As we go deeper into the Media Mindfulness strategy, today we will look at the second question of the four-question strategy. The introductory article can be found here and the article on the first question of the strategy can be found here.
The question, “what is really going on?” is actually a three-part question. This question takes us a step deeper into engaging with media messages. By answering the first question, “what is going on?” we discover the context of the media message. The first part of “What is really going on?” gets us deeper by asking how whatever is going on is going on. How is the media text getting its message across? What underlying techniques are being used to present the message? For whom is the message intended and how do you know?
The second element of “what is really going on?” is discovering why what is going on is going on. We try to “read between the lines,” if you will, to look at the elements of the story, the lifestyles and behaviors of the characters and discover what they mean. What kind of attitudes do the characters have? Are they people you would want to be friends with and why or why not? What motivates the choices they make in the story? Why does a particular character act a certain way and not some other in the media story? These are only a few examples of the kinds of questions that can be asked of a media text to discover “what is really going on?”
The third element of this second Media Mindfulness question is to ask about what’s missing? Who is missing from the story and why? For example, if you’re watching a movie focused on teens, often times parents are missing from or peripheral to the narrative. Who might be in the story but is marginalized for some reason? What ethnic groups or genders are or are not represented in the story? Does the representation reflect the reality of society? What do the answers to these questions tell us about the creators of the story, how they see the world, and how they want us to see the world?
As you can tell, asking this question of “what is really going on” can take a conversation about any media text in a million different directions depending on who’s participating. Different people will notice different things about the media text and draw different conclusions. This fact actually enriches conversation around media messages as each person shares his or her experience of the media text.
These first two questions of the Media Mindfulness strategy, “what is going on?” and “what is really going on?” focus on unpacking the media text itself and this can be a very enjoyable exercise. Don’t, however, get bogged down here with the first two questions. They are only the beginning and lay the foundation for us to now engage the media text with the ideals and values of our Christian faith when we ask question number three: “what difference does it make?” But that topic is for the next article in the series. Stay tuned.