Monthly Archives: March 2013

Layers of Meanings in the Minds of the Beholders

Anti-Americanism? Anti-consumerism? Anti-fast-food?

I imagine that you have one or two friends who regularly send you emails or links to unusual, funny, quirky, distracting information.  I do, and I am grateful for the many media literacy opportunities that have arisen from these messages.

I recently received the following one from a good friend who knows I would likely blog it. Read the rest of this entry


MIL Activity 4.4

Using still images, create a sequence of 6 images to convey the importance of your community to a particular audience.
As the theme of Unit 4 is languages, I have decided to explore how Toronto is represented through different languages.
This first image shows Toronto from the International Space Station, courtesy of Commander Chris Hadfield’s tweet. There is little colour in Toronto’s winter. The meaning of this image is dependent on languages of line and shape. The Lake Ontario shoreline is clearly visible, as are an airport, highways and the rivers that have cut ravines through the city.
The second image is also an aerial view, but drawn rather than photographed. It displays the heritage cities that were amalgamated to create the current city. This map uses colours, lines and labels. Its meaning is weak to anyone who came to live in Toronto after the amalgamation because they wouldn’t really care about the heritage cities as much as the one they live in now.
The next image is a modified skyline taken from high in the air, but not aerial. It was posted to a commercial real-estate agency site. Some buildings have been colour-coded:
  • WHITE = the project has had preliminary renders, but no application has been submitted.
  • RED = the project has submitted an application to the city
  • GREEN = the project has been approved, but has yet to start construction
  • YELLOW = the project is currently in sales
  • BLUE = the project is currently under construction (

This is not the current skyline, but the proposed and potential skyline that real estate investors can use to plan their investments. It is a very particular version of the cityscape of interest to a small group of people. It uses the language of colour to help speak the language of investing.



This image represents the city through its underground subway system. It uses colour to indicate the subway lines. It also uses one of Toronto’s many languages to label the subway stops. There are at least two separate languages working to represent Toronto.
This image is a drawing of Dundas Square, one of Toronto’s main tourist attractions. It uses colour and perspective to make the square look exciting, especially in the storm-clouded sky. Even though Dundas Square contains wall-to-wall advertising, the artist has obscured all the ads in the drawing except one.
Toronto enjoys a wonderful summer, and there are festivals planned for every summer weekend that move from neighborhood to neighborhood. It is a time for citizens to enjoy each other and the great weather.
This high-angle photo uses colour and perspective to show the crowd. It was taken under an overcast sky, which softens the colours and the shadows.
This last photo illustrates one of Toronto’s greatest treasures: its tree canopy. The buildings, tourist attractions and festivals are great, but the generously-treed neighborhoods are great to live and walk in.
This photo is taken from the pre-historic shore of Lake Ontario looking towards downtown. It shows the treed neighborhoods north of the downtown towers.
Toronto looks differently using different languages to serve different audiences.

Homeland, by Cory Doctorow — a review


Cory Doctorow is a novelist in the same activist tradition as were Kurt Vonnegut and Mark Twain. Vonnegut’s novels were not just entertaining, but they got under my skin, creating discomfort, a need to re-examine life, a need to do something about the problems he was describing. Read the rest of this entry

What are the different literacies associated with MIL?

What are the different literacies associated with MIL?

MIL wheel

This graphic definition of MIL has been engineered to be inclusive, but it leaves as many questions as it does answers.


Why is there television literacy but not radio literacy?

Why is there television literacy and news literacy? What of television news?

Why is there internet literacy and advertising literacy, when advertising is a common feature of the internet?

MIL Activity 4.3

Premise: A government is planning to change legislation that will affect environmental protection. A government official has just made a speech to justify the government’s position. A large group of young people are present to protest and a struggle breaks out between the protesters and the police.

How might this event be covered by a newspaper, a radio station and a television station?

How might the coverage differ and why?

How much of this difference would be based on the unique characteristics of each medium?

In Canada, this story would break from a location already familiar to people as needing environmental protection, such as a bird sanctuary or an estuary. There is such a place near the Toronto Islands on the shores of Lake Ontario, so the announcement would attract news crews from major news outlets. The government would be represented by the Minister of Natural Resources and/or the Environment and would read a rehearsed announcement because Canada’s current government maintains strict control over its members of parliament.

The Minister would announce that the government was taking steps to further protect the environment, when in fact Canada’s government is very business-friendly and comfortable with relaxing or eliminating laws that might impinge on business development. The bill would be given a misleading name, such as ‘The Protecting Endangered Species Act.’

Newspaper coverage would include photos of the Minister standing in front of the environmentally fragile location at a podium or mic stand, looking serious and reading the prepared statement. There would also be photos of protesters shouting, and especially action pix of the clashes between the protesters and the police. The report would briefly summarize the Minister’s comments, then quickly transition to the really newsworthy bits: how many protesters, how many clashes, how many arrested and/or injured in the clash. The story might finish with critical comments from the opposition parties, which would attempt to discredit the government and represent the change as another way it is selling out to big business.

