Language is the source of misunderstandings.
— Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900 – 44)
BACKGROUND AND RATIONALE
‘The medium is the message‘, now a famous quote, was written by Marshall McLuhan in 1964. While the medium may affect how messages are received, the users’/audiences’ own background/experience may also affect the interpretation of messages. An important first step in becoming media and information literate is to understand how information, ideas and meaning are communicated through and by various media and other information providers, such as libraries, archives, museums and the Internet. Each medium has its own ‘language’ or ‘grammar’ that works to convey meaning in a unique way. ‘Language’ in this sense means the technical and symbolic ingredients or codes and conventions that media and information professionals may select and use in an effort to communicate ideas, information and knowledge. Technical codes include sound, camera angles, types of shots and lighting. They may include, for example, ominous music to communicate danger in a feature film, or high-angle camera shots to create a feeling of power in a photograph. Symbolic codes include the language, dress or actions of characters, or iconic symbols that are easily understood. For example, a red rose may be used symbolically to convey romance, or a clenched fist may be used to communicate anger. Media languages can also include the repeated use of particular words, phrases and images, also known as verbal or visual language. When we study media languages, three main questions should be considered: How are media languages understood by media audiences? What are some of the major codes and conventions used by people working in media and information today? Another important question is whether different persons can derive dissimilar meanings from the same text or piece of information. This module aims at training teachers to acquire knowledge of a variety of media languages to enable them to understand the ways in which information and messages can be conveyed and how their interpretation of information or ideas from media and other information providers can be related to the type of languages used.