Digital literacy in the age of visuality


Synthesising bits and pieces of the written world usually makes a story. Or sort of. Some times the story is clear, some time is fuzzy for the average mind.

Conceptual writing tends to be complex for most. That is why novels and cheap metro literature is so successful amongst the population. It travels the mind and the effort remains minimal. Hence its effectiveness. And in times of crisis, things should remain as simple as possible.

Talking about digital literacy, tools and parametres appear in my mind that we can use to make sense of the world; sort out developments, views, even sociopolitical schemes that foster change.

Being able to understand the digital world requires using the tools that first, we should consider as part of our lives.

In the old days, books made the traveling of words possible, across nations and within the elites. Later on, the mechanical press proliferated cheap papers that reflected local interests, political arguments and social phenomena, like crime, labour and enrichment. Radio disseminated information fast, boosting the imaginary travels of people. These “readings” ended by the supremacy of moving images and television imagery. TV itself created the new era of visuality, that continues to dominate the average mind.

At the beginning, the advent of the commercial internet showed another way of consuming what is considered important. What followed changed the world, as well as news values.

The screen is replacing paper not only in the markets, but in the minds of people. Elementary school children are already thinking in visual terms. Digital visuality will create new ways of reading the world as well as current developments in the micro-world.

For many of today’s students what’s not online does not exist. Library visits tend to be less and less, as personification of google-mediated “research” tends to do the trick; what it also does is to narrow our view of the world, moving against the generic advantage of networking.

The multiple windows of the world, the lack of linearity of structured knowledge may liberate older citizens, but it tends to give inappropriate power on the hands of the young; not to talk about the other side of the moon.

The power to avoid guided knowledge may appear as a benefit as well as a curse. In the short term, growing e-generations may prove too experimental for the present world to absorb. Digital divide will become more complicated. Those who will remain analogue or stuck in the paper-world will wither away with a peace of mind that new generation will never know. The digital frenzy is taking over in a fast pace.

This is why dealing with literacy in digital terms can evolve into a personal science that will act as an esoteric think tank that everybody should develop and nurture.

Demetris Kamaras

Journalism Professor and journalist, primarily online. Political analyst and communications specialist. Previous studies in economics (BA), communications policy (MA) and journalism (PhD), mostly in London. Born in Hove, Brighton. Lives in Athens, Greece. Blogs when necessary. Founded and running Private Information Network and [The Greek]. Occasional articles of friends are published on Interested in political communication, next-gen web apps, digital R&D, internet ethics and social networks. He taught journalism and communication at University of Indianapolis Athens (1999-2013). Published numerous analyses and op-eds, online and in print and his first book was titled: Digital Communication (Zenon Publications, London, 2000 – co-authorship). Recent publications: Crisis Talk; Greece (2012) – iBook/Avaialble on iTunes. Elections and the Internet, Digerati Publications (Athens, 2014) (in Greek).

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