Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Media Mindfulness

I discovered the concept of media mindfulness in a book written by Gretchen Hailer called Believing in a Media Culture. Mindfulness sounds like a complex process but is simply a matter of taking the time or slowing down and paying attention. The process starts when we are aware of ourselves and what we believe. We must also be aware of our environment and our interaction with that environment. By doing so, we can unlock and understand how media functions, what messages they are communicating, and why they are being sent. These are the building blocks of media mindfulness.

For example, I love to climb mountains. My destination is the top. But if I don’t take time along the way to enjoy the experience, I miss the entire reason for getting to the top. It’s the journey not the destination that’s important. Mindfulness means that you take time to watch the passing clouds or listen to the wind blowing in the trees. The experience provides the framework for meaning.

Media mindfulness challenges us to watch movies, television, or any other form of media in a different light. We now become active participants. Our goal is not to get to the end of the story but to see how the story unfolds and to look at everything with fresh eyes. We examine each element to discover what point of view might be present. Why is a character a certain age, gender or race? What lifestyles are being promoted or dismissed? What was the reason for the story to be based in an urban setting instead of a rural setting? Why is one character affluent and one character poor? What perspectives were left out of the story? By close examination, we can begin to discover patterns and meaning that exist in our media.

Media mindfulness requires us to have a proper response to the message the media is trying to communicate to us. We must process what we see and hear by our value system and respond by either accepting or rejecting the message. Without practicing media mindfulness, we can watch a television program or a movie without any feeling or response to what is going on and not remember a single thing at the end. However, everything we have seen and heard has been stored on a subconscious level. That’s how media can affect us either positively or negatively when we do not practice media mindfulness. What is lacking is our attention to the present reality we live in.

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