Be careful what you witch for


A week after the death of Margaret Thatcher, Ding-Dong the Witch is Dead, a song from The Wizard of Oz, had risen to the top of the pops in England as a measure of many Britons’ responses to her death. Respectful or not, this was an authentic cultural response to her actions while PM. Read the rest of this entry


MIL Activity 5.4: Advertising and the political arena


Canada’s government has allowed the broadcasting industry to self-police via the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Voluntary Code of Advertising Standards (  The code does not indicate sanctions, nor have any been exercised beyond asking offenders to withdraw their ads.


The Code is quite explicit regarding misrepresentation and liable, but excludes ‘political and election’ ads from its guides. Therefore, Canada does not have regulations regarding political advertising.


This is unfortunate, because the governing Conservative Party has lowered itself to personal attacks on each of the Leaders of the Opposition for several years. Using  video codes and conventions to smear each successive leader, the Party has bullied each one out of office.


See and



These occurrences are unfortunate, and make people wonder at the quality of democracy in Canada. Specifically, if the ruling party cannot meet its opponents at the policy and legislative level of debate, and has to resort to personal attacks, is that not an indication that its ideologies are suspect?

Canada needs a strong, national, government-funded agency that will monitor ALL communications (television, radio, publications, internet) to apply coherent rules. It needs strong, speedy and public sanctions, including against governmental agencies and political parties.

21st Century Literacies Conference Programme


Click here —-> Programme21_finalY

21st Century Literacies Conference Programme.

MIL Activity 5.3 Proposing a PSA

OUTLINE FOR a media literacy PSA


• Objectives: determined by you and meant to satisfy the goals of the client and explain the purpose or function of the campaign.

to motivate awareness, reflection and action in people to acquire and use media literacy skills in their lives

Creative – an explanation of your ideas where you describe how the objectives can be met; Technical – what media can be produced, and in what way, to meet the client’s objectives.

a multi-media campaign, print, online, radio, TV; all staying on message to encourage people to grow skills to deal with information overload

Audience: Who is your target audience? Who do you need to reach? Provide a detailed description of your audience (e.g., age, gender, race, class, nationality, how familiar they are with this form of media).

everyone who uses media, but especially those who use it heavily and those who are concerned about their media use in some way

Text: Overall message of the campaign which must be tied to objectives and the creative strategy noted above (e.g., point of view, story line, images of men and women, language, costumes, behaviour of characters).

The radio, print and video messages will contain a plain every-person who is beleaguered by aneveryman onslaught of messages in high and low gibberish voices as well as music and SFX. IN the video versions, the info will take the forms of beautiful birds, small airplanes, wasps and butterflies. After 10 seconds of info assault, the info will drop to background and there will be a calm male/female voice, Sound-over: “Do you find today’s information flow challenging?” The figure pauses and looks at camera. “Wouldn’t it be great to skillfully navigate it, confidently selecting and using the info that is best for you?” Figure crosses its arms.  “You can, with media literacy. We are the Association for Media Literacy. Check us out at”

Production: Outline for what needs to be produced. This must be tied to your technical strategy. Consider locations, camera work, sound, voice over, special effects, graphics, animation etc.

simple b/w line drawings on gray background. sophisticated sound/music mix

Industry/Business Component: Explain and defend choices as to where and when you would telecast your PSA.

buy time on talk radio; TV news and public affairs; ads in news magazine, newspapers, subway posters

all locations where people are consciously consuming information

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.