Tag Archives: media literacy

Practical verbs: 10/12

Advertising has experimented with languages, not only written and spoken, but visual and musical, for a long time. It tries to capture the essential and translate it into engagement, with a product or service, in their case; but in an age where everybody has shifted from the consumer mindset to start creating, some of those choices are being made by us and how we want to be represented. Companies listen (more than we’d like to), track and make decisions to reach a target audience; people search, scroll and then fall into an occasional error of judgment. Here’s a few sentences to navigate that context:

“You should think before you buy”

A friend used to say I should think less and live more. While her argument was actually on point, I don’t wanna talk about whatever she really thought about my personality: I take a long time to organize all the things that run through my head when I’m actually interested in a topic, and most of the time it’s a big confusion of references, even when it’s a formal situation. But specifically, when we buy stuff, we tend to make a choice based on immediate reward — or at least we go with short term decision making rather than long term. For example, I wanted a new phone. I knew how much I could spend, and I went for the cheaper models that came with a recent operating system. I found out the most recent ones were actually more expensive than I thought, but then it occurred to me that some brands are more popular than others. In the end, I chose a brand I had decided not to buy again, but that’s because I needed a new phone as quick as possible, and the delivery for the other brand I found online was going to take too long. So I went with convenience instead of personal choice, but seriously, who lives without a phone these days? Maybe buying something reflects who we really are, but I don’t wanna go that far. It’s probably more interesting to discuss how we choose to spend our time dedicating ourselves to what we want to improve, but money tends to make that easier. If people suddenly told you to think before you DM, maybe more relationships would be saved; but that’s a bad metaphor, and maybe some of them wouldn’t even start. Also, you don’t buy relationships. I’m not funny.

“You gotta learn how to sell”

Recently, I read something that said Twitter is a list of reasons for companies not to hire you. Maybe they split the people who wanna work from the people who wanna date online, but regardless of what people think about the process, you have to put an effort to look like the best version of yourself. Of course, that’s what my generation was picking up on, cause now authenticity has a lot to do with sense of humor, which means you’re more likely to nail that job interview if you know the jokes of the week on social media. But people who talk too much about social media are annoying, and we should all learn to look around at products and services for sale, instead of people. That’s what happened to some of us: we became what we share. But there’s a lot more happening around you than the media, traditional or social, can make you see — and while some of it seems irrelevant, a cashier doesn’t spend the whole day looking at Twitter. It’s one product after another. Replace that with a different job and you’ll realize it’s important to look around so you understand the world. But we don’t have to, right now. Like the stuff we buy, it’s good to think about wants and needs, but if you’re on the other side, you start to look at it differently.

“You should think before you hit send”

People have different expectations in relation to language. Language in use: what can be used, what should be used, but also words and even topics to avoid in certain situations. As conversation takes new forms and starts to look a different way, talk also changes to reflect some of the experiences we have with the visual, immediate, complex. People learn stuff with memes. They also share stuff about their mood with a picture of their face or a sunset, coffee or a book, bikinis, beer, screenshots, video edits and songs all in one place. When you send, it could be more private; when you share, it’s another identitary relation. People talk about soft skills: being an effective communicator and a good listener merge into being short when you have a message to share. But conversation isn’t dead: we want it more than ever — and the categories, though this isn’t a word to be used by everyone, are there for us to pick, but with a certain level of scrutiny.

“I can’t read all the comments”

Scrolling has become part of people’s lives, but it’s not just because the older generation spends less time online that we’re going to assume they don’t understand something we set out to do, what’s important for us or in general. If you don’t have time to go to the market, someone else can do it for you. If I need to focus on a project and I can’t have a lot of conversations while I’m working on it, I’ll need some organization and maybe I’ll count on my surrounding context to cooperate. Living by yourself means you have to clean, cook, buy stuff, do laundry, organize, pick up clothes and also work, if that’s the case. Depending on the job, you’ll find that we never do anything on our own. But that brings about many other discussions — how much you get paid, for example. A person with lots of followers can’t read everything people post because there’s too many interactions; a person with few followers may be looking for the right people to connect with, but maybe commenting might be good and even more effective than simply posting, except when you talk to yourself all the time.

