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Strap Yourself In: A New Year in Media Has Begun
I know I don’t, not really, not yet. I guess it’s finally hitting me how truly comforting it is that the world didn’t end back on December 21. What I mean is, with the universe sparing the planet and therefore allowing us to reach another calendrical starting line we have all the old benchmarks to look forward to: birthdays, holidays, the changing of the seasons (for some of us), one school year ending and another beginning (again, for some of us).
In the face of such hallowed events, then, it must reveal a lot about me that my sense of the passage of time and the rhythms of any given year are largely determined by the annual media swells that rise and crash, one after another. In a way, they’re as unceasing as Fitzgerald’s boats beating against the current… except that these tend to leave us in some perpetual state of “now” that’s ostensibly exciting—yet in reality vaguely boring, depending on how many times you’ve gone around this particular loop.
So maybe this doesn’t say something about me alone—maybe many of us who are living this highly “mediated” experience of life itself now associate certain months, days, and weeks with specific media events. And just in case the young people that you work with belong in this group, you might want to look ahead with an eye toward media literacy opportunities. Yes, MLE can be practiced every day of the year—there’s new, even compelling, fodder for it produced each second—but there’s something to be said for planning well in advance. That way you can leverage high-interest moments to initiate deeper inquiry rather than just launching a brief, in-passing discussion about a timely event.
So what’s on my personal media horizon, the things that I already see approaching?
- Well, there are major gatherings, such as Comic-Con and BEA. For you, dear reader, this category might include conferences such as ALA, whether that means the Midwinter Meeting later this month or the annual in July. (And if you’re wondering about how to “teach” such events, check out this post.)
- Speaking of ALA Midwinter, that’s the one with the Newbery, right? Which in turn brings to mind a staggering array of awards seasons and ceremonies across media. We’ve got the Pulitzers in April, the Eisners in the summer, and of course the Oscars sooner than that. These all speak to cycles that we have actually been conditioned to experience individual media messages through. By that I mean our critical discourse, our exposure to advertising and marketing campaigns, and lots more.
- Hey, perhaps you noticed how I casually dropped in “the Oscars” back there, maybe the biggest annual media event in terms of pop culture. Of course if we’re talking sheer audience size, we’ve got to include the Super Bowl, which this year takes place exactly three weeks before the Oscar telecast. (Not that the Oscars are the only thing that movie fans pay attention to; there are also festival dates and “highly anticipated” releases such as the ones mentioned here.)
- And finally, if we’re going to acknowledge the NFL championship game, we should probably include other sporting contests, too. Baseball opening day is on my radar screen, as is the World Series (the “fall classic”). For others, it’s the Triple Crown of horse racing or the Daytona 500.
I could go on, of course. So could you—and that’s the point. We measure our lives out by these types of events, kind of like (and you’ll please pardon the second literary allusion of this post) to Prufrock and his coffee spoons. The question then becomes, how to avoid a sense of meaninglessness or simply fatigue brought about by enduring the same hype year after year? Moreover, how do we use such events to foster genuine critical inquiry into the things that matter most to us—art, values, politics, community?
Well, that’s one of the things that this blog will attempt to do in the coming months. The other thing that it will attempt to do, also as a form of combating feelings of media vacuity and the resultant ennui, is to have fun. So thanks in advance for sticking around for the ride. Oh, and by the way, Happy New Year…
About Peter Gutierrez
A former middle school teacher, Peter Gutierrez has spent the past 20 years developing curriculum as well as working in, and writing about, various branches of pop culture. You can sample way too many of his thoughts about media and media literacy via Twitter: @Peter_Gutierrez
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