Understanding Topics Presented in Different Media or Formats

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Information can be presented in many ways, and it's important to understand all of them. In this lesson, we'll talk about several ways for information to be presented and see how they relate to each other.

Information and Media

What's your learning type? Some people are visual learners; others are auditory, or kinetic or reader-writers. We all absorb information in different ways. However, the world doesn't know what your learning style is. So, throughout your life, you will be exposed to information in a variety of formats or media. When we use this term, media, we're referring to the various ways that people distribute information. Each is important to understand, since not all information is going to be presented in the way that's best for you. Sorry.

Print Media

Let's start with one of the most obvious. Print media refers to information distributed through published formats, generally implying text. Books, magazines, pamphlets and brochures are all forms of print media. In print media, the information is going to be mostly contained within the text, which means reading to extract information. Since different forms of print media organize information differently, knowing what you're working with can help. Academic books tend to put the most concise summaries of the information at the beginning and end of each section. Novels disperse plot in relatively even progressions. Pamphlets and brochures organize information in a systematic and simplistic way.

Pulling information from print media means thinking about how the author compiles the text. What stands out? What is more subtle? The organization of print media impacts the amount of information that can be communicated, as well as the depth of that information.

Artistic Media

When talking about print media, we're almost always talking about text-based items. However, there are also several forms of media that are tangible, but not based on words. Visual artistic media are the forms used by artists, including painting, drawing and sculpture. Visual artistic media still contain lots of information, but there aren't words to directly explain it to you. Instead, artists present information through visual cues and objects.

So, what should you look for in a piece of art? For one, pay attention to what stands out the most. Is there a part of the piece that is brighter, larger, or more prominent? Once you've identified that, look at the less obvious elements. What's in the background, how are things positioned, how do various elements or objects relate to each other? These things can all give you clues as to what the artist is trying to communicate.

What information is in this painting?
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Auditory and Broadcast Media

Of course, not all information is presented visually. Music, for example, is a way to present information through auditory media. Information presented this way impacts you very differently than the visual media, since a different sense is being utilized. However, many of the same ideas for extracting information apply. What stands out the most? What makes those things stand out, and how do background elements impact them?

Auditory media make up a substantial part of our lives, largely thanks to our ability to broadcast radio waves and other signals around the world. Collectively, we call all media distributed this way broadcast media. While lots of broadcast media are primarily auditory (like music on the radio), television is also a form of broadcast media. Things like TV and movies are unique in the ways they are able to combine visual and auditory elements, engaging multiple senses simultaneously. As with other forms of media, however, broadcast media needs to be understood for what it is. Generally, information presented this way is compacted into smaller, digestible doses. Additionally, the ability to control both the auditory and visual elements gives broadcast media a great amount of control- making sure that people all receive the same information in the same way.

TV is a unique form of broadcast media
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