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People make reference to things we might not understand, and it’s on us to look stuff up. We learn something new every day, but sometimes, we choose to skip on one thing and the next day it’s harder to catch up. That’s completely fine. The context for each of us changes, though some of that stays the same cause we’re the same. But when we see language and start using it, we change as well. How we choose to expose our thoughts is what matters most: people don’t have the context, and if we want them to, we have to be clear, and sometimes, short — otherwise, they’re likely to go on to the next thing. But everybody should have their voice heard, regardless of how they talk, what language they speak or what they believe in: conversation starts, depending on each case, when we try to express what we really think and how we see the world. We just need to be careful of how the words match the actions, and of course, avoid confrontation if we don’t want the same treatment.

Image: Pexels

Practical verbs: 3/12

In a world where feelings towards people who participate in the media and things that are only meant to complement our lives are pushed to our daily routines like they’re supposed to be priority, it’s hard to tell if you’re really enjoying the time you spend with your own devices. We should add, more people participate in the media than ever before, which would be great, if more things to buy didn’t come in the same pack, within this sort of democratic space where everyone can introduce themselves and start a new, possibly lasting friendship. Maybe some of us ignore the fact that access to technology isn’t suddenly universal just because it’s the 21st century, but it does count when you approach the question with the mindset that newer generations have adapted to virtual possibilities (excuse the redundancy) and even newer ones can’t look at life without them; but the discussions we need to be having are probably around how we’d describe each of them: a gamer is not my new best friend, a serial liker isn’t my best chance at finding true love, a user with lots of random numbers isn’t even real, and so on. Because the platforms we use ask us to describe ourselves, they have a lot of information about us; but regardless of how they use it (of course, they sell ads, but they also might help us connect with people), we’re in control of how we present ourselves. Again, the problem is going further: we’re not interested in talking about what to say on the internet, we should be focusing on what to say to whom, as well as what we don’t wanna hear, read or see. Example that might be useful: Tinder asks what your college education is. Does that make an impact on my future romantic relationships? If I don’t want to disclose it, I can just skip. But that’s a choice I’m making based on a suggestion by the platform. Not everyone uses Tinder, by the way. On a different level, lots of young people write where they study on their profiles, and when they’re graduating. If that works for them, fine. But you also see more and more people promote themselves using one hashtag after another in search of an expanded network instead of their inner circle. The problem: it’s all about image, not things I want to talk about because I care about them. With that in mind, I’ll say a few words about 4 verbs in English that should be familiar to anyone speaking a different language, observing the nuances in how they’re used, not just grammatically speaking (when you like something so much you have to be excited in public, you’re using an adverb of intensity) but also ways we can use language to avoid a possible misunderstanding, sound more polite or careful about how we make our feelings explicit.

“I love watching TV!”

Before the internet, TV was definitely what you’d call mainstream. But it didn’t go anywhere: every channel has a diverse set of options to the general audience, and how they’ve developed is a side discussion. I can watch live sports broadcasts or a debate with the candidates for a government position; I can watch a movie that sold a lot of tickets or an interview with a movie director, then put on the news and learn about an issue based on what elected officials and specialists are saying. The examples are many, of course. How mainstream networks maintained their programs and schedules for decades is now in the subconscious of entire populations, as well as the people on camera every day and their roles, not to mention the ads. But something happened very recently, and we’re still dealing with the effects: the internet made those content consumers new content producers, massively altering how media was thought about and assimilated, as well as our relationship with it. Of course, linguistically speaking, nobody would say they love watching TV. But they’ll definitely tell you what they think about a show, or a sports team, an actor or actress. Unpopular opinion: I love the piano intro on Will and Grace, but I’m not the biggest fan of the show, to be honest. Mad About You? Another story. But that’s because I grew up with Sony on TV, here in Brazil. The references are completely different. And maybe that’s a good example: if it’s foreign but also from a different period, nobody can relate — except your inner circle, or “bubble”, as they say it. I could totally start a conversation with a musician friend who likes Led Zeppelin because of the slides: we’d have something in common, though I’m a bigger fan of grooves, and someone else could say it’s all about the powerful vocals, and maybe another friend would point out the bass lines are totally underrated or something. Outside the music bubble, you’re likely to find someone who enjoys slides and started to feel this way because of Breaking Bad. Or South Park. Do you see how these things are different? Today, it’s like relating to a story on Law and Order SVU and having someone comment: “oh yeah, from TikTok”. But not necessarily do we need to take things to extremes in terms of what we know and other people don’t. Which is why, when you’re expressing your feelings towards something, you should keep conversation going exploring the topic, not just say “get outta here” if they don’t feel the same way.

