Text vs. Context in Media Literacy: A Continuing Debate
This article appeared originally in the Journal of Communication, vol 48, #1, Winter, 1998, p. 58-69. Posted with permission of the authors.
Can a media ‘text' be separated from its political context? The authors explore an important debate in the field.
The goal of media literacy is to help people become sophisticated citizens rather than sophisticated consumers. The authors argue against a purely "text-centered" approach in which media texts can be deconstructed and analyzed so we can choose among them. Instead, media literacy should integrate a textual analysis with questions of production and reception. An analysis of the structure of media institutions is particularly important if Americans are able to appreciate and argue for alternatives to a lightly regulated commercial media system. Media literacy is, therefore, a way of extending democracy to the place where democracy is increasingly scripted and defined.