Study Materials for Religious Education

Section 11: Religious education in a media-saturated world: Studying the spiritual/moral influence of film/TV/Advertising/Social Media: Part 2.
This section considers how in contrast to propaganda and documentaries, feature films and television content programs do not usually set out to change people's thinking and values;  their personal influence may be much more subtle and complex.  Questions can be raised about the psychology of advertising and marketing – especially in TV, magazines and digitally .  Some initial points are raised about the psychological effects of the use of contemporary social media.  While implications for religious education are not discussed specifically, a thoughtful understanding of the issues is an important starting point for educators seeking to address these issues within contemporary religious education or elsewhere in the curriculum
A unit that extends educators' background in key issues for religious education that helps with the critical evaluation of contemporary theory and practice

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There is no Introductory video to this section. The combined video introduction to Sections 10 and 11 was included in Section 10

Brief overview of content of this section

One can see from work in the previous section that both propaganda films and documentary films do intentionally set out to influence people's thinking and values. The former is unscrupulous -- whereas documentary filmmakers claim they are being informative and educational, even when they are advocating a cause strongly. But what about the film genre that does not intend to have any personal influence whatsoever, and is just concerned with sheer entertainment and making money in the entertainment industry? What does The Wizard of Oz have to do with influencing people's beliefs and values?

If feature films, particularly those that do not have historical or propagandist focus, do have some psychological influence, then this influence is much more subtle, and would need teasing out. Each film, whether it be the Hollywood blockbuster or the 3o second commercial, has an inbuilt worldview. You cannot follow or appreciate the story unless you take some account of this worldview even if you do so unconsciously. The film studies scholars talk about this unwritten, un-articulated worldview or set of values, in terms of the construct mise-en-scene. And they point out how films often give visual clues and cues to learning about and appreciating the relatively hidden mise-en-scene. Possibly it is through repeated exposure to the mise en scène of a consumerist lifestyle, that people can readily pick up the values that go with such an outlook on life.

Television and advertising have taken film to a new dimension of omnipresence in every household -- and on every smartphone. With the Internet and mobile communications technologies, you can be engaging with imaginations of life on screen, even while crossing the road or supposedly talking to your friend when sharing coffee.

This section continues with the pedagogical strategy for thinking and theorising about the potential personal influence of media.

Audio mp3 file lecture of this section
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Commercial feature films and television: Potential spiritual/moral influence
The storytelling role of films and television: Emotional engagement of the viewer
Some example video clips related to feature films and television
Identifying and evaluating the spiritual dimension to life as portrayed in film and television
The potential spiritual and moral influence of television advertising. View some video clips on advertising
The culture of advertising
Retail identity
Television commercials and the projection of unattainable images of perfection
Popular music and the music video: Some brief notes
Preliminary thoughts on the potential influence of social media on people's spiritual and moral development -- especially identity development
Conclusion to this study

Commercial feature films and television: Their potential for influencing the meaning, identity and spirituality of young people

Feature films, in addition to their presence in cinemas, are now commonly watched at home on commercial videos and DVDs, as well as on broadcast and pay television. Access to films for entertainment is now at its highest level ever in most countries. The words ‘home cinema' would have had little meaning for people in the 1940s and 1950s; they would have had no inkling of the prominence that film would come to have through its prevalence in home entertainment as well as in the public cinema. Film, and especially its progeny television and video games, would change patterns of social life significantly.

Both propaganda and documentary films are intentionally concerned with personal change. However, this intention is usually disclaimed in commercial feature films and most television, even though they often have implied moral and political messages and, in television, a wealth of commercial ones. Hence the analytical categories built up in relation to propaganda and documentary films, for interpreting potential spiritual and moral influence, may have limited applicability to this genre, and will not be enough to account for its effects on viewers.

