartoons that depict media literacy concepts and shares scholarly academic journals and books. The title on the home page is Media Literacy Concepts and the tagline is critical digital society. The goal of this website and the cartoons are to educate people who are immersed in digital technologies and give them the necessary skills to be critical in a digital society. The target audiences are teenagers and young adults (13-30), especially high school and university students. They are the demographic that uses digital media the most to obtain their information and is the generation that is immersed in the virtual public sphere. However, the site can also be for middle-aged adults and older as everyone needs to generate the skills to be more critical and conscientious of the media.