Digital Literacy: Final Reflection

What is Digital Literacy?

Digital Literacy is an additional component to be considered in educating global citizens for an increasingly connected Digital World.

Digital Literacy, in my opinion, encompasses these core abilities:

  • Operational understanding of different softwares and platforms 
  • Search Engine Optimization from hyperlinking and layering
  • Ability to change voice and style depending on the medium and intended audience
  • Expertise in Google and Social Networking 

And along with the increased connectivity in the Digital Age there are other skills that people should master. 

The skills for success in a connected Digital World are:

  • Critical listening and open-mindedness 
  • Team mentality
  • Creative problem solving 

My Digital Literacy Journey 

It has been a long journey for me, but I think I’m finally starting to grasp the meaning of Digital Literacy as it applies to my writing and my career goal of being a journalist. Ultimately, it has been a steep learning curve.

Here’s what I’ve learned in creating this blog, two videos, a podcast and a personal website.

SEO and Hyperlinking

One sure-fire way to increase connections is through hyperlinking. This links your work to the existing canon of digital content. Tagging and Categorizing on your blog also helps organize your work in an easy-to-understand format for interacting viewers.

I think I’ve grasped the importance of effective hyperlinking. Here are two examples of my work to demonstrate this.

My very first blog post, “An exciting time for Journalism” didn’t have any exterior hyperlinks at all. Or any multimedia elements.

My third project blog post, Rescuing Food from the System, incorporated hyperlinks, block quotes from my interview, a photo slideshow and a video.

Screen Shot 2014-12-15 at 2.31.04 PM

 

Voice and Audience

Your voice is what keeps your storytelling consistent across mediums. Without a strong voice how do viewers know for sure that your work is yours?

That being said, there are different ways to tell a story that work best in different mediums. A long chunk of text might work for a blog post if the content is compelling, but the equivalent, a long, uninterrupted chunk of interview, NEVER works for a video.

One thing the blog, group podcast and group video all had in common was that they all need some form of white space to break the content up.

In our group video on food and culture we used B-roll of students enjoying a meal together as a visual break from the “talking heads” of our interviews with professors.

In our podcast, we played a song consistently throughout the entire project to create unity in the piece, but also to give the listener an interesting audio break instead of silence between narratives.

Teamwork

Although it’s a component of living in a Digital Age, and not necessarily a component of Digital Literacy I truly learned the necessity and value of teamwork in the group project with Amanda Stanley and Nick Shaw. It would not have been possible to create the quality of work that we did if we weren’t all working together to get B-roll, interviews, edit and do voice overs. We also came up with better story ideas by collaborating and respecting each other’s perspectives.

 

Room For Improvement (there’s a lot)

  • Blogging and Voice
    • In the future I can make my blog more user-friendly and visually appealing. I personally like the theme that I chose because I think it’s different but just because I like it doesn’t mean that everyone who sees my blog will.
    • I still don’t feel comfortable with changing my voice as the medium requires it. I really struggle with Twitter. It’s hard for me to be concise when writing about things about which I am passionate.
    • I definitely need to incorporate more multimedia elements and more white space into my blog so it’s not just ominous blocks of text.
  • Technical Ability
    • It’s pretty obvious that my first video needs some work. I definitely need to improve my video editing skills, but hopefully I can continue to work on this in an independent study next semester.
    • I also have a long way to go in recording exceptional podcasts. But considering that I had never heard of Audacity before taking Digital Communication I am proud of the audio content I’ve created.

Conclusion

It’s kind of amazing to look back at where I was in August in my ability and where I am now. In early August I was learning about the importance of social media presence at my summer internship at a non-profit and now I have my own website demonstrating my work and my personal brand to future employers.  This course has taught me the value of learning and communicating in digital spaces and has given me a firm foundation across platforms of WordPress, Audacity, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Premiere and iMovie to make my mark in the Digital World.

 

 

Featured Image from Zen and the Art of Digital Literacies.

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Look What I Made!!

Our final project for Digital Communication was a personal website, made to exemplify your own personal brand and optimize your digital presence.