“I hate waking up early”

Better to bond with someone who shares a preference than to tear down someone else’s. Being up late at night is not something all of us can do, because we have responsibilities and things we need to start working on early in the day. When you get used to it, you feel better as you’re being productive and useful (I swear I’d love to quote from someone here), but not having to set the alarm and take your shower half conscious is a totally different life. You sleep as much as you want, and the day starts when it starts. People hate getting interrupted, denied a chance to do what they really enjoy or just not having much choice on what they wanna do; on the other hand, you’ll learn as you renounce to certain things so you can maintain the essential. Your kid says they hate cabbage? Maybe later on they’ll do some research and find out how good it can be for their health, and change their minds. But unfortunately, some of the feelings of hatred we see on the internet aren’t towards the taste of food. Things need to be fixed, and they say they’re working on it. The teenager who hates pervs is not the same as the Republican who hates immigrants, but if you’ll excuse me, there’s gray areas. When you don’t enjoy the experience you’re having online, you have tools you can use, some of them already available when you opt in on the platform’s terms. What we all expect is that the people who click to hide an ad or to block someone from interacting are going to be able to focus on what they really want, and develop a sense that ignoring issues is valid, but knowing what to say when they’re not happy with what they see is even more important, however exhausting at times.

“I agree that we need change”

When people can convince us that what they’re saying is important (whether it’s a tweet or a 2 hour presentation on YouTube), we show support by liking and subscribing or following. We also share and comment. That’s not, however, a magic formula for success, especially because we’re interested in the discussion, and while there’s a number of people who might be genuinely fishing for likes, as we say, someone might be daring to ask uncomfortable questions, and we tend to ignore those. Agreeing means you can follow up, but not necessarily. Next time you hear about an issue, maybe you’ll say this video or story explained how it really works, so you’ll recommend it. Not an easy thing to do when you think about the big picture, and certainly not common when you think about leadership.

“I respectfully disagree”

Respect is the basis of life in society. Agreeing is something else. I’ll always respect my family, but definitely not agree with them on every single issue. We tend to stay closer to the people we respect and agree with, but eventually we’ll learn to respect those who have divergent opinions. Some people have played with the notion that being authentic is saying whatever you want without care for the reception of your words. That lays the ground for the naturalization of disrespect, which is certainly a problem we need to tackle. No, we shouldn’t expect that in order to be respected you need to vote for the same person, listen to the same artists, eat the same food, read the same books or watch the same stuff as I do so we can successfully avoid confrontation; what we should bear in mind is that confrontation and debate are different concepts. Debating is discussing ideas; confronting is asking directly for an explanation about your actions. Some confrontation isn’t just words, and that’s precisely the issue. We all need to acknowledge that what we say and do has an effect on people, and society responds to these. The key is to find common ground and work on developing and improving, as opposed to highlighting our differences and working on intensifying them — unless we think something is always bad and cannot be reproduced.

Wrap up

There’s a lot of ways you can say you don’t like something. “What you did here was great, but I was thinking you could add more of this aspect because of this and that”: a good way to give feedback on a project. “I don’t mind it, but not everybody thinks like me”: a good way to point out an inconvenience. “It’s freaking perfect, I love it, you’re amazing”: a good way to emphasize how you feel about something and also make someone feel valued. In a time where conversation seems to be fading out, it’s important we understand how to reclaim it so we can build a future dialogue, instead of future disputes.

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image: pexels

Towards a brighter future: is information filtering a required skill?

