The Media Triangle was first created by Eddie Dick, and has since been used as a way for people to fully analyze the messages and meanings of media texts. By focusing not only on the text itself, but also the audience, and the production, one is able to tease out complex concepts that might otherwise go overlooked.
The Media Triangle
The media triangle is the lens through which students should be encouraged to view Media Texts. Below is a visual representation of the Media Triangle, along with a number of guiding questions to help students analyze its three sides.
Questions can be simplified so that even grade 1 students can begin to view the world around them through this lens.
The Three Sides
While it’s important to see the Media Triangle, and have a selection of questions that students can use to navigate their way through any given text, you must ensure that you fully understand what each question is looking for. They are explained, in detail, below.
1. What type of text is this?
This question is asking students to identify if the text is a song, video game, short story, photograph, etc. Once they have identified to the type of text, they will be able to compare it to other texts of the same type, helping to identify common tropes or intentional deviations.
2. What story does this text tell?
Each text tells a story. In the case of a short story, a summary may be simple for a student to create, however when looking at a song, or a photograph, or a corporate logo students will need to delve into symbolic representations to ensure they are aware of what the text is trying to express.
3. How does this text tell a story?
Some texts tell their story through written words, while others use symbols or images. Some texts may use sound, and no visuals at all, to communicate their story.
4. Is equity depicted in this text?
Students should be asked to identify the presence or lack of representation based on:
- Socio-Economic Status
- Mental Health
5. What stereotypes are present?
Once students have identified which groups are represented in the piece, they should look to see what that representation looks like. Are certain groups stereotyped, and if so how does that impact the text as a whole? Students should consider why those stereotypes are present.
6. What values does this text express?
Once an understanding of the literal pieces of the text has been ascertained, students should have an understanding of what values the text is putting forward. They should be able to tell what is being said about specific groups, and if those are positive or negative messages.
7. Do I share the values of this text?
Once there is an understanding of the values being espoused by the text, students should consider if they share those values or not. Coming to this conclusion is a strong place to leap from the Media Text side of the triangle over to the Audience.
1. Who is the Target Audience of this text?
Having looked at the Media Text, students should have an understanding of who the target audience of the text is. The target audience should be specific, and should include as many of the following as possible:
- Socio-Economic Status
2. What elements of this text target that specific audience?
Once the Target Audience has been identified, students should Identify Main and Supporting Details that specifically link the text to each of the aspects of the Target Audience.
3. Does this text appeal to me?
Regardless of if the student is or is not the Target Audience, they should describe whether the text appeals to them, focusing on specific elements that either attract or detract from their enjoyment of the text.
4. What changes to this text are required for it to appeal to me?
This question can be answered even if the text appeals to the students. There are always ways to improve the piece, and understanding the specific ways that the text could be altered to make it more relatable will further their understanding of how different audiences will react to it.
5. What audiences would be put off by this media text?
While each text is made with a specific Target Audience is mind, there will be many more people outside that audience. Not everyone will appreciate the text the same way as others will. Students should consider which groups might not like the text, while identifying details that support their decisions.
1.Who created this media text?
While a text may look empowering at first glance, it’s important to understand who created the piece. There is a big difference in the meaning of a text if the creator is a for-profit company, versus a charity, or an independent creator.
2. What do I know about the creator of this text?
Looking at what the students know about the creator is a great way to understand the impact that the creator has on the creation. If the creator has a history of creating texts with contrary meanings to the current piece, that is worth considering. If the creator has long since expressed a similar message, be it positive or negative, that is also worth considering when trying to infer the meaning of the piece.
3. What has the creator done to grab the Target Audience’s attention?
While students have already identified what aspects appeal to the target audience, this question forces them to understand that things aren’t placed on the text by accident. Students must confront the fact that the text does not exist in a vacuum, but was instead made with a purpose. What specific choices were made by the creator to ensure that the Target Audience would find themselves drawn into this piece?
4. Who profits from this media text?
Similar to the first question under Creation, students must now consider who is profiting from this piece. They must also consider what that profit looks like. An author who sells her painting is directly profiting through the sale; however, a writer who freely distributes their text on the internet may profit through exposure and name recognition. Something freely given still has value, as there are always ways the creator is profiting. Even anonymous graffiti artists eventually profit from the creation of their text, as their works can gain a following despite the free distribution of their works.
5. How can I influence the creation of a similar text in the future?
Students must now identify their own agency. If they don’t like a text, what can they do to influence it going forward? While this was once a difficult task, today’s Social Media allows them to have direct influence over a variety of texts. They can successfully alter future texts through Twitter petitions, Facebook sharing, or direct messaging to authors and content creators. When students identify things they agree or disagree with, they now have a voice to express themselves and enact real change.
The Centre of the Triangle
Once all the questions have been asked and answered its time for students to combine their knowledge and determine the true meaning of a text. By looking at only the Text itself, they will lose out on the understanding that comes from realizing the Creator actually markets a competing message. By looking only at the Creation, students will not have a full grasp on why specific details have been included, as they won’t be trying to see how the piece is only directed to one small group of people.
Armed with an understanding of The Media Triangle students will have a tool that they can use on a forward basis to identify, analyze, and discover meanings and messages from each and every text they encounter.