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Speaking the Lower Frequencies

Students and Media Literacy

Walter R. Jacobs

Publication Year: 2005

Speaking the Lower Frequencies demonstrates how students can be critical consumers of media while retaining the pleasure they derive from it. In Walter R. Jacobs’s classes on media and society, students use the instructor’s experiences as a model for investigating their own histories. By creating new social contexts and meanings, the students learn to “speak the lower frequencies.” Jacobs looks at the students’ reception and critique of pop culture texts like the movie I Like It Like That and the television show The X-Files to provide evidence for the effects of alternative pedagogy on critical literacy. He shows that when students are encouraged to be more than just passive receptors of the media they learn to develop active, critical voices that they use both inside and outside the classroom. Jacobs also explains how students can become more aware and active in attempts to create democratic possibilities for themselves and others.

Published by: State University of New York Press


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Speaking the Lower Frequencies: Students and Media Literacy

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p. v

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1. Entering the Pensieve

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pp. 1-16

Should potentially explosive language and perspectives such as those expressed in the ethnographic field note be used in introductory college courses? What happens when teachers become (perhaps) too totally present in the moment, in an effort to more fully engage students on multiple levels, as I did in the field note regarding...

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2. Autoethnography of Teachers, Texts, and Space

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pp. 17-40

When we think of a large college classroom for an introductory course, we often imagine a static place, a space where students imbibe nuggets of knowledge dished out by the sage on the stage, to be regurgitated a few weeks later for dissection by graduate student assistants. In a classroom as Pensieve, however, we create a new context in which students...

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3. Fragments of the Sociological Imagination

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pp. 41-66

My task as a sociologist is to teach my students the sociological imagination as applicable to late modern/postmodern American society. This means incorporating elements of the cultural studies project as described by Kellner, as America becomes an increasingly electronically mediated society where “we can no longer think of the media as providing secondary representations...

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4. Strange Texts in Postmodern Space

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pp. 67-96

The “teacher as text” project involves exposing students to new texts and experiences, exploding the texts into sociological components of analysis like race, class, age, and gender, and explicating new narratives that help students comprehend just how complicated their social worlds are, that differences that they perceive as radical and bizarre...

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5. Breaking and Making Frames as Context

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pp. 97-124

In order to create the college classroom as Pensieve, I use a number of unusual approaches and “strange texts,” as we have seen in previous chapters. During the 1997–1998 autoethnography I played music before each class as another such technique to create an atmosphere in which students assembled fragments from disparate sources to form more multisided understandings of themselves and their social worlds...

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6. Conjuring the Future

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pp. 125-140

In Pensieves the instructors want to make lasting impressions on their students. We “conjure,” entering often uncomfortable situations in order to continually make and remake understandings of the social from memories of the past, perceptions of the present, and anticipations of the future. Gordon writes that when we attempt to conjure social reality, we are changed on a variety of levels...

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7. Evoking the Lower Frequencies

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pp. 141-150

I used this passage from Michel de Certeau’s Culture in the Plural in chapter 1 to set up the overview of this book. Let me invoke it again to wrap up the book, as a guide for some concluding remarks about what happens when we create college classrooms as Pensieves. Aaron Schutz (2004:17) argues that “while students may develop...


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pp. 151-154


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pp. 155-164


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pp. 165-169

E-ISBN-13: 9780791483558
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791463956
Print-ISBN-10: 0791463958

Page Count: 188
Illustrations: 3 b/w photographs
Publication Year: 2005

OCLC Number: 62744827
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Speaking the Lower Frequencies

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Critical pedagogy -- United States.
  • Mass media -- Social aspects -- United States.
  • Postmodernism and higher education -- United States.
  • Media literacy -- United States.
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