When you write about Education, you’d think there’s a common interest of anyone who’s thinking about what their kids can do to succeed in life, reach higher positions in the workplace, stay informed and be able to act with responsibility and readiness even when faced with the biggest challenges in the sector they are or want to be in, or maybe adapt with ease to the changes of a fast paced, disruptive and innovation driven culture. I’m here to say it doesn’t always go like that: the real data on what happens in schools around the country should put everyone not exactly on alert, but at least in a state of introspection, considering what needs to be done to fix the gaps in systems adopted on city and state levels as well as the federal programs. There’s a lot of progress in Brazil, notably in access to higher education and reshaping of testing and materials, but the discussion is marked by party ideologies that can’t seem to mix or even dialogue, as polarization makes it clear that populism and capitalism aren’t on the same spectrum of influence. And before you ask what exactly I mean by that, it’s really common understanding: caring about people or caring about money. There’s a small detail, though: everyone needs money and people need each other.

I was listening to an EdTech podcast yesterday where a teacher in London mentioned film making and programming classes for young learners. How I got there is maybe more interesting to talk about than what’s being discussed; how many people are going to dig in to find out more about every single potential knowledge building source and updated material is a whole different issue. So let me just say I’ve been thinking about my role as a teacher in the Southeast of Brazil, a region that notably has São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro as the main economic spheres in the country, while nearly 40% of people older than 25 haven’t gotten to high school, according to a 2018 report from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (a regional assessment on school quality based on national testing is available here). A lot of discussion is happening around the future of work, with the people who used to scream that robots would take all the jobs being replaced by testimonials of Amazon workers who can’t stop; of education, with teachers being filmed in the classroom and students searching more than ever for reliable sources, as well as memes and stuff we’re all turning a blind eye to; of political campaigns, in a time where it seems to be unclear whether or not anyone established a consistent approach to the ethical instances of public and private conversations that shape policies and media strategies. The radical idea, though, seems to be integrating these spheres in a cohesive way. That’s an analytical perspective: if there are crucial differences between, for instance, states in any given country, I can’t implement a program that only attends to part of it and use the word integration to talk about it. We try to be optimistic, but reality hits us and then we fall; our response, in a connected world, should be to get back up and focus on what we can do to change things for the better. But less talk and more data: let’s suppose the metrics for literacy are not the variety of media sources you liked on Facebook, but rather, how many books you read this year. You might not focus too much on reading a physical book, and that’s okay, because things change – it doesn’t mean you don’t read and you’re dumb. I’m that kind of guy, except I’ll recommend you a good read anyway. What data shows is that 56% of new high school Brazilian students say they read books only once in a while, according to QEdu. Does that mean more than half of students aren’t reading at all or does it indicate that the experience of reading is losing ground to other forms of media, and we should all look towards a more inclusive future? That’s the kind of thing that got researchers busy coming up with the definition of media literacy, which I personally think everyone should know about, but in turn presents new challenges of categorization and finding practical solutions, especially as it sometimes favors misinformation.

The problem isn’t so easy to map. I could say that my readings are limited because the published works available in other languages aren’t available where I live, but if I can go through denial and general laziness without realizing I could search for keywords and authors giving interviews and writing columns in a variety of media channels, I hope you can too: the web is not a kid anymore; it writes theses which are just waiting for you to find them. Still, when you begin to wonder what exactly you need to learn from school, life or maybe a particular situation you don’t feel comfortable sharing even though privacy is dead and you can’t not share your life with everybody else in this day and age, you’ll find a question of relevance scrolling through endless results of your search for knowledge (to err, oh Academia, is human). What I think isn’t so clear is that it’s really fun to talk about how algorithms save lives or whatever, but not so thrilling to think about interviewing the homeless guy catching cans from the trash bin or, if you don’t wanna go there, the owner of a bar, that’s not a fancy pub selling imported beer, but a place for drunk dads around fifty to sit down and talk about soccer. Nobody’s asking you to, as long as you’re still capable of acknowledging some people got it worse than yourself. I might be missing the point, but I just want to illustrate that while many try to mirror the developed world and think about how we can be more modern, they’re not talking about distributing wealth or even looking at the needs of a population that still lacks basic infrastructure, the kind of thing that slows down investment on, I don’t know, space travel. So here’s my metaphor: an ad on YouTube showed me an MMORPG (short for Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) called Eve. Who thinks kids should be busy with that instead of rehearsing Shakespeare plays to perform in front of their families? Here in Brazil, literally no one — since we still have our own canon to attend to.

