As we process media daily, I’m sure very few of us stop to think about how we are exposed to it and how we process it. Throughout this post, I will explain to you just this so you can be more aware of how you perceive and engage in the world of media around you.
For starters, there are four exposure states of media. They are the automatic state, the attentional state, the transported state, and the self-reflexive state. All of these differ in ways I am about to explain. Whether we realize it or not, these four states are present in our everyday lives of how we process the media we are exposed to.
In the automatic state, we are exposed to media messages; however, we are not aware of the messages. I’m sure most of you reading have heard or used the term “auto pilot”. That is basically, in a nutshell, what you are doing in this state. In reality, the filtering process takes place without us even realizing it.
An interruption must occur in order to stop the exposure until the message/s move out of our range of exposure. In this state, we also may look engaged and active in what media we are facing, but that doesn’t always ring true. Our text book compares it to a person surfing the web – though they may look engaged clicking on a bunch of pages, their mind may be elsewhere rather than processing the information they are exposed to on those pages.
This is the state in which most media exposure occurs. Consciously, we do not realize when this exposure takes place. Along with that, we also cannot remember the details of our media experience when prompted to do so in the future. This is common with multi-tasking.
The next state, the attentional state, is when you are aware of the messages and interact with the message’s elements. You do not need a high level of concentration for this, contrary to what you might be thinking. In this state, there are varying degrees of how much attention you give the media messages.
Third, we have the transported state. Here is where you are in an attentional state, but are so deep into the message that you, in essence, lose your sense of reality. You are at a high, narrow attention level in the transported state. In this state, you forget you are not a part of the message. Our book uses the example of watching a movie. While you’re watching, you feel like you are a part of the story. You are invested in the emotional side of the message and lose yourself. This happens because our concentration levels are so high while consuming this media that we lose touch of what is reality.
Finally, last, but not least, the self-reflexive state. This is the fullest degree of awareness. In this state, we are aware of the media messages around us, yet still aware of the reality around us and our role in that reality. We are aware of these things while we are processing the messages. When you are in this state, you are more analytical and objective in comparison to the transported state.
Now that you have the knowledge of how we process media messages, take some time to become more aware of your own exposure habits. See if you can increase your media literacy by recognizing these four exposure states when you are exposed to media. For example, I just typed this entire article while listening to the radio. I know the radio was on, but I couldn’t tell you the songs that were played. I was consuming the radio in an automatic state. Yet, I was engaged in my writing of this post. I would say that I was writing this in the attentional state. Can you determine what state of exposure you used while reading this? Let me know in the comments below!