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Children and Media

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Media Glossary: Terminology


  • Advertising – Persuasive messages used to sell products or ideas. Also used to inform consumers about new products. Advertising is the commercial basis of most media.
  • Animation – Technique by which inanimate objects seem to come alive by flashing a series of minutely changed images, called "cells," at a rate which the brain interprets as movement.
  • Avatar – A graphic representation of a video game player or real person in a virtual world.
  • Blog – An online journal, or web log, that is frequently updated and publicly available on the Web. A "blogger" is someone who keeps an online journal. The universe of all blogs is known as the "blogosphere."
  • Broadcasting – Refers to content carried over air waves. Usually designed to appeal to a broad audience segment.
  • Characterization – The development of characters in a narrative. Characters can be well-developed (round characters) or poorly developed and stereotyped (flat characters).
  • Cheat – Code or information that a video game player uses to modify a game or advance to a higher level.
  • Cloud Computing – Internet-based computing accessible through a web browser and that uses data farms to store and make available software and information in real time.
  • Commercial – For profit. Also, paid announcements produced for targeted audiences to sell products or ideas. The economic force that finances commercial media.
  • Copyright – The laws that require compensation for the use of property and information owned by artists, writers and media producers.
  • Creative Commons – A non-profit organization that seeks to expand how creative work is available for others to use legally.
  • Crop – To cut an image, usually a photograph, down to size so that it fits into a prescribed space. To cut out unwanted portions from a photograph.
  • Cut – An abrupt transition between two video or audio sources. The cut conveys a change of place, time or mood.
  • Cyberspace – All of the information available through networked computers.
  • Digital Rights Management (DRM) – A system that seeks to protect the copyright of data circulated via the Internet.
  • Director – The person responsible for the overall look of a video or film product. Directs the action behind and in front of the camera. Sometimes directs the editing process.
  • Documentary – Refers to film or video that explores a subject in a way the public expects to be factual and accurate. Documentaries may be balanced by including various viewpoints, or they may be subjective, offering the viewpoint and impressions of one producer.
  • Dot Com (.com) – A company that operates on the Web.
  • Dot Edu (.edu) – A educational institution that operats on the Web.
  • Dot Gov (.gov)
  • A government agency that operates on the Web.
  • Dot Org (.org) – A non-profit organization that operates on the Web.
  • Editing – The process of arranging, assembling or excluding images, text and sound to produce a completed media product.
  • Editor – The person responsible for assembling the various parts of a media product.
  • Fair Use – The legal guidelines which exempt educators from certain copyright restrictions. Fair use of educational materials allows some media products to be used to a limited degree in the classroom.
  • Feedback – The process of communication whereby a person can disagree, ask a question, repeat information for understanding, or otherwise talk back in the communication process.
  • First Amendment – The right of free speech in the U.S. Constitution, which historically protects media messages from regulation and censorship.
  • Gatekeepers – Those in control of the flow of information. The gatekeeper can choose to accept or reject a piece of information for public consumption. Newspaper publishers, editors and reporters, television producers, press secretaries, government spokespersons, radio station owners and broadcasting executives have all been cited as examples of media gatekeepers.
  • Genre – Specific kinds of media content, e.g., drama, entertainment, information, news, advertising, etc. Each category is defined with traditional conventions, but categories may overlap as in "docu-drama" or "info-tainment."
  • Hardware – The technology used to create and communicate with media. The physical device that enables messages stored on software to pass from a sender to a receiver. Television, radio, computers, movie projectors, telephones, etc., are hardware.
  • Instant Messaging (IM) – A form of text communication between two people that takes place in real time via computers connected to the Internet.
  • Information – Messages used as the basis for decision-making.
  • Internet – A network of computer networks that operates worldwide using a common set of rules that govern the format of the information that is exchanged between computers.
  • Logo – The copyrighted symbol used to represent a corporation, company or individual.
  • Mash-Up – A song, video or website that is the result of combining multiple songs, videos or websites.
  • Mass Communication – When a sender distributes messages to many people simultaneously.
  • Mass Media – Mass media are channels of communication through which messages flow, produced by a few for consumption by many people. As the messages go through the channels, they may become distorted. When people receive mass-media messages, they have no opportunity for immediate feedback with the producers of the messages.
  • Media – Vehicles that carry messages. Common media channels are televisions, radios, telephones and newspapers.
  • Media Languages – Media conventions, formats, symbols and narrative structures that cue the audience to meaning. The symbolic language of electronic media works much the same way as grammar works in print media.