The personal influence of commercial film may be more of an unintended consequence. Any particular film may have little or no effect on people, apart from its entertainment function. But over many years, the combination of film and television may have subtle but significant effects. It is more likely to be the culture or atmosphere of entertainment films and television that is influential; it can insinuate attitudes and values, and it creates the most potent image of what constitutes the ‘good life'. And this influence is mediated mainly through its storying role.

Television is more complex than feature film because while films are prominent in its content, television gives special attention to public information, news, sport, current affairs, education and advertising, as well as to its own varied entertainment formats. But, in the light of comments made about the primal storytelling role of film and television, it will be possible to bracket the two together for most of the following analysis; hence ‘film' will be used generically to stand for both feature films and television. Then, at the end of the chapter, special attention will be given to television because of its omnipresence in the culture and its strong links with commercial advertising.

Also relevant to this discussion is the educative function of film and television. While specifically educational programs are akin to the documentary genre considered earlier, entertainment-oriented film and television make an enormous contribution to people's education. They occasion much new knowledge; they provide people with a vicarious experience of different cultures, ethnic groups and countries that would otherwise not be within their horizons; they show various perspectives on contemporary issues; and they help to develop historical perspective.

Commercial feature films are, in the main, different in character and purpose from propaganda and documentary films. Their purpose is to entertain and to be a commercial success. But all three types use the same basic filmic techniques, so interrelationships should not be ruled out.

Historically or politically oriented feature films can have documentary and even propagandist characteristics to varying degrees. For example, a film may be subtly propagandist if its unstated worldview reinforces a particular ideology, and this may depend on the cultural context of the audience (an example would be the Iranian interpretation of American films noted earlier). Also, the idea of evangelising for a cause is not unknown in movie producers and directors. Thus familiarity with the characteristics of propaganda and documentary films, as discussed earlier, is a prerequisite for a critical evaluation of feature films and television. Correspondingly, an understanding of the purposes and techniques of feature films can inform the evaluation of documentary films because documentary film-makers make use of narrative techniques and effects to enhance the impact of their films.

The storytelling role of films and television: Emotional engagement of the viewer

Storytelling, in the view of many film-makers, is the basic fabric of films. It is central to their audience appeal and entertainment value. Storytelling was taken to a new level when television was introduced to the majority of homes in industrialised nations; limited but significant access to television also came to the so-called undeveloped countries. In addition, television advertising has a strong story component, and often depends on this for success.

What is known as the classic ‘Hollywood style' of film-making, which has left a lasting impression on films made in the English-speaking world and beyond, has its principal emphasis on story. The structure, techniques and appeal of such films are built on the presumption that ‘everybody loves stories'. Understanding how films are crafted to make the narrative more effective for the audience is one track into speculation about their personal influence. Also, the appeal of films made in the United States, an appeal that cuts across many cultural and national boundaries, suggests that they have an international influence. Some commentators regard film and television as the principal means, along with popular music, by which there has been an ‘Americanisation' of world culture. In this sense, the United States has conquered the world through its films and music. This influence is also evident in clothing fashions, consumer goods, language, and aspects of lifestyle. As noted earlier, some are conscious of this influence washing over their world, with its potential to erode traditional beliefs and practices.

Some example video clips related to feature films and television

Click the icons to view/download the film segments


Feature films are produced for entertainment and for commercial gain. They usually do not have specifically educational purposes and usually they do not set out to try to change people's thinking and values. However, films sometimes try to get across the message and film directors may well want to have an influence on popular thinking. Note for example that the film Little big man from 1971 may have had more influence in promoting a healthier acceptance of the culturally decimated situation of native americans then documentaries or even school programs. Note also that films may well be based on historical events; but there will probably always be some level of give-and-take as regards history and the poetic licence of the filmmaker to read fictional elements to make the story moral interesting and engaging.
Central to feature films this story or narrative. The film tries to get an emotional association between the viewers and the film characters. Also, all narratives have embedded values and worldviews. And it could be that repeated exposure to the values and thinking in film stories could have a personal influence on people.
Because of their value embedded narratives, it is possible that film and television has now become the principal spiritual and moral reference points for many people who no longer look to religion for their moral compass. take for example the series of sitcoms: Seinfeld, Friends, and now Big Bang Theory. To what extent does the social reality projected in these series have an influence on the way young people build up expectations of what they want to do in life?

