Explore an attempt at "finding an idiom that would be satisfying and yet accessible."

by Terrence Ross

For over a decade I presented media literacy workshops in schools across the Northeast. I begged, threatened, and charmed as much media into their curricula as possible under the premise that both the reading of it was a text and the construction of it was a text. “Media is the native tongue of our young people” was one of my standard lines at that time. The truth of this assertion became more apparent with each passing year, but there was a nagging corollary question. Can a “normal” individual express him or herself in this new native tongue? The answer, of course, was no. I found this troubling. If only a few people in a society are able to communicate in the language of their time, then the society is an unhealthy one. And if the language needs a budget and a crew to get done, then the language itself is also compromised, if not colonized. Therefore, I experimented with various possibilities in hopes of finding an idiom that would be satisfying and yet accessible. Murdered: Intersecting Memoirs is the result of this inquiry. It is made of five personal profiles of media-celebrated crimes. It is housed with apt interactive options at

I feel it is of great significance that 90 percent of Murdered was created by me, at my desk, on my computer. I think computers can be the necessary “room of one’s own,” as Virginia Woolf declared, for today’s writers. Two other aspects of this work that intrigue me the most are how it fuses the elements of cinema with those of traditional storytelling and how it uses layers to address its audience in a number of modes, which can work in consort and/or in conflict. Murdered uses video and images along with text and narration. This multi-layered address adds more information and allows for a crisscrossing effect that, like a Cubist painting, can convey many sides of an issue or statement. In some ways, this multi-vocality is analogous to my experience in the classroom, where I am confronted each day with students who insist on multi-tasking—listening to me, while texting friends, while talking with other friends. I have opted to see if I could keep them multi-tasking but address them on each of the levels that they are conscious on—getting them to multi-task on one subject from various sides.

To build on what I have started to explore in this work, I would like to create a course at Adelphi around it. I continue to think that media is our language and that the Internet is our venue. I want to empower young people with the media that most interests them—Web interactivity and social networking pages. I want to take what the younger kids taught me about the naturalness of young people working with digital media (It truly is their native tongue.) and fuse this knowledge to my awareness of multi layers and fusing literature with cinema that I gained through working on the Murdered project. I want to put all of this at the service of creating a Web and DVD design course where students would become armed with the knowledge of how to create media in these modes. This approach would make media a more available language, and therefore a healthier language, of our time.


Terrence Ross
Associate Professor
Department of Communication

This piece is from the Fall 2010 Issue No. 14 of the FCPE Newsletter.

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