Whatever you think is a good way to spend time with a kid or a teenager, it’s not up for debate that some of that time is going to be spent interacting with people who are far from your trust circle. While that is a reason for many parents to be concerned, some of the essence of internet possibilities basically tries to convince them it’s going to be okay: if you want to find out more about the world, you’ll find it online. But that has implications on school curricula, and though it’s not clear for developing countries what we need to do to be able to integrate the demand for complex knowledge and skill sets with behavior, lifestyle and social background, it seems that the tendency is to run as fast as you can to wherever innovation is. Wouldn’t it be nice if the concept of innovation wasn’t just creating something entirely new, but coming up with smart solutions based on research and expertise to the problems societies face, with cooperation and intelligent strategies for achieving quality standards with concrete models to implement in different sectors that spoke to different groups of people? Still according to QEdu, 60% of new high school students never or almost never read the newspaper. Are we going to say they’re completely alienated from what’s happening around them or is it time to pay more attention to the collection of links they post on their timelines – because they read from sources that don’t necessarily come in print? That’s the kind of ideology that seems to be lacking not just in my country, but maybe elsewhere. While I can’t have a consistent opinion on regime changes in South American countries, for instance, it’s easy to find a tweet in Spanish about what happened in a street protest, and even easier to be aware that it happened, since trending topics have been with us for a while now; if you’re going to expand that knowledge and construct your own opinion based on careful analysis, sharing it after scrutiny and comparison then potentially influencing other groups of people is another issue, but that’s pretty much what a digital influencer does, minus the paid ads.

While it’s interesting to read about streaming wars, it’s even more interesting to prepare someone to make videos with quality; while it’s exciting to talk about making money online, it’s more edifying to read about banks and their influence on every sector of our society. Education is taking new challenges, and as information becomes more available, the natural development is how we’re going to filter it. Then comes testing: SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) and ACT (American College Test) in the US are just one side of a way more intricate set of procedures throughout years of student life, but we know the institutions at the top require a lot of investment that the great majority won’t ever have. In Brazil, we have Prova Brasil and ENEM, assessments for different stages of Education, and a series of programs for student support created to make sure everyone could pursue higher education and not stagnate (ProUni, Fies, Sisu). In comparison, these kinds of policies don’t seem to take shape on a national level in the American Education, athough the case for community colleges proves there are options; but while I may be inclined to comment on a lighter note that I didn’t write any essays in high school and definitely can’t solve the same equations of high school students who live there, let alone get the same scores, I do think it’s important for a nation to work toward the preparation of better citizens and better workers, if not better human beings – that role, one could argue, is reserved to parents; but the discussion about what the web is doing comes back to haunt us like the blonde woman and the white cat. What matters to know, at this point, is how I can make sure I’m not wasting my time with something that has no relevance in my daily life nor serves to build my professional skills in a way I can direct to constructing a better world for everybody else. It seems that people don’t want to start that discussion, because they want to know who you waste your time with, and the better world can’t be for anyone who’s not their client.

What follows that is the demand for free materials available online. If every teacher had a channel on YouTube, maybe the world would turn into a better place at the snap of a finger; maybe it would be filled with unsolicited opinions and kids thinking they totally can do better than that. We’re not discussing how many famous people have explained what you need to do to create monetized content, because there aren’t any, as far as I know; we’re not discussing why teachers aren’t making enough to go through a soul sucking semester (I believe that’s called alliteration, but who cares?) while their retirement is postponed and, in a lot of cases, their work is still informal. How should we look at the new skills to teach and the ones we can learn, especially in a time of crisis, focusing on the positive aspects of connectivity and the prospects of getting to live a more dignified life without the burdens of household paychecks stopping us from doing simple things like getting a new pair of shoes? Maybe the answer is to thank content creators, strive to make a difference and, in case you’re caught by the invisible hand of boredom, don’t pay attention to market oscilations.

Image: Pexels