Documentary on US cinema.
This is part of a documentary on United States cinema that emphasises the central place of story in the craft of the filmmaker. it suggests that camera angles, editing, lighting, background, clothing etc will work together to help drive the narrative forward in a way that is emotionally engaging.

Constructing a story through film is a highly skilled art-form. Everything is done to make the film involve the viewer in the narrative. But the techniques for achieving this are intended to be invisible, except to the skilled eye. The aim is to get the audience so thoroughly involved with the story, so identified with the characters, that they do not notice the set design, the camera angles or the editing – the perfect style is invisible. Part of learning how to ‘read' what is happening in films requires the development of skills in identifying the ‘artwork' in the film's construction and reflecting on its function.

The American film director Martin Scorsese interpreted film storytelling as follows:
Everything is at the surface of the story. Every decision is based on how to most efficiently and expressively drive the story forward for an audience. It is not what it seems – the actors' expressions are designed to sweep an audience into the central drama of the story. It is the director on the set who orchestrates each craft's contribution to the storytelling process: scripting, costume and production design, lighting, camera work, editing, acting – all supported by an army of experts and technicians working together to achieve the most emotionally compelling result.

The soundtrack, especially the evocative music and the contrasting silences, contribute to this effect. The soundtrack is probably more potent when the audience is not specifically conscious of it, because the ‘emotion' in the music matches the drama in the film; the music magnifies the emotions of the viewers caught up in the action of the film.

The audience enters the world of the story; more precisely, the film draws them into the ‘worldview' of the characters – seeing how they experience what is happening, feeling what they feel, identifying at some level with their beliefs and values. Special attention is given to the emotional point of view of the main characters; it is mainly through their eyes and feelings that viewers experience the story.

Films and TV as iconic spiritual and moral reference points for ordinary life
This is a brief advertisement for Foxtel which oscillates backwards and forwards between iconic moments in film and television and real life. It can be used to suggest how people can use narrative elements from film and television as reference points for their thinking about life and values and their own meaning and expectations for life.
Soap operas and sitcoms and the newest in Reality TV
This is a Foxtel advertisement for what was the " Fox soap" channel -- all your favourite soap operas! in investigating the potential spiritual and moral influence of film and television, there is a continual need to ask why is such and such a program popular? What is it appealing to? How and why can people identify with the program and with the characters? Click here for some reflections on why people watched the Jerry Springer program. Click here for some notes on the different types of so-called reality television.
Sport on television
This is the advertisement for fox sports which suggests that the pumping of adrenaline that is one thing that sport on television can do for viewers.

Identifying and evaluating the spiritual dimension to life as portrayed in film and television

It has been suggested above that film and television provide resource material for people's construction of meaning, identity and spirituality, even though this is not the intention of the film-makers or the media industry. But it is a potential unintended consequence that needs to be taken into account by educators and the wider community, and it warrants investigation by students at school.

Some critics claim that much of what happens in film and television, in the drama and sitcoms as well as in advertising, gives the impression that life goes on without a spiritual dimension. The social reality they project often shows people giving little time to moral reflection. Also, the treatment of religion is often so stereotypical as to be negative.

On the other hand, it can be argued that film and television are rich in portrayals of meaning, identity and spirituality, even though the moral content and implied values are not always positive. The spiritual and moral dimensions are certainly there, but they are embedded in the characterisation, just as they are in novels, and are not written in so explicitly that the narratives become homiletic or moral exhortations; to do that would render them inauthentic and unpopular as entertainment – as well as making any evangelising purpose counterproductive.

