Airplane Safety & Media Literacy

Warning: This blog post contains commercial content. (No, they didn’t pay me for it)

How do I know that this is commercial content? Because I’m media literate. Also because I was on a Virgin America flight to LAX for the California State Library’s Early Learning with Families Initiative‘s CLA pre-conference when I had the illustrious privilege to view this brand new “listen to our safety announcements” video.

Why am I writing about it? Because I paid attention. I really, really paid attention to the information they wanted me to hear. It was a well-structured media experience, developed by a commercial entity, yes, but it framed old and boring sound bites in a way that was funny, engaging and artistically impressive.

(On a side note, immediately after the music video they showed a trailer for the Steve Jobs biopic which I’m totally jonesing to see now).

This experience reminded me of a few things:

  1. I knew that this content was produced by a commercial entity who wants to sell me more stuff (plane tickets) but is also legally required to tell me to sit down and buckle my seatbelt. And I’m ok with all of that because I know what’s up. I can enjoy this media offering for what it is – a very well-crafted, branded message. Children need to be taught this skill too. It’s a type of literacy that is becoming increasingly important in our consumer society, which brings me to my second point.
  2. Sometimes big, corporate, for-profit entities produce high quality content. Sometimes they produce crap. Sometimes research-based, non-profit or indie content producers create high quality content & sometimes they produce crap. You can’t write content off because it has some element of commercialism (every book on a library’s shelf is a commercial product with a marketing department behind it). Navigating that subtlety is media literacy.
  3. New media is being used by all sorts of organizations and individuals to get their messages across, whether it’s “buy our jeans” or “save the whales.” These new forms of media can be very, very compelling. They can spur us to action by making us pay attention. Marketers have known this for years. Educators are catching on and building equally compelling learning environments. Librarians are mobilizing to help parents know the difference and communicate it to their kids.

I might fly Virgin again for the ambiance, funkiness and music videos. Or I might just get the cheapest ticket I can find on Hipmunk. But I’ll be making those choices knowing what the deal is, and I’ll try to explain that kind of thing to my son along the way, too. He’ll need to know what his options are and who is trying manipulate him with beautifully produced content. By the time he’s ready to groove his own way down to LA, he’ll have an even bigger, more compelling, more confusing sea of content to navigate. I’d be remiss as a parent if I didn’t prepare him for that.

Media literacy starts at story time, and for those of you who disagree with that, remember this: books are media, too.


Posted on November 2, 2013, in Literacy. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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