In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Media Literacy

  • Introduction
  • Journals
  • Textbooks

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Communication Media Literacy
W. James Potter
  • LAST REVIEWED: 23 February 2011
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 February 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756841-0065


Thousands of books, articles, and web pages have been published about media literacy by authors all over the world. These authors are concerned citizens, parents, consumer activists, educators, and scholars from almost every field of study across academia. Given the wide-ranging backgrounds of these authors, it should be no surprise that there are many visions of what media literacy is and how it can best be achieved. Some authors think media literacy is an educational problem, so they write about curriculum design, course design, and student assessment. Some think media literacy is a family responsibility, so they write about how parents can help their children handle the risks that come with media exposure. Some think of media literacy as a personal responsibility, so they construct theories about how the media influence individuals and offer practical guidelines to help people control those effects in their everyday lives. And some authors regard media literacy as a problem with the media themselves, so they critique media businesses for many of their values, practices, and messages. While there is a great variety of thinking about media literacy, there is also a core essence that is shared by all people writing about the subject. This shared vision is that media literacy is concerned with empowering individuals to understand the mass media better and to use that increased understanding to take more control over their media exposure habits, to analyze the meaning in media messages more carefully, and thereby simultaneously to protect themselves from potentially negative effects and enhance the media’s positive effects.

Foundational Ideas

The three most important foundational questions have been: How should media literacy be defined? What should be the role of media literacy within the institution of education? And with which media should literacy be most concerned? This section is structured to highlight sources where scholars provide answers to these three fundamental questions about general definitions of media literacy, literacy and education, and literacy by medium.

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