Evaluation of the spiritual and moral dimension to film and television requires two levels of interpretation. First, there is interpretation of the film or program itself. It is not an instrument of moral education and does not have an inherent responsibility to project particular values or follow any intended moral pedagogy. As an artistic construction with its own integrity, whether or not it is a ‘good' film should not be judged by the moral content of its story; many criteria would be involved in such a judgment, and many of these criteria would be subjective. For example, one could not expect a film about Hitler or Stalin to get a high ‘moral score' on the basis of the morality of the principal characters.

A second level of interpretation and evaluation is concerned with the moral and spiritual issues raised in the film. This evaluation is not concerned with the film per se, apart from reference to it as a vehicle for demonstrating moral stances that are judged positive or negative. Also, this interpretive activity is made with reference to some accepted set of values. For example, the values demonstrated by Hitler and Stalin in a film could be judged harshly.

One could expect that most people are capable of seeing the difference between these two levels of interpretation and evaluation.

Values and morals are as essential to the coherence of a film as they are to people's ordinary lives; if not, the story would hardly be credible. If there were not minimal awareness of implied values in the film's characters, it would be unlikely that a viewer could comprehend the story or empathise with the characters. What is important, then, for any ‘education in film' is to enhance this ‘value sensitivity' and make it more articulate through film analysis that develops skills in identifying implied spiritual and moral issues. This analytical work could be extended to include the identification of ideology, power, hegemony and cultural stereotypes.

The potential for affecting people's meanings, identity and spirituality usually cannot be related to one-off learning events; hence there is little point trying to judge whether one film could do this. It is more likely that the culture of film, to which people are exposed over a long period, has a more subtle influence than could be predicted from identifying spiritual-moral issues and value stances in particular films. It may not be the social reality of a particular film, but a more comprehensive social reality projected by the culture of film, television and advertising that affects people personally; this subtle, ‘global', ‘atmospheric' influence may be a source of meaning for some that is ultimately frustrating and damaging, contributing along with other cultural factors to anomie and distress; for others, they may have drawn on this culture in a healthy way, while for yet others their meaning may never be influenced by the social reality of film.

Further Reading

Further Reading on the psychological influence of film/TV

More about the potential spiritual and moral influence of film and television is written in chapter 15 of Reasons for living. A shorter selection of theories about this possible influence can be read in this linked document,

The potential spiritual and moral influence of television advertising and marketing

In commercial feature films and television drama and sitcoms (as with most content programs on television), the intention to bring about personal change is usually disclaimed. The nature and purpose of this material are different from those of propaganda and documentary film. When it comes to television commercials, however, the story is different. Supported by all the techniques and formats available within the film industry, television advertising sets out quite deliberately to bring about personal change in viewers to increase the probability that they will buy the advertised products. This is making use of the expertise of feature film production for propaganda-like purposes. Also, as the logical basis for advertising is to provide information that will inform people's consumer buying, there are links with the information-oriented purposes of documentary film.

One film critic referred to the successful 30-second television commercial as the pinnacle of achievement of motion pictures. Within that brief time-span there is a miniature film, with introduction, worldview, story and conclusion, that communicates a message to viewers.