Well, it took some blood, sweat and tears but I have to say I’m impressed with the result.

 http://amandaleighrichey.wix.com/amandaleighrichey

Now that I’ve shared my little baby with the world, I’m going to go back to studying for my finals.

Peace out girl scouts!

Inequality in the “New Machine Age”

“My biggest worry is that we’re creating a world where we’re going to have glittering technologies in a kind of shabby society and supported by an economy that generates inequality instead of opportunity.” ~ Andrew McAfee

In Andrew McAfee’s 2013 TED talk, “What will future jobs look like?”, he discusses the potential and the challenges of the future economy that we are building with technology, what he calls the “new machine age”.

In this new age, most lower-skill and service industry jobs will be occupied by machines, leading to an increase in production and quality of goods and a decrease in prices. This will free up many people from drudgery and allow for more leisure time. And with this new-found freedom in schedules comes the potential for more discussion and dialogue about the problems in society.

However, replacing workers in blue-collar jobs – jobs that many middle and working class people rely on – with automatons will also propagate the income stratification many Americans are already seeing. The wealthy will continue to grow their wealth. The middle class will continue to shrink. And, if we continue down the road we are currently paving, for the most part the working poor will continue to be stuck in a vicious cycle.

Yet Andrew McAfee is still optimistic. In his talk he discusses two specific types of problems associated with this societal divide and the new machine age – these problems are in economics and social challenges.

According to McAfee, the economics are simple, at least for the time being. The middle class needs to grow again. And one sure-fire way to do that is to insure a standard livable minimum wage for all workers. The social challenge of reconciling the “creatives” and including the “laborers” is a problem that he does not yet have an answer to. 

 

But all of this discussion is still in an incredibly Western-centered mindset. What about the other 150 countries in the world outside of the traditional powers of the US and Europe? What about places where economic and societal stratification are even more pronounced than in the United States?

According to an article on the jobs of the future published by The Economist in 2011, the new digital landscape is creating jobs that take place entirely on the Internet. The article specifically discussed a job trend in China to pay professional gamers to play World of Warcraft for 60 hours a week. In this job the gamers earn game currency that then is sold (using real money) to players in the West who have less time to devote to the digital world.

This market earned $3 billion in 2009.

In that same year, the collective income of all of the world’s coffee growers was approximately $5.5 billion.

 

Here is where I start to get really anxious about the new machine age and the apparent shift to a digital society. Robots will probably not replace the millions of people who are working in unregulated markets in developing countries producing physical consumer goods. For the most part the infrastructure or the money just isn’t there yet. And as those with the money and influence to move toward the new machine age pave the way for a new society who will be the ones harvesting the materials needed to make the machines?

No matter how much technology progresses, there is still someone somewhere who has to put in grueling labor to make that digital idea into a reality. Someone has to harvest the metal needed to build the machines and someone has to get the coal or natural gas to keep our outdated energy grid running. And the current trend looks like the poorer countries are the ones who will continue to supply the raw materials as well as the most difficult labor to make a new tech society. 

I worry that in this new machine age the divide between countries will become even more pronounced, even if economic and social stratification is bridged internally in more affluent nations.

 

But there is one optimistic note I took away from Andrew McAfee’s TED talk. With a more digital society, people are being connected all over the world. And because of that traditionally voiceless groups now have a place in the discussion. The facts are becoming more available and people are just as interested as ever in problem-solving.

Maybe with the ability for increased communication and with new-found leisure time we can foster a conversation about a society that truly includes everyone. 

 

“I think we’re going to do something a lot better for one very straightforward reason: The facts are getting out there.” Andrew McAfee

Food is Culture

Amanda Stanley, Nick Shaw and I recently asked Furman students and professors from various backgrounds to discuss their views of food’s cultural significance. Furman University’s international student population has grown significantly in the past 4 years and currently encompasses 5 % of the student body. The college campus is an ideal setting for cross-cultural dialogue to occur. And food is an ideal medium for this dialogue. Please watch our video to learn more!

The Digitalization of Social Interaction

It’s time to admit it. The world has begun the shift to a digital space. Most of our business is carried out using either laptops or cell phones. And for the most part youth are the ones carrying out most of this business.

There is obviously an exciting conversation occurring nonstop in this new space. The Internet provides constant connectivity and a space where youth can establish their identity.