Radio coverage would begin with the sounds of angry shouts of the protesters, then transition into protest chants, then into sounds of the scuffles. A reporter would then explain what had occurred while the protest sounds would continue below her voice. The report would conclude with a statement from the protest organizers and the opposition party. There might be the final sound of babbling water and the cries of birds before the fade.

Television coverage would begin with the anchor introducing the report with an image of clashing police and protesters green-screened behind her. She would then throw it to the reporter, who would stand in front of the crowd and summarize the confrontation and how many were arrested/injured. There would be a few seconds of the Minister’s sound bites, then shots of the shouting crowd and the clash with police. The voice-over would continue as the clash proceeds and we see protesters being led to paddy wagons in handcuffs. There might be one shot of a police officer in riot gear confronting a long-haired protester in a plaid jacket. There might be a sound bite from the opposition party rep. The report would conclude with the reporter signing off from the site, with animals foraging behind her.

Seth MacFarlane triumphs or Seth MacFarlane flops as Oscars host

They didn’t get it, at least not the dozen reviewers and bloggers I read the morning after the awards ceremony. In some cases, reviewers trashed MacFarlane’s singing We Saw Your Boobs and celebrated the sock puppet version of Flight. Ironically, both were MacFarlane’s ideas.

The Oscars skew old, meaning that the audience is relatively old for TV. They need to attract a younger audience to maintain viewer numbers that will allow them to profit from ad sales. Ergo, the creator of Family Guy and Cleveland was tapped as host. His name alone attracted viewers from the Family Guy and Cleveland demographic, but the Oscar performance had to deliver the irreverence and edginess his name suggests.

How to be edgy for the younger audience while traditional for the older one?

How to hold the interest and indulgence of both audiences so they won’t click away?

How to make a strong enough impression on the younger demographic so that they will watch again next year and start a much-sought-after life-long Oscar habit?

Create a frame.


Captain Kirk visits from the future—appearing from the bridge of the SS Enterprise—showing the host his mistakes from an archived recording of the show and advising him how to ‘fix’ it in real time. The ‘mistakes’ are the profane and disrespectful bits that the young demogrphic enjoy, but they are framed—literally on screen—as a recording of the flawed show; not part of the real show. The ‘fixes’ are the real show—the responses to the profane ‘mistakes’—and pitched to the traditional viewer. Thus, MacFarlane sings of seeing Charlize Theron’s boobs in the recorded version of the ‘bad’ show (and getting an uncomfortable look from her reaction shot), then croons while she dances beautifully in the fix.

It was a wonderful example of playing with the codes and conventions of entertainment media, something that MacFarlane does in his animated shows already, and which allowed him to counterpoint both tasteless and tasteful performances, pleasing two different audiences with the use of a frame.

It is a wonderful text for students wanting to explore and appreciate the codes and conventions of television representation and awards shows in particular.

Hopefully time and reflection will allow critics to re-visit and discover the genius of the show’s structure and performances.

Information and representation


MIL Activity 3.5: Travel brochures for Canada

During a brief visit to London, I stopped into a travel agency and picked up a travel brochure advertising Canadian vacations. I was curious to see how my country was represented to people in the UK. I live in Toronto, so I was especially interested to see how Toronto might be represented.

The brochure presented the ‘greatest hits’ of Canada, especially the most scenic, since colour photos were a featured element in the brochure. The scenes were of Vancouver harbor, the Rocky Mountains, the Calgary Stampede, the Toronto skyline from Centre Island, Niagara Falls, the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa, Quebec City, and the red earth of Prince Edward Island surrounding Anne of Green Gables House. These photos revealed the most scenic elements of Canada, all taken in summer, and omitted many other aspects, specifically Canada’s north, prairies and Maritime coast.

It helped me understand how media producers select and represent some parts while omitting others. It also made me wonder what elements of countries I visit might remain hidden from me.

BTW is the moon in the above photo inserted or real?

Think about the location of the sun (off to the left, which is west) and the location of the moon (which is north). If the sun is just below the horizon on the left, how would it illuminate the moon?

Where would the sun have to be to produce a full moon in the north sky?

What is the likelihood of there ever being a full moon in the north sky over Toronto?

Why might someone insert a moon in the Toronto skyline?

How might a moon in the Toronto skyline encourage someone to choose Toronto as a vacation spot?

MIL Activity 3.4

Industry codes on diversity and representation

Research the codes of practice/ethical guidelines that exist in your region. Identify who is responsible for creating these codes of practice.

The Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) developed a voluntary code of practices in 2007 ( The CAB represents all private broadcasters, i.e., not the CBC, Canada’s national broadcaster, which has its own code.

Summarize the key areas that are included and explain their purpose.

