Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Almost all adults, even highly-educated ones, consume information passively, and primarily on a factual level. Readers of this blog, however, know that there are deeper ways to read a text or listen to a broadcast, and they instinctively consume media on a meta-level.

What does the phrase "consume media on a meta-level" actually mean? It means to ask questions of what you read while you're reading.

Here are a few examples of standard meta-reading questions:

What facts and evidence does the author include? Do they persuade me? Why or why not? What facts does she leave out, and what might the exclusion of those fact imply?

Is the article or book I'm reading insightful or predictive, or is it backward looking? Does this information conflict with other information on the same subject?

Does the author have intellectual or emotional blind spots or baggage on the subject? Do she have an axe to grind? Is the work biased? Or more perniciously, does it appear to be unbiased when it actually isn't?

These are just a few examples, and note that there is no right or wrong answer to any of these questions. A biased and angry book by a baggage-laden author may still contain useful insights. You'll simply be more savvy about the nature of that book's information.

Sadly, few people ask these questions--and for that matter, few people know these questions even exist. It's a disturbing truth that helps explain much of humanity's gullibility.

And the quality of our media suffers gravely for it.