06 SES 14, Examining Digital and Media Literacy and Using Media for Rising Awareness on Literacy
Digital literacy has always been a shaky concept; the sheer diversity of machines and software interfaces, contexts for use and design practices defy standard definitions and measures for what may ‘count’ as digital competency Nevertheless, attempts to harness the wild profusion of online environments in national and supranational digital literacy frameworks and measurements persist (Sparks, Katz, Beile, 2016; Kirsch & Lennon, 2018). A recent example is the Program for International Assessment of Adult Competencies ‘problem-solving in technology-rich environments’. PSTRE as it is known, produced an apparatus for measuring the competencies of adults in solving information problems within the context of Information Communication Technologies (ICT)s and calibrated these to employability and to contributions to economic productivity (Kirsch & Lennon, 2018). In this contribution to the Symposium, I argue that such projects cannot hold up to the powerful and indeterminate forces of automated intelligences and algorithmic doings that are re-configuring information landscapes. New literacy theories and new methods are needed that contend with the very tenets of individual agency, rationality and the neutrality of digital tools that underpin functional literacy measurement regimes. Today our machines speak back, they filter, sort, survey and organize bodies in ways that override individual fluency or skill and introduce new risks, known and unknown to the security of the person and of the collective. Left unchecked by literacy scholars, policy makers and educators, these forces of automation will only deepen existing social, political and economic inequalities (Eubanks, 2018; Selwyn, 2015; Williamson, 2018), exercising a ‘society of control’ (Deleuze, 1992) with particular consequences for communities already at the intersections of digital exclusions (Smythe, 2018). I will present brief excerpts of ethnographic data generated in audio-video, interviews and participant observation in Community Technology Centres in Canada and consider these alongside new theories of posthuman literacies. In questioning literacy theories and measurement regimes that tend toward hyper-individualization and human-centred concepts of agency, I also indicate new directions for adult literacy theory, practice and policy in a ‘more-than-human’ world.
Deleuze, G. (1992). Postscript on the societies of control. October, 59, 3-7. Eubanks, V. (2018). Automating inequality : how high-tech tools profile, police and punish the poor / Virginia Eubanks. (First edition.). New York, NY : St. Martin’s Press. Gourlay, L. (2015). Posthuman texts: nonhuman actors, mediators and the digital university. Social Semiotics, 25(4), 484–500. Kirsch, I. & Lennon, M.L. Large-scale Assess Educ (2017) 5: 11. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40536-017-0046-6 Selwyn, N. (2015). Data entry: towards the critical study of digital data and education. Learning, Media and Technology, 40(1), 64–82. Sparks, J. R., Katz, I. R. and Beile, P. M. (2016), Assessing Digital Information Literacy in Higher Education: A Review of Existing Frameworks and Assessments With Recommendations for Next‐Generation Assessment. ETS Research Report Series, 2016: 1-33. doi:10.1002/ets2.12118 Smythe, S. (2018). Adult Learning in the Control Society: Digital Era Governance, Literacies of Control, and the Work of Adult Educators. Adult Education Quarterly, 68(3), 197-214. Williamson, B. (2015). Governing software: networks, databases and algorithmic power in the digital governance of public education. Learning, Media and Technology, 40(1), 83–105.
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