Saturday, October 15, 2005

Good Brain Food

Just finished listening to the Oct. 14 edition of NPR's On the Media, a program I strongly recommend to all. Three stories of particular interest, especially for those of us *not* on the cutting edge of media theory and research:

1. Discussion with Reason's editor Nick Gillespie about media coverage of the "drug problem." For those of us in the education biz, the crisis trope Gillespie describes is extremely familiar: we've seen it again and again in terms of literacy, writing ability, math skills, you name it. In this instance, despite the lack of any solid evidence, we keep hearing about the new meth crisis. Now, nobody's suggesting that meth use is not a problem; the point is that we seem to have to use scare tactics (remember "crack babies"?) in order to talk about the problem at all, rather than having a more thoughtful conversation about legitimate concerns.

2. Gilian Caldwell of international human rights group Witness talks about a project that puts video cameras in the hands of lots of citizens in order to document abuses. For example, they worked with kids and parents who'd been subject California's juvenile penal system to create a documentary which then helped spur reforms. Caldwell talks about creating a "visual vocabulary," and I think this piece might make for interesting discussion in writing & rhetoric classes taking up media and visual theories.

3. Clive Thompson discusses "persuasive gaming"--in other words, video games that wear their rhetoricity on their respective sleeves. For example, the Army has one to convince young folks that enlistment is a good idea, while the Chinese government has one that let's one shoot up those evil Japanese. This story would make an interesting starting point for students--here are games that are explicitly persuasive, now let's talk about the ways that all games (like all texts) are persuasive...

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