ADVERTISING AND MARKETING IN THE MEDIA Marketing and advertising are central processes in western consumerist, capitalist societies. The basic principle is that advertising provides potential customers with information about products that they need. But increasingly, marketing and advertising are much more about the status and cachet that go with particular brands and goods and it may not have very much to do with their initial function. Advertising can tend to convert volts into felt real needs. marketing and advertising can also promote the idea that consumer purchasing is a fundamental process in the development of personal identity. A more detailed consideration of how consumerist advertising and lifestyle play upon people's identity needs is given in chapters 7 and 9 of Reasons for living
Each TV advertisement is like a mini-story: the Jeep advertisement
Each television commercial usually has its own little narrative, even if the ad lasts for only 30 to 40 seconds. And each narrative has its own embedded world view which the viewer needs to at least subconsciously acknowledge to make sense of the narrative. There is a possibility that if unbridled consumerism is the assumed world view in much advertising, then this might subtly insinuate consumerist values. Note the complete story line in this short advertisement.
The cryptic four-line advertisement for a motor vehicle in the daily classifieds is crammed with relevant information. The format is poor literature, but it is functional. In television the formats for advertising vary, from the simple to the grandiose, from the literal to the highly symbolic. Also, television commercials are not limited to functional information about products. Experience has shown that functional information may have little to do with the success of a commercial – it may be more about selling lifestyle images such as being ‘chic', ‘savvy', ‘cool' and so on, with the advertised product being linked with those images

Even Grandmas know the Jeep lifestyle

Even young kids identify the Jeep mystique

Your good fortune is linked to the Jeep lifestyle

Upgrade to a Jeep lifestyle

Interpreting the Mise-en-Scene of Advertisements in JEEP ads

It may well be that the atmospheric presence of advertisements insinuates a different mise-en-scene about life. Here, the Jeep lifestyle mise-en-scene is being alluded to and this seems to appeal to people who then feel differently when they have bought a Jeep.

Even psychiatrists recognise someone with the Jeep lifestyle

Tell the world "you bought a Jeep" -- and what will the world say in answer?

The 'Real' life with Jeep lifestyle

However it functions psycholoically, the Jeep advertising campaign certainly WORKS and it boosted Jeep sales in Australia considerably.

Success of the Jeep advertisements:

Not only did the Jeep ads. enhance Jeep sales, their success was noticed by other car makers. It even prompted some 'anti-Jeep' ads from SUV competitors. This is the example of the Ford SUV advertisement. The mise-en-scene embedded in this ad. read "Only 'wa***** buy Mercs and BMWs etc. REAL people buy a FORD"

Sexual innuendo in advertisements
This ad sexualises the game of Rugby Union -- Lynx deodourant for men. It appeals to the erotic feelings of men and hopefully (and probably unconsciously) helps make psychological links between Lynx deodourant and being a sexy male. The advertisements for Voodoo hosiery for women used a similar strategy. Click for the link to the examples of these sexual innuendo advertisements on billboards. But it emphasised the 'dominance' theme in women's sexuality and a pleasant 'dominated' theme for men. And the evidence pointed to a spike in sales every time a new Voodoo advertisement appeared on billboards. The Windsor Smith ads for men's shoes were also appealing to sexual innuendo.

Here the Mise-en-scene is that you really need this stuff to be attractive.

Appealing to a 'congenital identity deficiency' This advertisement promotes an emotional link between the product and the buyer. The MESSAGE: If you buy this deodourant you will increase your sexual attractiveness. A lot of advertising builds on the vague, but deeply embedded, feeling that you are suffering permanently from an 'inbuilt congential physical deficiency' -- or that you will always be a 'drab, boring dufous' -- UNLESS YOU GET 'STUFF' THAT CAN HELP YOU SUCCEED. So the subtle message is: You always need something that you can
buy to enhance your appearance and your attractiveness. In other words, your congenital identity deficiency can always be topped up by buying the RIGHT STUFF.

And this identity need fuels a mammoth commercial industry in cosmetics, clothing, footwear, and lots of stuff that can all make you feel better and PRESENT better to others. Advertising COLONISES people's identity needs for great economic advantage. So business booms and individuals pay the price of being seduced by buying packaged identity resources -- actually seducing them away from any 'authentic identity'.

These ads appeal to religious stereotypes in a humourous way
The ads are not anti-religious but they tap into religious stereotypes and religious culture for their humour. The simple message is to associate fun and smart image with the products Coke and Nike runners.

