CMST 255 (Special Topics: Food Media Literacy) is both a theoretical and empirical exploration of food through the lens of media literacy. Food is itself a medium for issues including (but not limited to) education, economics, environmental sustainability, social justice, and human communication.

Food media literacy as a subfield of media literacy has traditionally focused on an active, critical analysis of food marketing messages. However, this course extends the definition of food media literacy to encompass both the critical habits of mind and creative skills of expression requisite for active civic engagement. Students will develop and apply food media literacy skills to analyze, evaluate, create, and circulate knowledge about the histories, cultures, economies, and politics of food in the United States, as they resonate on a global scale.

We will examine how people (individually and collectively) negotiate the meanings of food “texts” and how those meanings are mediated through oral, print, electronic, and digital communications. Students will demonstrate understanding of the languages, messages, audiences, and ownership of food.

The center of gravity this semester is media literacy—a constellation of life skills that are necessary for full participation in our media-saturated, information-rich society.[1] These skills include the ability to:

  • Access information by locating and sharing materials and comprehending information and ideas
  • Analyze messages in a variety of forms by identifying the author, purpose and point of view, and evaluate the quality and credibility of the content.
  • Create content in a variety of forms, making use of language, images, sound, and new digital tools and technologies
  • Reflect on one’s own conduct and communication by applying social responsibility and ethical principles
  • Take social action by working individually and collaboratively to share knowledge and solve problems in the family, workplace and community, and by participating as a member of the community.[2]

Media literacy promotes an individual’s capacity to simultaneously empower and protect themselves and their communities. In this way, information needs are both personal and civic.[3] There is also a tendency in Academia to limit our activity to simply being critical at the expense of creativity. This severely limits our thinking and blinds us to our own assumptions. Therefore, in this 3-credit course, you are required to both think critically and act creatively. Meaning, it requires you to do media literacy: Engage in all aspects of the media literacy cycle listed above (e.g., access, analyze, evaluate, create, reflect, and act) using as your intellectual (and in some cases, physical) playground the mediated world of food. Ideally, this course will provide you with a robust media literacy experience to magnify your particular program of study in the School of Communication and Media.

[1] Hobbs, R. (2010). Digital and Media Literacy: A Plan of Action. Washington, DC: The Aspen Institute.

[2] See Hobbs, p. vii-viii.

[3] Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy. (2009). Informing communities: Sustaining democracy in the digital age. Washington, D.C.: The Aspen Institute.

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