The code forbids representations as follows:

“no abusive or unduly discriminatory material or comment which is based on matters of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status or physical or mental disability.”

“unduly negative portrayals”

“unduly negative stereotypical material or comment”

“unduly deriding the myths, traditions or practices”

“derogatory or inappropriate language or terminology”


  1.  “Broadcasters shall refrain from the airing of programming that exploits women, men or children.
  2. Broadcasters shall refrain from the sexualisation of children in programming.”

The Code lists 3 possible exceptions, with limitations:

“Legitimate artistic usage; Comedic, humorous or satirical usage; and Intellectual treatment:”

How do they support the interests of citizens and consumers?

The guides promote fair and equal treatment of groups based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status or physical or mental disability.

What effect can these regulations have on the industry?

The regulations can promote equitable treatment and representation of minority groups. The code is voluntary, however, and does not list any sanctions that might be suffered from independent broadcasters who violate the code. So there is the potential vs. the real effect that the code might have.

Canada also has the Canadian Radio and Television Commission, a formal federal licensing agency that might be able to enforce sanctions on broadcasters.

MIL Activity 2.5 Telling the news

The following feature article is a part of the QUT Media and Information Literacy coursework.

International Research Symposium Advances Media Education

Toronto – A diverse group of media literacy educators and researchers met at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education February 14, 15 & 16 to share ideas and findings that will help them focus and energize media literacy education.

Dr. Kari Dehli, Director of the Centre for Media and Culture in Education, OISE/UT, hosted the symposium, completing a sabbatical year spent researching the current status of media literacy education in several western nations.

Most of the participants attended in person, while a few attended by video from the UK and the US.

Each researcher presented for 10 minutes, followed by 10 minutes of discussion. This model allowed attendees to learn and respond to the highlights of each researcher’s findings, sometimes making connections to their own research, sometimes clarifying and extending ideas.

Several patterns emerged from the presentations. One involved production and representation opportunities. Many researchers are working with underserved or disenfranchised populations, and use media production and distribution to help these people better understand their mediated environments and share their worldviews. For these people, media literacy—and media production in particular—is transformative because of its ability to give them critical media literacy strategies and voice. Their expressions will ultimately benefit everyone in the same way that dissenting or marginalized voices have always strengthened democracies: by facilitating group dialogues that support mutual respect and understanding. As Braxton, a member of a youth video production group explained, “Media literacy is in my head and a part of every class I attend. I use my media literacy tools everywhere.”

Another pattern emerged from several researchers’ comments on the changing nature and attitudes towards privacy. Because people so often use social media individually, they behave online as though they are communicating with only their target group. They seem unaware—and research often bears this out—that their communications are being tracked in a variety of ways by a variety of groups. Youth often seem unconcerned about their privacy, but to suggest that this is true of all Millenials or post-Millenials is inaccurate. In many cases, they have a higher tolerance for surveillance, but in just as many others, their apparent carelessness is a result of unawareness.

The researchers’ collective discussions on privacy and surveillance issues became so compelling that they decided to investigate the possibility of a privacy/surveillance conference at a later date.

The research symposium also provided significant networking opportunities, where researchers who had met for the first time resolved to share their findings with one another in the future.

MIL Course task: assess a news story

Conclave chooses new Catholic pope


The Al Jazeera website news story included a written section and two videos.

● Timeliness – just hours after the event

● Impact and importance – chose spiritual leader of 1.2 bn

● Prominence – world’s largest Christian faction

● Proximity – Catholic churches in many countries

● Conflict – church is wracked with controversies regarding sexual interference, celibacy, misogyny, and a dearth of new priest recruits

● Unusual/human interest – unusual because the election results from the first retirement in 400 years.

● Currency

● Necessity – new Pope will influence life decisions of many


● Truthfulness: accuracy (getting the facts right) and coherence (making sense of the facts) were accomplished effectively.

● Informing, rather than manipulating, the public was achieved well.

● Completeness/comprehensiveness was accomplished by referencing many academic authorities on Catholicism.

● Diversity occurred in that people of all races and nationalities are either practicing Catholics or interact with practicing Catholics.


[The way in which news is presented and received is also affected by socio-political context and geographical location. For example, you will notice differences in content and framing of a particular news event if you compare coverage by CNN and Al Jazeera (or other media organizations).

In both, look for the angling (i.e. selling of a particular point of view or perspective) and treatment (i.e. information provided, sources acknowledged, interviews provided, and any visual support of news stories).]

Because the CONTEXT news quality specifically referenced CNN and Al Jazeera as coming from different contexts, I intentionally visited their websites, where I found lead stories on the white smoke.

New pope, Jorge Bergogolio, adopts the name Francis I


I did NOT note bias, neither in the reporting nor in the presentation of the Al Jazeera news. The Al Jazeera tone was formal, while the CNN tone used ‘straight shooter,’ a colloquialism.