The culture of advertising

Particular television commercials in themselves may have negligible spiritual and moral influence. What may be influential is the overall culture of television advertising – its omnipresence and the way it washes over viewers continuously. Some of the built-in assumptions of the advertising industry are: consumerism, competition, the importance of image, meeting human needs through purchase of consumer goods – all these project a social reality of materialism and self-centredness. This can create and sustain the myth that externals are important for individuality and identity and that particular consumer goods can always enhance them.

Promoting brand labels for distinctiveness of identity may be more concerned with economics and business progress than with human identity and welfare. Viewers' wants, which may be more whimsy than anything else, can be appealed to as needs that must be met. Television advertising is synonymous with seduction. A credit card is touted as a key to a free and creative lifestyle – ‘with power to do what you want, and to be who you want to be'. In buying perfume a woman may be buying ‘hope'. In buying a deodorant a man may be buying ‘a powerful lure for women'.

For the culture of television advertising, self-expression is all about consumerism; individuality is about particular brands; freedom is about a wealth of options in consumer choice; and power is about the capacity to buy. Shopping is even proposed as ‘retail therapy'.

Retail identity

Understanding television advertising needs to be linked with youth identity development, particularly with respect to the notion of ‘the seduction of individuality' and the commercial exploitation of young people's ‘identity vulnerabilities'. The idea of ‘retail identity' can be applied to individuals where a more than normal weighting in their self-expression and self-understanding is given to the purchase of particular consumer goods which have a high image loading. The driving force is their desire to participate in brand image and mystique. Retail identity is not so much a moral identity as a superficial one, coloured in with images projected by television; it is abnormally dependent on externals. The other abnormality is that the purchase of consumer goods has gone beyond meeting functional needs and has assumed a role in providing identity satisfaction.

Television commercials extol the ideal of individuality while at the same time proposing that product purchase will give a ready-made identity solution – seducing them away from authentic individuality. In this sense identity has been ‘commodified', along with so many other elements of culture, and it supports a ‘retail identity market'.

Television commercials and the projection of images of unattainable perfection

One commentator suggested that anorexia nervosa is a television disease. She claimed that in pre-television times it did not seem to be such a problem. The culture of television advertising (and in other media, especially magazines) projects through its models an unattainable perfection in appearance that can never be reached by average people.

For many women there may be a low level of frustration in not being able to look like the slim models with the perfect skin and hair. But it may incline them to buy cosmetic products that help them aspire to that perfection. But for a few, particularly adolescent girls, the love/hate frustration with this imagery may drive them to excessive anxiety about their appearance and eventually to the condition of anorexia. While television imagery may not affect young men in the same way or to the same extent, it can cause other body image problems.

Popular music and the music video: Some brief notes

Brief attention only is given here to related topics of significance for understanding the influence of contemporary culture on young people's spiritual and moral development.

Popular music – it is like the soundtrack to people's lives. It is particularly significant for young people. Popular music provides a vivid universal language and medium for the expression of youth needs, interests and aspirations. It is like a pervading atmospheric presence that keeps many ideas, life expectations and emotions on a ‘low simmer'. This is particularly the case for sexuality, relationships, and the ideas of freedom, individuality, pleasure, and what is ‘cool'.

The way in which young people all over the world share a common language and interest in pop music is not without its significance. It supports an international approach to forming an outlook on life, which is relevant to youth spirituality. Music and its lyrics can trigger emotions and resonate with young people's moods, concerns, hopes and anguish. Along with film and television, it provides the backdrop to young people's perception of the world.

While often an element of youth culture from which many adults prefer to keep at a safe distance, the ‘music video' is a key dimension to young people's love for music. With their many evocative images, music videos increase the capacity of popular music to massage young people's emotions and moods. With headphones or ear plug speakers people can now listen to music from their i Pod, mp3 player or smart phone at any time anywhere. It is as if not a minute should be wasted so even in those intermediate times your enjoyment can be continued uninterrupted.

The deconstruction of music videos has been a part of English studies for senior school students in some Australian states. The following extended quotation from an English teachers' journal illustrates the insights that such a study can generate.

