+
Deconstruct Media Messages

Deconstruct Media Messages

Author: Amee Wittbrodt
Description:
  • Understand, analyze, evaluate, and use different types of print, digital, and multimodal media.
  • Critically analyze information found in electronic, print, and mass media and use a variety of these sources.
  • Learn how to deconstruct a media message by viewing examples and answering in depth questions about the core concepts: source, text, subtext, audience, persuasion techniques, and point of view.
  • Choose an ad to deconstruct and apply these concepts following the example.

This packet provides information about deconstructing media messages.The Media Literacy Project website is the main source of information.  After learning the core concepts of what makes up an ad, students will view examples and answer questions, specifically: What part of the story is not being told in these media messages? How do they construct their own stories? What ideas do they promote? Finally, students will choose an ad to deconstruct and follow the example to apply these concepts.

(more)
See More
Try a College Course Free

Sophia’s self-paced online courses are a great way to save time and money as you earn credits eligible for transfer to over 2,000 colleges and universities.*

Begin Free Trial
No credit card required

25 Sophia partners guarantee credit transfer.

221 Institutions have accepted or given pre-approval for credit transfer.

* The American Council on Education's College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE Credit®) has evaluated and recommended college credit for 20 of Sophia’s online courses. More than 2,000 colleges and universities consider ACE CREDIT recommendations in determining the applicability to their course and degree programs.

Tutorial

Background Information

Deconstructing a media message can help us understand who created the message, and who is intended to receive it. It can reveal how the media maker put together the message using words, images, sounds, design and other elements. It can expose the point of view of the media maker, their values, and their biases. It can also uncover hidden meanings – intended or unintended.

 

How to Deconstruct a Media Message

All media messages – TV shows, newspapers, movies, advertisements, etc. – are made or constructed by people. One of the most important media literacy skills is deconstruction – closely examining and “taking apart” media messages to understand how they work. Deconstructing a media message can help us understand who created the message, and who is intended to receive it. It can reveal how the media maker put together the message using words, images, sounds, design, and other elements. It can expose the point of view of media makers, their values, and their biases. It can also uncover hidden meanings – intended or unintended. There is no one “correct” way to deconstruct a media message – each of us interprets media differently, based on our own knowledge, beliefs, experiences, and values. Just be prepared to explain your interpretation.

 

Key Concepts for Deconstructing Media

 

SOURCE

All media messages are created. The creator could be an individual writer, photographer or blogger. In the case of a Hollywood movie, the scriptwriter, director, producer, and movie studio all play a role in creating the message. Ads are usually put together by ad agencies, but the “creator” is really the client – the company or organization that’s paying for the ad. The key point is: Whose message is this? Who has control over the content?

TEXT

We often use the word “text” to mean “written words.” But in media literacy, “text” has a very different meaning. The text of any piece of media is what you actually see and/or hear. It can include written or spoken words, pictures, graphics, moving images, sounds, and the arrangement or sequence of all of these elements. Sometimes the text is called the “story” or “manifest text.” For most of us, the text of a piece of media is always the same.

SUBTEXT

The “subtext” is an individual interpretation of a media message. It is sometimes called the “latent text.” The subtext is not actually heard or seen; it is the meaning we create from the text in our own minds. While media makers often create texts that suggest certain subtexts, each person creates their own subtext (interpretation) based on their previous experiences, knowledge, opinions, attitudes, and values. Thus, two people interpreting the same text can produce two very different subtexts.

AUDIENCE

Media messages are intended to reach audiences. Some are designed to reach millions of people. Others may be intended only for one person. Most media messages are designed to reach specific groups of people – defined by age, gender, class, interests, and other factors – called the “target audience.”

PERSUASION TECHNIQUES (See The Language of Persuasion)

Media messages use a number of techniques to try to persuade us to believe or do something. If we can spot the techniques being used, we’re less likely to be persuaded, and more likely to think for ourselves.

POINT OF VIEW

No one tells the whole story. Everyone tells part of the story from their point of view. Deconstructing a media message can expose the values and biases of the media maker, and uncover powerful messages.

 

Deconstruction Gallery

We're constantly being bombarded with media messages on what to buy, what to think and who to vote for. Ads sell us products, and they also sell us ideas. These ideas inform how we think about our world and influence how we make decisions.

Click to browse the DECONSTRUCTION GALLERY and consider: What part of the story is not being told in these media messages? How do they construct their own stories? What ideas do they promote?

Click an image or title to see a media example and deconstruction questions. View a minimum of three.

Deconstruction This Example

Full Screen

Discussion Questions

  1. What key concept is the quote describing: "How does each viewer interpret the media message?"
  2. What key concept is the quote describing: "Whose message is this? Who has control over the content?"
  3. What key concept is the quote describing: "What specific group of people is this message designed to reach?"
  4. What key concept is the quote describing: "What methods are used to persuade the viewer?"
  5. What key concept is the quote describing: "How is the message or story arranged?"
  6. T/F? All media messages are created for a specific purpose.
  7. T/F? Two people watching the same media message will always come away with the same meaning (subtext).
  8. T/F? Most media messages are designed to reach a specific group of people.
  9. What does the text or story of a media message include?
  10. If we can spot the persuasion techniques being used, we're more likely to _______________.
  11. Choose one of the following ads to deconstruct. Follow the example at the top. Be sure to answer these questions:
    • Whose message is this? Who created or paid for it? Why?
    • Who is the target audience? What is their age, ethnicity, class, profession, interests, etc.? What words, images or sounds suggest this?
    • What is the text of the message? (What we actually see and/or hear: written or spoken words, photos, drawings, logos, design, music, sounds, etc.)
    • What is the subtext of the message? (What do you think is the hidden or unstated meaning? What does the ad really want us to feel or do?)
    • What kind of lifestyle is presented? Is it glamorized? How?
    • What values are expressed?
    • What positive messages are presented? What negative messages are presented?
    • What groups of people does this message empower? What groups does it dis-empower? How does this serve the media maker's interests?
    • What part of the story is not being told?