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In his book titled “Understanding Media: A Popular Philosophy”, Dominic Boyer presents a new approach to understanding media. Dominic Boyer introduced the multi-attentional approach that scholars can use in understanding different forms of media. Notably, Boyer eliminates some of the challenges associated with using the social theory that only allowed for limited attention in understanding media. Dominic Boyer sought to present a mode of analysis that focuses on a specialized attentional basis and that emphasizes a diverse set of analytical concepts.[1] In regards to the media, Dominic Boyer expanded the multi-attentional approach and highlighted the poetic, formal, and medial forms of understanding. It is imperative to analyze how each of the three forms of understanding registers a measure of relevance when analyzing different forms of media such as Instagram and films. This paper will focus on applying the multi-attentional approach to the understanding of Instagram and film.

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According to Dominic Boyer’s multi-attentional approach, the poetic understanding emphasizes the human creation and its emergence. Moreover, the poetic discernment recognizes the human creation as a strong force that is evident in different media forms. For this reason, different media forms serve as instruments that enhance the human creation and empower people to achieve different objectives. Moreover, the formal understanding has its basis in the fixed externalities that human beings face. These externalities constitute a set of forms that are evident to human beings and that have fixed stable structures. The media represent technical objects that have well-defined capacities and qualities. Through formal understanding, scholars pay attention to the set of capacities and qualities that each media form exhibits. The medial understanding assays to break down how different media forms affect human interconnections.[2] Notably, the use of different media forms registers an impact on human interactions. For this reason, the medial understanding centers on how each type of media affects human interactions. With such apprehension of Boyer’s multi-attentional approach, it is possible to apply the three types of understanding to Instagram and film.

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Analysis of Instagram Using the Multi-Attentional Approach

Instagram represents one of the popular social media platforms. There is an increased attention to the use of Instagram among young people as well as the older adults. For this reason, it is imperative to understand Instagram using the multi-attentional theory that Boyer developed. In agreement with the poetic understanding, it is explicit that Instagram brings forth human creation. The platform helps individuals to achieve different purposes. It serves as an instrument that people can use to create awareness for different causes, market products, or express their identity. Undoubtedly, the use of Instagram as a means of communication empowers people from different backgrounds to achieve various objectives. The continued use of Instagram serves as evidence that it fosters the creative force evident in human beings.

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On the other hand, it is possible to analyze Instagram using formal understanding. As a social media platform, it represents a technical object that has various capacities, qualities, and features. Notably, the developers of the social media platform have included a diverse set of capacities that facilitate different forms of interactions. Due to the unique capacities and qualities, people can navigate from one page to the other on the Instagram website. The capacities and qualities also enable users to comment, like, share, or message other users.[3] As a technical object, the Instagram social platform has a specific objective that depends on its unique features.[4] The developers of the site have ventured in improving the usability and navigation on the website. Unlike other social media platforms, Instagram has its qualities that define it as a unique social media platform.

The medial understanding of Instagram shifts its focus to the impact of the social network platform for human interactions. Undoubtedly, the continued use of Instagram has altered human interactions. The platform creates a virtual space in which people can connect and share ideas. Instagram provides a platform for people to share their stories or make regular posts. The sharing of pictures, videos, and other forms of content enhances human interactions. However, there is evidence that the virtual interaction on the social media platform has registered adverse effects on face-to-face communication.[5] It is apparent that the young generation cannot facilitate face-to-face interaction because of the addiction to the use of mobile devices. Virtual interaction has altered the manner in which people perceive the importance of real-life friendships and face-to-face interactions. There are concerns that the negative effects of using social media platforms will eventually make it difficult for the future generation to establish face-to-face conversations.

Analysis of Film Using the Multi-Attentional Approach

Film has proven influential for many years. In the modern day, filmmakers use this media form to communicate an important message to the targeted audience. There is evidence that film serves to bring forth human creation in agreement with the poetic understanding. Specifically, the use of film enables filmmakers to achieve specific objectives. It is possible to use film to educate the society or create awareness concerning sensitive issues in the society.[6] For many years, film has become a dominant media form that individuals have used to deliver an important message to the society. Users of film have an intended purpose that they seek to achieve.

The formal understanding of film gives attention to film as a technical object that has specified capacities and qualities.[7] Undoubtedly, film developers rely on the latest technology to produce remarkable technological products with a selected combination of cinematographic features. Cinematographic features represent the unique qualities that govern films. It is possible to analyze how the filmmaker uses the cinematographic features to achieve specific objectives. Formal understanding gives attention to all the technical aspects of film and the integration of different approaches in developing the final product.

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The medial understanding of film emphasizes its impact to influence human interactions. Undoubtedly, films pass an important message that redefines human perceptions and the willingness to interact with others. There is evidence that films promote certain social cues that are likely to influence daily interactions. The attitudes that people emulate from films register a significant impact on human interactions. Undoubtedly, films shape the manner in which people perceive themselves and those around them. As a result, films can influence human interconnection as well as sociality. Films promote the popular culture and lead to the adoption of certain shared values and ideologies. There is evidence that films have served to promote western culture. The targeted audience can perceive the shared meaning evident in the popular culture that each specific film enhances.[8] Films have proven to be highly influential in determining the shared values, ideals, and concepts that govern human interactions. The medial understanding allows analysts to pay attention to how film has influenced specific societies over the years. It is possible to consider how film has shaped the modern interactions and communication theories since the post-war period. With the increased use of modern technology, a greater consumption of film makes it clear that the message in the films will continue to shape human interactions both in the present and in the future.


The use of the multi-attentional approach to studying media helps scholars to appreciate the function and impact of different media forms. The approach is more efficacious than the social media theory that did not give attention to various perspectives in appreciating different media forms. The triads of poetic, formal, and medial approaches to understanding media are likely to register greater success in analyzing how Instagram and film have become influential media forms that have achieved specific objectives.[9] As discussed above, the multi-attentional approach applies to understanding Instagram, film, and the manner in which they have proven instrumental in human creation, technical objects with radically distinctive qualities, as well as tools that shape human interactions. Boyer’s approach helps in understanding how both Instagram and film promote popular culture and enhance shared values and ideals. Users of Instagram have embraced certain shared values that the platform enhances. Similarly, film has proven to be a recognizable media form that promotes popular culture since the post-war period.

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  1. Boyer, Dominic. Understanding media: a popular philosophy. Chicago, Ill: Prickly Paradigm Press, 2007.
  2. Hall, Stuart.“The work of representation.” In Representation: Cultural representations and signifying practices, edited by Stuart Hall, 4. California: Sage Publication, 1997.
  3. Twenge, Jean. Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? The Atlantic, 6 Aug, 2017.
  4. [1] Dominic Boyer, Understanding media: a popular philosophy (Chicago, Ill: Prickly Paradigm Press, 2007), 27.
  5. [2] Jean Twenge, Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? The Atlantic, 6 Aug, 2017,
  6. [3] Stuart Hall, “The work of representation,” in Representation: Cultural representations and signifying practices, ed. by Stuart Hall (California: Sage Publications,1997), 5.
  7. [4] Ibid., 4.
  8. [5] Dominic Boyer, Understanding media: a popular philosophy (Chicago, Ill: Prickly Paradigm Press, 2007), 5.
  9. [6] Jean Twenge, Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? The Atlantic, 6 Aug, 2017,
  10. [7] Ibid., 20.
  11. [8] Ibid., 11.
  12. [9] Ibid., 17.
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