Friday, April 26, 2013



Graduation time has come. It is hard to believe! Standing in line with all the graduates was a pretty moving experience for me. Sitting in the Marriott Center was amazing, all the rows of young people ready to go out into the world to do great things.

Fun to walk along
side my cousin!
 It was pretty neat to hear Elder Perry. He talked about parents continuing to give counsel, and keeping a balanced and healthy life. He encouraged us to live modestly, to schedule time for different things, and to always keep Christ the center of our home. President Samuelson talked about and the importance of the 10 commandments in our day and age. These were great messages, and I felt extremely touched to think this was my final time to sit as an undergrad in the Marriott and learn from wise leaders and friends standing at that pulpit. I have learned so much from devotionals and forums there, and I am very grateful for it all. 

It is hard to believe that this is the end of my undergraduate adventures.

A very unflattering picture of myself, but the
supporters around me are what really count!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Information Diet

The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious ConsumptionThe Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption by Clay A. Johnson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The core message of this book is critical for just about anybody. I love the metaphor of physical dieting, as well as the emphasis on being an active citizen and consuming responsibly. This is a great review of digital literacy concepts I learned in a class last year, and I hope to be more digitally healthy as time goes on!

Once concept that really stuck out to me is the idea of the trophic pyramid as it relates to information. Just like the higher up energy goes on the physical pyramid the more it decreases, the further away from the source we get our information, the less truth and substance it carries. Thus we should be focusing more on local politics than national, and we should be engaging with issues rather than griping about large and abstract concepts we can do little about. Basically Johnson is issuing a call to action for all of us to become civically engaged and full participants in our society. To do this we need to cut back on our diet of media-affirmation and focus on the real issues that are going on.

The reminder of the "Filter Bubble" was very helpful and I feel even more dedicated to making conscious connections with people that see differently than I do in order to get a more truthful and charitable understanding of the issues around me. This book has lots of themes and connections to what I view media literacy to be all about. We need to learn how to filter and search through the vast vaults of information, but we also should learn how to create and synthesize, which is what media literacy is all about!

View all my reviews

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Bringing Praxis & Theory Together

Photo courtesy of Flickr Commons
 Even though I will be graduating from film school this month, and have studied great films and filmmakers for the last few years, I often forget that in many ways what I am studying is basically a different medium than what I am creating. I have never shot anything on film (only digital) and never had to cut film together (Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premiere do it all for me). And yet what I am studying greatly impacts what I create.

When studying the greats I am always amazed at the insightful and critical points of view they had. However, it is clear that in most cases there is a strong divide between those with great technical skill -the practitioners, and those with critical abilities -scholars and critics. These two categories are very common in many fields, and it makes sense. I mean, do you think these innovative filmmakers had the time and ability to make those amazing tripod legs and write a critical essay on their work?

It is a long established idea that theory and praxis are two different and separate things. However, at a k-12 level these two approaches to knowledge are often brought together in other subjects. For example, 8th graders might study the different formulas, theories, etc in physics and then work on building a project or simple machine invention that integrates this theoretical knowledge. From Kindergarten on up students are taught not only how to read and critically engage with text, but also how to write in a variety of genres including essay, poetry, persuasive, and research writing.

So, what about media arts? (that is the technical name of my major by the way). Students are exposed to immense amounts of media every day outside of school, and though some get the opportunity to learn how to critically engage with it, few are trained/taught in how to create it. "Yes, but we aren't raising a whole new generation of Spielbergs!" The critic might say. It is true, but just as we recognize the incredible value writing brings to a young person (we aren't raising a generation of Twain's either), it is time we fully acknowledge the importance of learning practical skills of film/media making for the next generation of students.

Check out that phone! Photo Courtesy of Flickr Commons
The relatively short history of film making is filled with technological advancements. It used to be that to learn how to create media such as news reports, audio presentations, or films one had to go through lots of training and it took quite a long time (including muscle strength - see photo). I am not suggesting that to learn how to do these kinds of things is now simple. Certainly to do these things well is as or more challenging as it used to be.

