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The Power Of Media In The Digital Age

1923 words - 8 pages

The Power of Media in the Digital Age

   Across from my old high school, where once a pool hall

seduced us away from classes, there is now a trendy bar and grill frequented by the

recently-graduated. I visited this establishment to reflect upon the nature of media,

culture and what it means to be literate in the 21st century. The implications for teachers,

libraries and society in general may be daunting, but they hint at excitement, too.

There I was, an English major, a man of the book as it were, all ready to

cast aspersions left, right and center at these clearly illiterate, shallow young hipsters.

Within sight of my old high school library, I was ready to join the crowd of experts

and decry the decay of our culture, the inevitable devolution to a monosyllabic, non-

print bunch of video heads. This was culture at its lowest brow, with no concept of

canonical values or the means to access them. Media shaped these minds and what a

mess had been made. Such doom and gloom scenarios are common enough. Fortunately,

I paused and took a slightly deeper look at what I was really seeing.


The room featured eight television sets, three of them nearly theatre size, with no two

featuring the same show. There were a few sporting events, CNN Headline News on

one, at least two different music videos, while a number of the sets were broadcasting

an interactive trivia game played by patrons on small portable keyboards. Sprinkled

throughout the bar were a variety of entertainment newspapers, some magazines and

at least one person was reading a book in the relative solitude of a corner. People

talked with others around them and interspersed this with cell phone calls. For

someone of my generation a place like this tends to be a bit busy on the nerves, yet

the more I watched, the more I noted the ease with which the young folks, those

supposedly illiterate types, flowed easily from one medium to another, simultaneously

tracking and processing countless streams of textual information. They were more

aware of what was going on than I was and could clearly tell the scores in the games

and the events in the news, as they spoke in clusters of conversation about what the

media imparted. What's more to the point is that they were not dealing with text on a

superficial level (though much of the content they were dealing with was trivial) but

in cognitive terms they did so with far better acuity and retention than I could. So the

question was, what had media added and what was lost?


This one admittedly unscientific observation serves, I think, as a good allegory for

those of us directly involved in sorting through ideas about culture and media literacy

in the digital communications age. If one looks upon the scene with the glasses of an

older, print-based paradigm, it is easy to see a sad ...

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