Media Literacy and Old Media’s Attack on YouTube

Media literacy is something I’ve been interested in as far back as I can remember.
Back in grade 11 (which is more than half my life ago at this point) I took my first “English Media” course, In addition to the regular English Class. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, English Media is like regular English class, only instead of analyzing books, students study albums, photographs, painting, movies, television, etc.

I’ve always found it interesting how the medium alters the message. I wouldn’t go as far as McLuhan and say the medium *is* the message, but I certainly can’t deny the HUGE impact a messages’ means of delivery is in shaping how audiences respond to that message. One of Richard Feynman’s books talks about how when his father was reading to him, he would list some facts, then pause, and put those facts into context, turning it from a set of numbers into a vivid mental image. Instead of saying “the dinosaur is x meters tall, and it’s face is y meters wide, you picture a dinosaur in your mind, easily able to look into a second story window, but not quite able to squeeze it’s head through.
This change in the way of thinking about something can change the way we work with these ideas in our head.

Older people seem to have an attitude that English media is just an excuse for kids to get out of reading books, but I disagree. We are subjected to far more ads, TV, and images than books in our daily lives, and it is critical that people be given the mental tools to identify the ways they are being manipulated.

For example, If I want to seem highly knowledgeable and authoritative, I can opt to use the written word, which people tend to take more seriously. If it’s written down it can’t be made up.

On the other hand, If I want manipulate an audiences sense of empathy, I can choose to use video with a composition focusing on my eyes and speaking slightly more softly.
Or I can tone that right down by putting on some sunglasses.
If I wish to do consensus building, I can speak with a rising intonation, as if each declaration is a question, and bring people closer that way.
Or, I can speak flatly, or even with a descending intonation to demonstrate that I am THE authority on whatever topic, and I don’t care what you think.

There are also info-graphics, which can break down an incredibly complex situation into something people can more easily manage.

Young people are more media savvy than ever, in part this is because English media is more common now than in the past, but also, it’s simply because they have to be.

For young people, old media untrustworthy because we knew advertisers holding the reigns.
We know that if a major news organization ever had a story with real dirt on one of their major advertisers, the company would pull out their ads, so the story gets pulled instead and the public suffers for it.

That’s why Young people gave up on cable news, with clueless pundits babbling endlessly in circles, and went for the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Because rather than talking around the subject, he would get to the core of it, he would show someone making a statement, then he would pull up a clip proving them wrong, proving them a liar. He wasn’t a journalist, but his show was closer to journalism than cable news. And young audiences respected that.

That’s why we gave up on old media and went to YouTube.

So all this YouTube drama about demonetizing ‘edge lord’ accounts and trying to turn YouTube from the Wild West into a forum for commercial friendly easily digestible pablum has really caught my interest.

Nobody wants too admit that they are wrong. It’s not a good feeling to admit that you were wrong.
Old media sees everyone leaving TV, and freaks out on YT, and rather than admitting that they are the problem, that they are clueless and out of touch, relics from a past, a hindrance to progress, they just want to turn New Media into the same generic crap the Old Media has become.
They want it to be safe.

The problem I don’t think the recognize is that the audience they are used to catering to is going away.
New media isn’t the problem. Younger, more educated, media literate audiences who are savvy to the ways they are being manipulated aren’t falling for the same old tricks anymore, that’s the problem.

Making new media more like the old media isn’t going to fix anything, it’s going to drive younger audiences towards even newer platforms, while the existing platforms will hang on until their existing audiences all grow old and die.

Published by

Kyle Clements

Kyle Clements is a Toronto-based artist and nerd. During his thesis at the Ontario College of Art and Design, Kyle began working on his Urban Landscapes series, a body of work that aims to capture the energy and excitement of life in the fast-paced urban environment. After graduating from OCAD in 2006, Kyle spent a year living in Asia to gather source material and experience in a different kind or urban environment. His work is vibrant and colourful. Whether painting the harsh Northern landscape, or capturing the overwhelming buzz of life in the city, his acrylic paintings hover between representation and abstraction.