WHAT IS DIGITAL LITERACY?

The concept of digital literacy can be a difficult idea to grasp if it is not informed in the correct context of its meaning. Truthfully however, the term is quite simple, one that most of us encapsulate within the modern world, and ourselves without even knowing it.

Digital literacy is a way of expressing, communicating and understanding ideas that are translated through digital communication, thus forming a platform for information to be given and received reliably. Hartley defines the concept as “a form of hands on expression… using multi-platform devices to ‘write’ as well as ‘read’ electronic media” (2009, p.20-21). Furthermore, the concept of digital literacy from Hartley suggests that to be digitally literate, you not only need to have the knowledge on how to communicate through digital technologies, but to have both literacy and expression in one, thus being able to produce and consume through these mechanisms.

Digital literacy is a form of literacy that is acknowledged through the power of digital communication mechanisms such as media, the Internet, radio, social media and others. It is a form of communication that can only be achieved through education of resources, and a reliable access to these resources. In an ever evolving world, the need for individuals to be digitally literate is essential, and although it is a technique that we are thought to believe comes naturally, no action is taken to further it to the point that is necessary. Hartley expresses this notion stating, “Not enough critical attention has been paid to what ordinary people need to do in order to attain a level of digital literacy appropriate for producing, as well as consuming digital content” (2009, p.12).

Furthermore, literacy tells us about the people who communicate, including their morals, who and what they give their power to, and who and what they do or do not value. These insights assist in acknowledging the true meaning of who is digitally literate, and how they use that power and for what reasons, as reinforced by Hartley where he states “Taking seriously the means people use to express themselves, as well as the media they like and trust to tell them things” (2009, p.4).

The need to be digitally literate is becoming increasingly prominent in todays society, as every day new technologies are developing and evolving in regards to communication. An example of this is the recent 2016 Census, whereby the option to fill out the form online became accessible for the first time. In order to be successful in the process, the individual had to have skills in digital literacy to achieve the task. These skills included knowing how to access a digital media mechanism, and then how to complete the Census and send it successfully. To most this seems like a straightforward task, however for those who are not digitally literate, for example individuals without access to a device, or someone who doesn’t understand how to use digital media, this task could be a very difficult one.

It is quite obvious that with evolving technology that being digitally literate will be essential in the near future, thus it is paramount that education is provided to ensure this. Hartley suggests that the people we should focus on are teenagers and teachers “if digital literacy is to flourish in the wider community” (2009, p.34)

Hartley, J. 2009, ‘Repurposing Literacy’, in The Uses of Digital Literacy, p.1-38.

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