The Age of #DigitalLiteracy and the Media Revolution
By Pat Shelly
Where do you get most of your news of the world?
What are skills needed for digital literacy?
Do you use social media for any part of your school or professional work?
Will universal digital literacy lead to world peace?
The Age of Digital Literacy is Now
The University at Buffalo observed the 2016 International Education Week with lectures, film, student events, exhibits and a keynote: “The Media Revolution: What it Means for You” by Geneva Overholser.
She has worked as an editor, ombudsperson, journalist at many top papers, including the New York Times and the Washington Post. She lived in and wrote from Paris and Kinshasa over a period of five years.
Overholser spoke of the radical change from traditional, or “legacy” media – newspapers, radio, network television, cable TV – to new media technologies. These include social networking, instant messaging, blogs (coined from “web” and “log”), internet video (YouTube), digital media sites (Vice, Vox, Gawker), radio podcasts, political news outlets (Politico, Democracy Now!), social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr). All are accessible from the palm of the hand through smart phones and other mobile devices.
The cost of such technology is becoming less and less expensive. One survey she cited found that Africa is leading the world in the rate of adoption of mobile internet use.
Ms. Overholser spoke to the necessity of being literate in this new realm of media. “[N]ow, thanks to new technology, EVERYBODY owns a press.” We are our own reporter, editor, and publisher. “… thanks to social media, each of us has a limitless, unmediated space for communicating with one another.”
We both consume and contribute to this public space.
What’s in your diet?
Living in the digital age also means maintaining an healthy diet while consuming media, and avoiding too much of the media junk food. This diet comes from “countless numbers of sources – a cacophony of information that runs the gamut from useless to reliable, from base to inspiriting.” She warned that anything anonymous lacks accountability. Regulating one’s diet has another dimension: sometimes we need to refrain from consuming toxic elements.
Recently, the Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC) stated that it was blocking all comments on all indigenous-related stories until a policy is developed for dealing with those who ignore the prohibition CBC has on hate speech.
As a professional, any items you forward, post or retweet can reflect on your digital reputation – this makes a healthy media diet even more attractive. Any time we “publish,” we can choose to contribute value to the civic dialogue – or not.
Here are some tips from Overholser on keeping one’s diet – and the menu we offer to others – healthy:
-When consuming media, beware of anything that is an anonymous source. The lack of ownership, authorship and accountability makes any such source questionable.
-Beware of reflexive retweets: what is sent with just a quick click may be regretted. And do not forward any bad sources; you are then just further tainting the ‘net.
-Consider the power of digital media in promoting global citizenship: through what Overholser calls “civic tech,” we can advance civic engagement, check on legislation or crime rates, find out who has donated how much to which candidate, and otherwise promote transparency in government.
Digitally Literate Social Workers
In social work, we are always concerned with ethics and values. We need to make sure our communications are culturally sensitive, accurate, and ethical. One aspect of literacy in the digital age is the appropriate use of social media when developing our profession digital identity. Our School of Social Work has developed a series of short videos on appropriate use of social media by social workers:
Digital literacy can only be gained by jumping in to the ocean of new media. Through exploration, research and practice, you will become more fluent in the language of the digital universe and truly become a global citizen in this new era in human communication and dissemination of knowledge. And perhaps, just perhaps, such fluency will result in vocabulary that does indeed lead to more diplomacy and less armament, more conversation and less combat, more social justice and more peace.
Overholser, Geneva. (2015). The Media Revolution: What It Means for You.
Retrieved from http://genevaoverholser.com/2015/11/23/the-media-revolution-what-it-means-for-you/#more-485
van den Dam, Rob. (n.d.). The Influence of Social: New views from the 2014 IBM Global Telecommunications Consumer Survey. Retrieved from http://www-935.ibm.com/services/us/gbs/thoughtleadership/telcoconsumer/
Photo: Geneva Overholser. credit: Kainan Guo, The Spectrum http://www.ubspectrum.com/article/2015/11/geneva-overholser
Luger, Chelsey (December 1, 2015). CBC blocks all comments on indigenous-related articles. Indian Country Today. Retrieved from http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/12/01/cbc-blocks-all-comments-indigenous-related-articles-162618
University at Buffalo School of Social Work. (October 28, 2015). Social Worker’s Guide to Social Media [http://bit.ly/1mmcCkr]
University at Buffalo School of Social Work. (October 28, 2015). Social Worker’s Guide to Social Media: Maintain Galactic Boundaries [Screen shot]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6wMs96Gl8w