However, technology has brought us to the point that students can and should learn both how to read media and how to make it. Schools don't need to invest in expensive cameras or do anything crazy in order to enable this to happen.

The devices that are inundating our world are inevitably overwhelming, helping, scaring, supporting, and changing the way we operate as families, schools, and a society in general. Rather than leave it to kids to deal with or figure out, we should begin teaching them how to create and craft meaningful media. We can and must also help them learn to critically engage and consume media.

Just like English class where students learn to write their own arguments and creative narratives, as well as read, we should support students creating their own media as well as critically reading media texts. It is pretty clear where I stand in response to one of the great debates in Hobbs' 1998 foundational article.

Should media production be an essential feature of media literacy education? Some educators believe that young people cannot become truly critical consumers of the mass media until they have had experience making photographs, planning and organizing ideas through storyboards, writing scripts and performing in front of a camera, designing their own web pages, or reporting a news story.
Renee Hobbs, University of Rhode Island

This semester I participated in BYU's Hands On A Camera Project where a few BYU film students worked with High Schoolers as they created their own documentaries. Not everything went peachy in this experience but I did learned that praxis and theory can and should come together in k-12 classrooms. However, I also learned that doing so is extremely challenging. Issues such as motivation, equipment management, and time, and many other things (I need to write about) all contributed to my questioning of how critical media literacy might be more than just theoretical ponderings.

What do you think? Is there a place for production in our k-12 schools? (Another of Hobbs' debates) What benefits or challenges to you see regarding bringing praxis and theory together?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

How the West Was . . . Won?

Have you seen this film? If not, at least enjoy the epic trailer for it!

The first time I saw this film was in middle school. I remember thinking it was alright, but it was a little too long and there weren't as many battle scenes and stuff as a middle school kid would hope for. Our teacher mentioned that the girls showed too much cleavage sometimes, but that was about the extent of our discussion for the whole film (at least in my memory, which can't always be trusted). 

Couldn't we have discussed so much more? This trailer is dripping with subtleties (some of which aren't so subtle) that need to be called out, subjects that need to be addressed, and lessons that could be taught, all about the massive removal of whole nations of people. But we talked about cleavage.

What about films that are rarely shown in educational settings? Peter Pan was a favorite of mine when I was little, and I really enjoyed the ride at Disney Land. But watching this clip I am shocked with the treatment of Native American's by the filmmakers.


I don't know about you, but watching this makes me feel pretty sick - especially imagining what it might feel like to watch this sitting next to a member of a Native American tribe.

Many kids see films or scenes like this before they have even learned about the slaughtering of native peoples by Europeans and new settlers. Shouldn't we take a little more responsibility by at teaching young people to actively engage with and be critical of the "entertainment" set before them? I wonder if most kids are like I was and figure "Indians are a thing of the past". 


I love this film (Hidalgo, 2004), because it seems to be much more sympathetic to reality when it comes to Native Americans (but maybe not as much with Arabs). Like films such as Dances with wolves it tries to be more accurate, and to me it does so quite convincingly. Other films like Shanghai Noon and Maverick dabble in multiracial conversations that warrant a closer look, especially in their use of humor which is an innovative and interesting way to talk about race and media's portrayal of displaced peoples.

Disney's The Lone Ranger is the next large scaled Hollywood presentation featuring Native Americans. I first heard about it at a lunch in with the Utah Film Commission, and everyone was really stoked because it is being filmed in Utah (at least partially). Some are skeptical about Johnny Depp's role as Tonto and others acknowledge the strange decision to prolong racial profiling from the 30's. Either way, I think it is important to be aware of how Native Americans are portrayed in the media, by Disney or anybody. Does this mean I won't see the film? No, but it does mean I will be critically engaging with it.

As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I know I am not too happy when my church is inappropriately portrayed in popular culture. I can only imagine what it might be like for a member of a Native American Tribe to watch some of the things Hollywood continues to put out. 

What do you think? Am I being extreme? How has the media influenced your thinking about people or groups different than your own?