MEDIA LITERACY 101: VIII. Each Medium has its own Language and Style

Subject: Digital Literacy
Grade Level: All
Source: Cable in the Classroom

Each medium uses certain jargon, devices and styles. In a movie or TV show, when you see the picture dissolve into blurry, wavy lines, you know you will be seeing a dream or a flashback. When you see underlined words on a Web site, you know that if you click on the words, the page they link to will appear on your screen.

While a novelist must use words to describe the setting and characters, other media use pictures, sound, and motion in addition to a written script. Over time, we understand what each technique means. We become fluent in the "languages" of different media.

Each medium also has its own style. What is artful in one medium may not work at all in another medium. For example, MTV's camera work and USA Today's front page are both illustrations of styles unique to their medium.

Explore different styles
  • Have your students or children compare and contrast the way different media handle the same story - TV news vs. coverage in the next day's newspaper vs. a report on a news Web site.
  • Compare scenes from a Shakespeare play or a novel with the movie version. How do they differ? How does the choice of medium effect the way the story is told? Think about which medium you prefer for which type of story.
  • What are the advantages and drawbacks of this medium compared to others?


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