  • Media Literacy – The ability to read, analyze, evaluate and produce communication in a variety of media forms (television, print, radio, computers, etc.).
  • Media Targets – Audiences are media targets. Audiences are targeted, sold and delivered to advertisers by media agencies. Groups are targeted on the basis of demographics, media-use patterns, ZIP codes, and polling by those who wish to sell or persuade.
  • Medium – Any singular, physical object used to communicate messages. Television is a mass medium, but there are many other kinds of mass media, such as newspapers and radio.
  • Multimedia – A medium that uses different forms of content (eg., text, audio, graphics, video) to relay information or to entertain.
  • Narrative Structure – Traditional devices used to tell a story. Simple narrative structure begins with setting and character development. The story rises to a conflict and falls to a conclusion.
  • Narrowcasting – Producing and designing media content in order to target a highly specific segment of the audience. Narrowcasting is often practiced by magazines, radio stations and cablecasters. Opposite of broadcasting.
  • News – Information the public expects to be factual and accurate. Nonfiction events reported to the public through print or electronic media.
  • Objective – The ideal that the media producer or reporter is representing a balanced viewpoint on issues. The ideal that media producers are fair, accurate, unbiased conduits for information. Opposite of subjective.
  • Personal Broadcasting – The act of individuals producing and designing content and making it available to others via digital media. Examples can include blogs and video clips available on YouTube.
  • Podcasting – A method for delivering audio or video files to users who subscribe to them.
  • Plot – the Beginning, Middle and End in Narrative Structure and All the Devices That Move the Story from One Scene to Another.
  • Producer – The final authority in the electronic media production process. Sometimes the producer is the person who raises the money to produce media products.
  • Product Placement – A process that advertisers use to have their brand or product appear in TV shows, movies and video games as part of the production.
  • Production – The working process of putting together media content to make a finished media product. Production techniques include editing transitions, design, style, color, placement in the frame or on a page, scripting, printing, broadcast engineering, etc.
  • Representation – The relationship between actual places, people, events and ideas and the resulting media content. Stereotypes are a common form of media representation. As messages pass through media, they are distorted so that media does not represent reality as much as it re-presents reality.
  • Really Simple Syndication (RSS) – A web feed that delivers frequently updated content to users who have subscribed to it, for example, headlines from a website that specializes in news content.
  • Smart Phone – A mobile phone that offers more advanced computing ability and connectivity than a basic feature phone.
  • Software – The place where media messages are stored. Intended for use with hardware. Software can take the form of computer diskettes, videocassettes, film, audiocassettes, etc.
  • Social Networking Site – A website where users can create profiles, post information about themselves and exchange messages with other users. Classmates.com was the first, but many others, such as MySpace and Facebook, have emerged on the Web.
  • Sound Effects – Special effects using sound to suggest a story element such as background, time, place, character, etc. Also used to heighten and intensify action or evoke an emotional response.
  • Special Effects – Sound or video used in the editing process to heighten drama or suggest a time, place or story element. Often used as a transition.
  • Storyboard – A graphic plan for the frame-by-frame action in a film or on video. Usually done sequentially, a complete storyboard represents a print rendition of the final film or video product.
  • Short Message Service (SMS) – A form of electronic communication sent to or from a mobile phone. The number of characters typically allowed is limited.
  • Twitter – A social networking and microblogging service that allows users to send and read other user messages called "tweets," which are capped at 140 characters long.
  • User Generated Content (UGC) – Online content, including text, graphics, video and audio, found on websites and blogs that individual users create rather than traditional producers, such as commercial broadcasters and production companies.
  • Viral Marketing – A form of advertising that propagates itself. Examples include websites and email messages that encourage users to "tell-a-friend."
  • VLOG/VBLOG – A web log, or blog, that uses video to present information.
  • Visual Literacy – The ability to look at visual information with perception. A visually literate person understands how visual elements contribute to the meaning of the whole.
  • Web 2.0 – The second-generation of Internet-based services, such as social networking sites, wikis and communication tools.
  • Web 3.0 – The next or third generation of Internet-based services geared toward delivering more intelligent searches and tailored information to users.
  • Website – A single address on the World Wide Web, typically consisting of multiple pages organized around a topic or by an information provider.
  • Wiki – A collaborative website that allows anyone who has access to it to add and edit content. Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia, is an example of a wiki.

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Credit: This list was adapted from WETA's Website for My Journey Home: © 2004 Greater Washington Educational Telecommunications Association.

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