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Hacking through the billboard jungle: Adolescent student interpretations of commercial media in a public school classroom

, New York University, United States

New York University . Awarded


This research examines how adolescent students interpret classroom commercial media in a public school classroom. Using a phenomenological approach grounded in theories of social constructivism, symbolic interactionism, and media literacy, I assume adolescent students actively construct meaning with and about commercial media texts that exist as part of Classroom curriculum. I conducted individual and focus group interviews with a group of eleven eighth grade students in an urban middle school in the western United States. The study is based on student interaction with a variety of commercial classroom media that include the local newspaper, Junior Scholastic magazine, Channel One programming, Channel One web site, Study Web site, and Nike's Air-to-Earth curriculum.

The discursive findings of this study suggest that although these adolescent students may actively negotiate media texts, there is much about media institutions and bias that they are unaware of. These students also accept commercialism as status quo and are not inclined to eliminate commercial messages from the classroom. Although the commercial nature of classroom media is distracting for students, the major stumbling blocks to media literacy are technological rather than commercial. That is, the medium is more problematic in the classroom than are its commercial messages. Contributing to the power of commerce in the classroom is the cultural capital of sports, as it is inextricably connected to an adolescent student's daily life and interests as a consumer. These students' parents provide both positive and negative role models for media literacy. The discursive data also reveal that students utilize commercial media both inside and outside the classroom primarily to connect with others and that they pedagogically favor social interaction and orality above the commercial instructional media used in this study.

What emerges from the findings of this study is a four-quadrant scale of adolescent student perspectives of commercial classroom media: Active acceptance, skeptical rejection, savvy consumer and responsible citizen. The dominant perspective that emerges from the student discourse is located within the quadrant of active acceptance and savvy consumer. Tensions exist between the ideologies of consumerism promoted by commercial classroom media and the traditional educational goal of student-as-citizen.


Domine, V.E. Hacking through the billboard jungle: Adolescent student interpretations of commercial media in a public school classroom. Ph.D. thesis, New York University. Retrieved January 30, 2023 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

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