Media arts refer to a form of artistic expression that integrates all the traditional art forms and incorporates technological developments to create artistic projects. This covers all genre and forms of art that uses film, electronic media, and both digital and analogue technology as a medium to create art or to further spread awareness about it. Thus, media arts include all projects presented through movies, television, internet, radio, video, audio, mobile and interactive technologies, satellite streaming, and video games. These projects focus on the stereotype of perception, aesthetics, or manoeuvre limitations of these tools.
Teaching Media Art represents a major challenge because most teachers are digital immigrants i.e. people who were not born in the digital world but merely had evolved to fit in. Most times, this means there is a disconnect between the teachers and the students who are digital natives. Bridging this connection usually means the teacher has to learn to speak in the students’ languages and adapt available materials to this new norm.
Media culture refers to the influence and impact that mass media, primarily television, has on public opinion and the system of values and taste in society. What is today seen as popular culture merely represents the trivial culture spread through the media, which replaced the authentic and high art culture of the past with industrialized artefacts produced on a large scale for the consumption of all? Many scholars have compared the role of media culture today to what religion did in the past in mass marketing teems. The fiery enthusiasm and exaltation that were once reserved for religions have now been transferred to media products, with some consumers even going as far as attaching symbolic values to these products in terms of using them as means of identification for themselves.
Cultural Expression Across Media Forms
Media is all about the message. Even when it appears to serve an entertaining purpose, there is always a hidden message within each media art form. When most consumers think of messages, what comes to mind are political and corporate advertisements. While these may appear as the common ones, media messages range from overt and clear statements to vague expressions. There are times when such messages could come in the form of propaganda. This is defined as the manipulation of information in order to influence public opinion. Propaganda has played a significant role in how modern mass media has functioned as a persuasion tool. Like all forms of communication, propaganda, as a tool, is not inherently evil or good. It is the effect on society that will determine this, and these effects, most times, would depend on the motives of those who are using the propaganda. For instance, every cause from religion to the Democratic and Communism revolutions has all employed propaganda in one form or another to spread its messages. Today, the negative connotation attached to the word is a result of the use of mass media by governments during World War 1 to motivate citizens to join the army and fight the war. By pitting the two sides in the war against each other in a sort of ideological battle, mass media was used to get many people who had zero ideas about the political motives behind the war itself.
The mass media further reinforces certain cultural values that end up becoming mainstream and adopted by the wider society. This is especially evident in celebrities and the role they adopt or even the clothes they wear. For instance, as seen today, the ideas of masculinity and femininity are mere representations of the roles that actors such as Marilyn Monroe and John Wayne portrayed. These media forms further reinforce certain stereotypes in society, some of which even marginalize certain groups. For instance, print media and television once and even still portray women as submissive and best suited to domestic roles. This portrayal is a reflection of the cultural limitations on women, but it also reinforces it.
The New Media
Today’s electronic and digital media, which includes cellphones, comics, electronic literature, video games, and all other forms of internet-based forms of communication, have had a significant effect on society. One such effect is the volume of information that has become available as a result. With access to more information, the perception and how people process such information have also changed, affecting the culture. For instance, the in-depth and thorough manner in which older media was consumed is now replaced by cursory glances in an age where attention span has dramatically reduced. Information can now easily be spread and curated depending on the taste of the consumers.
There is an increased subjectivity in the media approach to curating information like the consumers themselves continue to filter information in such a manner that they only get what they want. Any opposing view or perspective can be blocked out.
However, there has been a growth in literacy due to the fact that most of the internet is dominated by text-based content. Thus, for consumers to actively participate in this internet culture, consumers usually need a literacy level. However, critics have described this internet literacy as sub literacy at best. Most of the internet’s content is a far cry from the print media and books’ standards. However, one must remember that the effect of new media on how society perceives and processes information is not to decrease or increase the level of literacy but to change the standards (Choney, 2010). Instead of the scholarly, elaborate, and perhaps complicated writing of the past, the criteria are shifting towards directness and simplicity.
The Media Arts and Culture program allows the student to understand old media and familiarize themselves with the new ones and integrate all of these into the creation of unique works of art.