 

However, I can’t help but get an uneasy feeling when I read about the shift of social interaction to digital spaces. I fear that many people will be left behind and that something truly magnificent could be lost in the process of this paradigm shift.

 

While one of our readings specifically noted that the rise of cell phone use in adolescents has created a subculture, unifying teens and preteens across cultures, the reading also mentioned this:

 “The cell phone becomes an agent of social change in the hands of active and economically and politically influential youths.”  ~Abu Sadat Nurullah

What if you don’t have access to the conversation occurring across cultures, either because of a non-existent infrastructure or because you personally can not afford it? What if you end up searching for signals like the men in the featured photo? What if you don’t have enough influence to even have a voice in this discussion?

What if initiatives aimed at leveling the playing field, like One Laptop Per Child, continue to fail children and parents in nations with lower access to this digital space?

 

We are all losing something in this mad dash to be a part of this digital conversation. The pervasive use of cell phones – and the constant contact with the Internet that it provides – has not only affected language but has also affected our attention spans. Our hyper-connectivity with each other in digital spaces could be hurting our social interaction in the physical world. And our immersion in and reliance on this digital space could be damaging this world.

In 2002, a conservationist in the UK did a study to examine how well school-age children know their natural environment compared to how well they know Pokemon. On average the 8 year olds studied could identify approximately 50 percent or less of common species found in nature. But the average for Pokemon identification was over 80 percent. Although it is a dated study it proves a strong point: youth are becoming more and more isolated from nature.

Additionally, our planet might not be able to support our incessant need for this digital space. Rare earth elements are required to build our appliances. But they’re also necessary for building the infrastructure for nonrenewable energy. And there’s a limited supply.

 

I don’t have the answers to all of these questions. And honestly, no one is going to get out of this alone. Ironically, we have to use this new digital space to change the conversation to foster a place where everyone is given an equal opportunity.

Composting’s Impact on a College Level

One of the most important questions raised by the food system is what to do with excess food. Food rescue is an emerging option; however, Furman University prefers to offset its environmental impact by composting its excess food.

Furman composts all of its pre-consumer and post-consumer waste from the Dining Hall at an organic garden on campus called the “Furman Farm“. The Farm receives food scraps that never make it onto the Dining Hall floor as well as leftover scraps from students’ plates after they have finished eating.

In this process, food that is normally left to rot in a landfill is given a “second chance” as nourishment for soil that is used to grow food.

 

Why does Furman compost?

 

Furman generates approximately 25 – 27 tons of compost annually.  The university composts on such a wide scale for multiple reasons. First and foremost, the compost is used to grow organic food at the Furman Farm where student workers and volunteers learn about organic gardening. The student position of Compost Fellow rotates every year so that interested students can get exposure to compost science.

Although the quarter-acre garden is not large enough to supply the Dining Hall with food, it provides an excellent teaching model for sustainable gardening practices. An active composting program is an integral part of that model.

Tim Sharp, a sophomore Art major harvests Red Romaine lettuce as part of his job at the Furman Farm

Tim Sharp, a sophomore Sustainability major, harvests Red Romaine lettuce as part of his job at the Furman Farm.

Secondly, as part of the President’s Climate Commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Furman uses its composting program as one of its carbon offsets. Furman University measures up fairly well in its environmental ratings. The fact that all pre- and post- consumer food waste from the Dining Hall goes into bettering Furman’s environment – as opposed to stinking up a landfill – is one of the reasons that rating is high.

 

Why is compost good for the planet?

(And what role do universities play?)

 

Compost is the easiest way to offset food that would otherwise rot in a landfill and push it towards a constructive end. When unused food is composted it is not wasted. It gets to contribute to a new cycle of growth. Compost returns much needed nutrients to soil that is becoming increasingly depleted from modern agriculture practices.

 

College campuses allow a space for composting to reach almost industrial levels. Although, there are many examples of composting systems or startups that have gained popularity in US cities, there are few examples of colleges or universities leading the charge in composting. With such widespread environmental engagement – whether from powerful chartered groups or from grassroots initiatives – it only makes sense that composting should be more prevalent on higher ed campuses.