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Student View: Why Media Literacy Matters

By Aoife Hyland

Aoife Hyland is a first-year BA Joint Honours student at Dublin City University where she studied media literacy in the School of Communications. 

In our world today, not everybody is media literate. Some might wonder what the term media literacy means. They might not have heard it before. The word ‘literacy’ usually describes the ability to read and write. For the majority of people the word ‘media’ is something to do with Instagram, Facebook, the radio or news. In some respects, they are correct, but media literacy has a deeper meaning than just being able to identify forms of media. The full definition of media literacy is: ‘the ability or skill to access, analyse, evaluate, create and act using all forms of media and communication’. Without these skills, people would not be able to fully interpret and understand media, especially when media is constantly changing over time.

In his book Media Literacy, James Potter uses a three-building block format for media literacy. 1) cognitive skills – the tools you use to build knowledge structures, 2) knowledge structures – the organisation of learning and information and 3) personal locus – your motivation, attention and direction. Potter uses these three techniques to describe how someone may be or become more media literate. 

Being able to break down media messages and to identify certain elements of media can be very useful when it comes to interpreting the media. For example, analysing an ad could determine if it is legit (is it real), or if it is a scam or false advertisement. Having knowledge is also important. One false piece of information can be spread fast and wide, so people that are media literate should be able to determine if it is credible. Media literacy allows individuals to understand the complexities of the modern information environment, identify misinformation, and participate actively in democratic processes. 

Being media literate is also important when a person is creating new media. With these skills a person can create new media thoughtfully and conscientiously. It is important for these content creators to understand what they are sending out and the impact their messages might have.

This opinion piece is part of a blog series from DCU students.