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.

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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.

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

Media Ethics from Both Sides

 

The readings that we covered for homework this week concerned ethics in media both as producers of content (Bivins Moral Claimants) and as consumers of content (ESS Digital Ethics).

bum bum bum…

Worded less intimidatingly, what duty do creators in media industries have to their readers/listeners/viewers and what duty do the consumers have to the producers in the industry? 

 

Ethics for Media Producers

The first reading on Moral Claimants specifically discussed the obligations that journalists and PR consultants have to constituent groups. The reading argued that both groups have certain duties to uphold to a variety of groups that are involved in the process of making media.

 

The duties are:

  • duty of fidelity
  • duty of reparation
  • duty of gratitude
  • duty of justice
  • duty of beneficence 
  • duty of non-injury

 

These duties encapsulate everything from doing the best PR possible for a client to printing or broadcasting a news story without publishing a source’s name in order to protect their anonymity.

In some cases certain duties transcend other obligations. For example, a newspaper might have a larger obligation to print unpopular news than to support the financial investments of contributing shareholders. And sometimes the higher moral obligation isn’t the easier choice.

 

Ethics for Media Consumers

The ESS reading on Digital Ethics addressed intellectual property and copyright laws. The reading began its discussion by equating CD theft to downloading music illegally online.

Very few people would steal a CD from a music store; a large majority of people have no qualms about downloading music.  It’s a bit of a tired comparison but it still illustrates one point very well. 

 

Content has an entirely different format, and therefore different meaning online. The ownership of content is more obscure and therefore more of an ethical dilemma in the virtual space provided by the Internet.

 

 

The ethics of enjoying media and the moral obligations to consumers to produce good media are constantly changing in the digital landscape. 

 

 

The Subtle Things with Aesthetics

In any creative endeavor there are usually multiple layers of meaning or at least multiple approaches to understanding the content.

 

The same is true for content creators, especially for a medium as diverse and exciting as the Internet. Everything can elicit reactions or can suggest a certain meaning, whether you as a blogger want it there or not. Even the typeface you use can send messages about your intent and credibility. 

 

For example:

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(Comic sans just shouldn’t exist. I’m glad this print does though.)

 

On a more serious note, one of the readings discussed how images are interpreted and how meaning is changed by viewers. The reading elaborated on various theories of how ideology is informed by media. Some of the theories were downright depressing. According to Marx the bourgeoisie control everyone else’s minds in addition to controlling all of the wealth. According to Althusser individual human beings are ever-ready moldable subjects that are just waiting to be used by media, so the messages behind media can be streamlined for content creators to find their ideal audience. If you build it they will come. 

 

I personally thought Gramsci’s hegemony theory to be more plausible. It allowed for variations in time that affect media interpretation and allowed for counter culture. It seemed to be the only theory that treated people like people and acknowledged that their personal experience influences how media is interpreted.

 

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How does this make you feel? What does the Beyoncé version make you think of?

The one thing that all of the theories agreed on was that there is always some layer of subtlety to visual images, some layer of meaning. This meaning can be intentional, like the way a certain phrase is paired with a previously neutral image, or it can be completely unexpected as a result of the viewer’s interpretation. 

“Everything’s got a moral, if only you can find it.” – Lewis Carroll


Exploring Food Systems at Furman University

This blog will look at food systems – food’s entire lifecycle from farm to plate to trash – and the environmental impact that these complex systems can have. It will also look deeper into what Furman University’s Dining Hall is doing to help reduce its food impact.

 

No matter where you come from food is probably an important part of your cultural identity. The food you have when you visit a new place will unavoidably determine your view of the place itself. And the food you bring to a new place helps add some flavor to the mix.

 

But despite our intimate knowledge of food we really don’t know that much about it. Every Tuesday in Furman’s Dining Hall is Chicken Finger Tuesday. The Dining Hall doesn’t advertise who their food partners are so we students don’t know much other than how it tastes. We are not told where that chicken came from or how it was raised, processed, packaged or distributed.

Hopefully, this blog project will give Furman students the information we need to change our food system for the better.

 

Feature Photo of Fall harvest vegetables courtesy of Traveler’s Rest Farmer’s Market.