The following is a work in progress.
In a media-saturated society, we need to know how digital media work. For one thing, we are all becoming media creators to some degree. Moreover, solid communications techniques are going to be critically important skills for social
and economic participation–and this is no longer solely the reading and writing of the past.
Every journalism student I’ve taught has been required to create and operate a blog, not because blogging is the summit of media creation but because it is an ideal entry point into media creation. It can combine text, images, video, and other formats, using a variety of “plug-in” tools, and it is by nature conversational. And it is a Web-native form, natively digital media that adapts over time. This is a start, but only a start. Over a lifetime, people will pick up many kinds of newer media forms, or adapt older ones.
Media-creation skills are becoming part of the development process for many children in the developed world, less so for children in the developing world. In America and other economically advanced nations, teenagers and even younger children are digital natives.
Younger and older audiences may be less familiar with other kinds of media techniques. Learning how to snap a photo with a mobile phone is useful. But it’s just as important to know what one might do with that picture, even more so to understand how that picture fits into a larger media ecosystem.
And it’s absolutely essential to understand the ways people use media to persuade and manipulate–how media creators push our logical and emotional buttons. Children and adults need to know marketers’ persuasion and manipulation techniques, in part to avoid undue influence, whether the marketers are selling products, opinions, or political candidates.
In the process we all need to have a clear understanding of how journalism works. The craft and business are evolving, but they exert enormous influence over the way people live. In one sense, journalists are an example of a second-order effect of the marketers’ trade, because sellers and persuaders use journalists to amplify messages. But journalists deserve (and themselves should wish for) greater scrutiny for its own sake–to improve journalism and public understanding. Hence my earlier push for more and better media criticism.