Media literacy has been around as a subject and a component of literacy, writing, sociology, and anthropology courses for K12 and higher education for awhile.  I’ll admit that I’m not that informed about them in terms of how up to  he times they are  but I think they cover topics such as:

  • What’s an ad and what’s not?
  • Are online articles genuine or are they biased by commercial concerns?
  • What does an “objective” newspaper article mean?
  • Do you know to look to see if a book endorsement on a blog includes an affiliate link to Amazon and an implicit profit-motive?
  • Why does Fox News treat the Fox program American Idol as news?
  • Why does the news on Sunday usually include the weekend revenues for the movies as a story (it’s both because of the links between the news organizations and the studios and the fact that its practically free as a story to prepare and it comes with great visuals and footage.  Covering real news stories is of course, a lot more expensive. And inconvenient on Sunday when everyone wants to stay home with the family.)
  • This website, for instance, is intended to engage readers by providing useful educational content. It is published by Time4Learning, who hopes that in reading this site, you’ll  think positively towards the sponsors, Time4Learning.com and Time4Writing.com.

    One cutting edge issues in media awareness and literacy has to do with understanding how the search engines select which websites to provide for which search. Here’s an overview of the topic so I’ve simplified a little:

    Paid versus “Organic” Search.

    Google Paid Search vs Organic Search

    Google Paid Search vs Organic Search

    Google responds to any search query with a portfolio of results. Some, called organic, are Google’s best effort to provide an answer to your query. In the image attached, the search results circled in red are paid advertisements. They are not their by Google’s selection process but through paid advertising.  A surprising number of people still don’t know this.

    Google’s Point of Departure: Link Counting

    Google ranks the relevant sites based on which ones have the most incoming links from other sites.  Google counts the clickable links from one webpage to another. Some links are more important than others and Google has an endlessly complex method for analyzing them. But the fundamental is that its the links that Google counts and weights, not the clicks and not the traffic.  This is the start of the Google search engine a decade ago.

    First Major Modification around 2008-09: Personalized Search

    The first major modification of link counting was when Google invented personalized search.  Rather than give everyone identical search results, Google personalized it based on a number of shifting criteria. For instance for some searches (say locksmiths), Google autoamtically gives your results local to where you are when you make the search. So if you search for Italian restaurants in Boston,  you get local results. Also, Google notes your search history
    (either by computer or by previous searches) and customizes based on your previous visits and searches.  For instance, if you have spent a lot of time on fishing sites, if you search on the word “scale,” you are more likely to get something for fish than mountain climbing.

    Second Big Change: Inclusion of Social Media

    Plus One Icon

    Google Plus One Icon

    The second  major modification is the inclusion of social media. Over the alst few years, Google included links from Twitter in its results but this arrangmeent seems to be fading. Instead, Google has introduced its own social media including a component of how people can vote on what websites they like.  The social media and voting are Google Plus and Google Plus One.  Google Plus One allows users, if they are logged into their Google account, to say that they recommend (or Plus One) the site. It’s akin to a Facebook like.  But these “votes” are counted by Google and they affect the results that
    people see when they search. For instance, if you are logged in to Google and  someone who is linked to you through Google Plus searches, they will now see in the search results that you liked that site.  People can Plus One a site either when they see a Plus One on a site or in the search engine itself. I imagine although I have not seen it that you can get aplug in for your browser that allows you to Plus one any page or any site at any time.

    Get Involved: Vote for this site. Or for our sponsor!

    On a related note, would you like to hGoogle Plus One in Search Resultselp contribute to Googles ranking?  To do so, login to your google account, then  click here and click on the Gplus icon next to Time4Learning.

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