Media Mindfulness

It is the mark of an educated mind to entertain a thought without accepting it. -Aristotle

Individuals are driven to participate in activities and relationships which promote positive feelings – feelings of happiness which may depend upon the situation, the other person, or the external environment. According to one conceptualization, true happiness comes from within the individual and is a structured internal experience created during moments when individuals are able to focus on goals that are clear while applying skills so that there is a challenge involved. This experience is also known as flow.

Csikszentmihalyi (1990) argues that almost any activity can be experienced as a form of flow. How we spend our time determines – to a large extent – whether or not feelings of happiness will be experienced. Today, the average 8-18 year old spends approximately 6 ½ hours a day consuming media in one of its various forms (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2005). If for no other reason than the volume of time spent with the media, the media have had and continue to have a tremendous influence on our lives.

The channels and tools used to communicate continue to exponentially grow, but our understanding of the impact they have on our lives – our cognitive states and our happiness – remains largely ignored by the general population. Scholars from various fields of study continue to search for answers for how educational approaches focused on learning about and with media can improve the quality of life. Specifically, media literacy scholars argue we must teach individuals how to better engage with media texts (Considine, 1995; Hobbs, 1997; 1998; Jenkins, 2006; Kubey, 2000a; 2000b). While their goal is not necessarily to promote happiness, it is to encourage the development of new paradigms we can use in our processing of media content.

By encouraging media consumers to think critically about different types of information received through the media, we promote new ways of understanding the impact media may have on our individual and collective lives. However, Jenkins (2006) argues that critical consumption is not enough. We must develop educational approaches which promote cultural empowerment – providing our youth with a sense of autonomy and agency. In order to do this, we need to examine those aspects of our environment which shape expectations, desires and motivations…..

from my dissertation Media Mindfulness: developing the motivation and ability to process advertisements , School of Communication & Information Studies, Rutgers University (2008).

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