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How media literacy is defined: A review
Unformatted Document Text:  3 the production, interpretation and content of media information within a socio-cultural context, as well as knowledge about the relations between these elements. The model is characterized as constructivist because it presumes that people construct their own realities, using the media as one of the means to achieve this construction. The model was derived from one constructivist model of media use, namely the action theoretical approach (Schaap, Renckstorf & Wester, 2001). The model was used as a heuristic device to identify the essential elements of media literacy (see Figure 1). The constructivist model of media literacy consists of several elements as well as the relationships between these elements. The first element in the model, ‘media institutions’, refers to knowledge about the economic, political and legal contexts within which media messages are produced, and how these contexts influence the actual media institutions and the type of contents they produce. ------------------------------- Insert Figure 1 about here ------------------------------- The next two elements in this model are called ‘social network’ and ‘situations’. Both refer to the social environment surrounding an individual. In regard to media literacy, the element ‘social network’, suggests an awareness of social structures, and how these interact with the media. It also suggests an understanding that people who live in different social circumstances, may interpret the same message differently. The element ‘situations’ suggests that people should know that what one sees, hears or reads in the media is a skewed and biased reflection of reality. This element includes the knowledge that what one perceives through the media is a representation of selected events, and that therefore the media do not provide a perfect reflection of reality. Together, the first three elements make up the social cultural context of media use. The fourth element, ‘information’ refers to the representation of people, places, events and situations by the media. In terms of media literacy, this element suggests an awareness of the extent to which a message is a biased construction, the way in which the representation is created, and the codes and conventions used in a media message. Finally, this element suggests that people should be aware of the fact that there are multiple sources of information. In this model the elements information and the social cultural context are portrayed as being related to each other. This relationship symbolizes the notion that the content of a media message is influenced not only by the institutions that produce the message, but also by the social structures that help define the boundaries within which a message is produced. In terms of media literacy, this relationship entails the awareness that dominant social norms and values, as well as the nature of the institutions in which a message is produced, influence the content of the message. Additionally, the relationship between information and social cultural context also runs in the reverse direction. In this case it refers to the extent to which a media message reflects the dominant social cultural norms and dealings in a society, and the extent to which a media message becomes a part of the social cultural environment. The remaining elements may be regarded as aspects of the interpretation of media content or ‘information’. The fifth element, ‘interaction situation’, refers to the situations in which people use the media. In respect to media literacy, this element suggests that media users should be aware of the types of situations in which they use the media, and the extent to which the media are used for para-social interaction. ‘Definition of the situation’, element 6, refers to the interpretation process, wherein one uses one’s knowledge to come to an understanding of the media, as well as to the result or product of this interpretation process. In terms of media literacy, this element refers to people’s ability to analyze and interpret media content. It also includes people’s awareness

Authors: Rosenbaum, Judith.
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the production, interpretation and content of media information within a socio-cultural
context, as well as knowledge about the relations between these elements. The model is
characterized as constructivist because it presumes that people construct their own realities,
using the media as one of the means to achieve this construction. The model was derived from
one constructivist model of media use, namely the action theoretical approach (Schaap,
Renckstorf & Wester, 2001).
The model was used as a heuristic device to identify the essential elements of media
literacy (see Figure 1). The constructivist model of media literacy consists of several elements
as well as the relationships between these elements. The first element in the model, ‘media
institutions’, refers to knowledge about the economic, political and legal contexts within
which media messages are produced, and how these contexts influence the actual media
institutions and the type of contents they produce.
-------------------------------
Insert Figure 1 about here
-------------------------------
The next two elements in this model are called ‘social network’ and ‘situations’. Both
refer to the social environment surrounding an individual. In regard to media literacy, the
element ‘social network’, suggests an awareness of social structures, and how these interact
with the media. It also suggests an understanding that people who live in different social
circumstances, may interpret the same message differently.
The element ‘situations’ suggests that people should know that what one sees, hears or
reads in the media is a skewed and biased reflection of reality. This element includes the
knowledge that what one perceives through the media is a representation of selected events,
and that therefore the media do not provide a perfect reflection of reality. Together, the first
three elements make up the social cultural context of media use.
The fourth element, ‘information’ refers to the representation of people, places, events
and situations by the media. In terms of media literacy, this element suggests an awareness of
the extent to which a message is a biased construction, the way in which the representation is
created, and the codes and conventions used in a media message. Finally, this element
suggests that people should be aware of the fact that there are multiple sources of information.
In this model the elements information and the social cultural context are portrayed as
being related to each other. This relationship symbolizes the notion that the content of a media
message is influenced not only by the institutions that produce the message, but also by the
social structures that help define the boundaries within which a message is produced. In terms
of media literacy, this relationship entails the awareness that dominant social norms and
values, as well as the nature of the institutions in which a message is produced, influence the
content of the message. Additionally, the relationship between information and social cultural
context also runs in the reverse direction. In this case it refers to the extent to which a media
message reflects the dominant social cultural norms and dealings in a society, and the extent
to which a media message becomes a part of the social cultural environment.
The remaining elements may be regarded as aspects of the interpretation of media
content or ‘information’. The fifth element, ‘interaction situation’, refers to the situations in
which people use the media. In respect to media literacy, this element suggests that media
users should be aware of the types of situations in which they use the media, and the extent to
which the media are used for para-social interaction.
‘Definition of the situation’, element 6, refers to the interpretation process, wherein
one uses one’s knowledge to come to an understanding of the media, as well as to the result or
product of this interpretation process. In terms of media literacy, this element refers to
people’s ability to analyze and interpret media content. It also includes people’s awareness


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