Music has long been recognised as a form of popular culture with certain potency for communicating rhetorically. For young people struggling to find a place in communities dotted with shopping walls but with few community centres, in an economy whose major product is information, music videos play to the search for identity and an impoverished community.

Music, particularly rock, has always had a visual element. . [but] viewers typically do not regard the music video as a commercial for an album or act. The videos cross the consumer's gaze as a series of mood states. They trigger nostalgia, regret, anxiety, confusion, dread, envy, admiration, pity, titillation – attitudes at one remove from the primal expression such as passion, ecstasy and rage. The moods often express a lack, an incompletion, an instability, a searching for location. In music videos, those feelings are carried on flights of whimsy, extended journeys into the arbitrary.

That music videos present compelling mood states that may claim the attention of the viewer is not a matter of happenstance. In the struggle to establish and maintain a following, artists utilise any number of techniques in order to appear exotic, powerful, tough, sexy, cool, unique.

Born of an amalgam of commercialism, television and film, for the purpose of selling rock albums, music videos frequently employed well-established verbal and visual symbols in telling a story or making a point. If no such symbol exists, music videos coin their own which, given the ubiquity of the medium, quickly find their way into the vernacular (Rybacki & Rybacki, 2006, p. 59).

Image and imagination: Retail links with the subconscious

As one advertisement stated, ‘Image is everything'. Much of the storyline and emotional appeal of effective commercials depend not on words and information but on image. The commercial may project an image – say, of the modern, attractive, sexy, smart, successful man or woman – and will link this image with a particular product. The attraction of the image is intended to initiate subconscious associations with that product. Similarly, the commercial may seek to link the image associated with the product with the romantic imaginations of self that viewers might have. Here advertising is more about selling desirable images than about the function of particular products – it is the images that have ‘retail potency'.

No doubt each product has a mundane function. But highly advertised products have also added mystique and social cachet. Television advertising (also in magazines and newspapers) sustains the ‘designer label', ‘superior brand' industry. Buying the distinctive label or brand is an identification process – and this is retail enhancement of identity. ‘You pay for the name' and you in turn are ‘branded'.

As discussed earlier with reference to feature films and television, the appeal to the imagination is also a central part of television advertising. Images that are attractive to self-expression and self-understanding can be embedded in the imagination where they can affect people – with retail consequences. It is not an appeal to information or reason, but to the inherent attractiveness and desirability of the images. There is often a good measure of humour in advertisements and they may try to flatter people's intelligence, but this does not eliminate their play on the unconscious.

This sort of critical analysis is important for evaluating the marketing strategies behind television commercials. In the commercial, within thirty seconds, there is an attempt to activate, and appeal to, images and emotions, desires and values that will be effective in prompting viewers to buy – and intelligently exercise their prerogative as well-informed consumers. The myths appealed to will range widely from a simple ‘enjoy' to ‘look beautiful and irresistible' to ‘caring' and ‘environmentally friendly'. A study of the psychology of advertising is essential for critical media studies.

Some preliminary thoughts on the potential influence of social media on people's spiritual and moral development -- especially identity development

Recent research on the needs and interests of young people has indicated that there is often a low level of personal and anxiety about how one is "performing" in the social media arena. Many young people, and adults as well,can spend a lot of time cultivating a particular projected image of themselves in the social media.

A lot of questions can be raised about both the positives and health the contributions of social media as well as potential problems. These media certainly provide great channel of communication and being open to keep in touch with a wider range of people than we might normally not interact with on a day by day basis. Whether or not this establishes some form of "new community" is debatable. Individuals now have an opportunity to write their own "Scriptures" about themselves and publish these online.

Questions can be raised about whether an inordinate preoccupation with social media can end up damaging, or inhibiting the development of, people's capacity to have healthy face-to-face interactions. These latter involve being able to read the emotions in people's eyes and faces.

