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Thinking with digital images in the post-truth era: a method in critical media literacy

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>5/02/2020
<mark>Journal</mark>Postdigital Science and Education
Number of pages21
Pages (from-to)442-462
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date5/02/20
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This article introduces a new method to support critical media literacy, learning and research in higher education. It acts as a response to an unprecedented profusion of visual information across digital media that contributes to the contemporary post-truth era, marked by fake news and uncritical consumption of the media. Whereas much has been written about the reasons behind and the character of the post-truth, less space has been dedicated to how educators could counteract the uncritical consumption of images from the perspective of semiotics. This article adopts a unique semiotic approach to address the stated gap. It discusses in depth the meaning making of pictures, digital photographs and material objects that photographs can embody. It does so by focusing on three aspects of a pictorial sign: 1) the materiality of its representation and representational elements, 2) its object (what the sign refers to), and 3) its descriptive interpretations. These three aspects inform the Signification analysis within the proposed Production-Signification-Consumption (PSC) method, exemplified with digital photographs. Understanding and analysing images via the PSC method draws attention to how humans create, interpret, (re)use, consume, and respond to online and offline communication signs. The method can contribute to the development of critical media literacy as an engagement with postdigital semiotics, much needed in an age of global ecological and social crises, uncertainty, and fast consumption of digital content.