Taking a lot of time to be with people personally. It is comparatively easy to deal with a number of people by email and social media.

There is also some concern about whether a lot of the social media interaction is purely descriptive about what people are doing – like an ongoing "selfie" that never ends. The newest version of the old-fashioned Days of our lives.

Twitter is obviously the medium for celebrities and politicians. But there is the question about Twitter that increasingly sees communication in terms of short sentences. Will a pre-occupation with Twitter affect levels of literacy? Will it hamper the development of the capacity for making sustained, critical arguments for a case?

Does Twitter encourage posing through saying or writing smart 'zingers'? The sitcom Big Bang Theory also seems to encourage this. With some people it becomes difficult to have an intellectual conversation because they are not really listening sympathetically, but just waiting for a comment from you to which they can launch a smart zinger in reply.

The Twitter feed phenomenon during TV broadcasts of events and debates also needs evaluation. Does it give the illusion of the audience being actively involved in debates? Or is it a forum for people to advertise how smart they think they are by getting some limelight from their Twitter comments? Does a Twitter feed during an academic lecture do little more than give some egos a boost? Does it show thoughtful engagement with the lecturer? Will we in turn have people during a concert performance tweeting "The first violinist has a lovely bowtie" etc etc.

This discussion does not attempt to go into the growing research on the use of social media and the issues. There is an important need to get perspective on this research.

Below are some issues evident in the examples.

THE SOCIAL MEDIA While for a long time people have been able to make statements about their sense of individuality through their actions, what they say and write, what they do and how they dress, now they can put a record of their lives and thinking on social media for all anyone and everyone to pay attention to. While no doubt the social media have great value as a form of communication and interaction, if it comes to dominate individuals lives and compromise their face-to-face personal relationships in some way, then it becomes problematic.
Parody of Facebook This is a short parody of making and breaking friendships on Facebook. It looks at the differences between your Facebook friends and the friends in your real life. And it shows how you can write on people's "wall".
A news report on young people's use of smart phones.

An ABC reporter talks with a group of young girls about their use of smart phones -- their "best friends". And it looks at how the use of this media is a binding characteristic for a group of friends.

A news report on some of the potential health hazards of smart phone use.

An ABC reporter looks into the increasing frequency of accidents caused by people not looking where they are going (or where they are driving) while using smart phones. Use of smart phones has become a significant cause of injury and death for school children in the United Kingdom. It would be interesting to see what the corresponding data would be for Australian schoolchildren.

Example of the copycat spread of ideas through social media
The neknominate abuse of alcohol started with two young people in Western Australia and through social media and you tube has spread extensively across Australia.

Will work better if you download first and then open

How teachers are investigating the influence of social media -- an example

Some thoughts on how problematic use of the social media can adversely affect personal identity development
This is a PowerPoint display presentation by Sylvia Campbell and Rebecca Jeffries who explored in visual fashion the potential links between social media and young people's development of personal identity. Also considered are differences between 'social media communication' and 'personal face-to-face communication'.

The new language and symbolism in Social Media gives you a lot more options if you want to"Break Up"


Facebook and priests

Facebook during an electrical power outage

Conclusion to the work in this section

The desired outcome for both adults and young people's critical investigation of the potential spiritual and moral influence of film, television, the Internet and social media is that they learn how to bring a more informed, critical background to their thinking about the media. This is not trying to protect them from the effects of the media, but helping them develop their own educated responses. While often superficially critical, many children and adolescents are relatively naive as regards both the overt and subtle capacities of the various media to affect their thinking, imagination and feelings, their liking for fashion and particular leisure pursuits, their potential spending targets, and ultimately their values and beliefs.

This section resources educators' theorising about the spiritual and moral influence of these media. The first step towards a critical school education in media is to engage educators in this theorising as a prelude to various efforts on their part to help young people acquire more knowledge and skills for critical interpretation.