What is media literacy? The simplest definition offered by the Center for Media Literacy is that media literacy is “the ability to access, analyze, evaluate and create media in a variety of forms.”
Thus, digital and social media literacy encompasses the basic definition of media but applied to digital and social media forms. But it is also more complex than that.
A great post from the fine folks of Edelman Digital asks if media literacy, digital literacy and social media literacy intersects? The author, Katlen Tillman (@katlen on Twitter), makes a good point about how all forms of media literacy, to varying degrees, aim to teach media consumers how to “manage the complexities” of a crowded (digital/social/traditional) media environment.
To my mind, not all forms of media consumption are created equally. For example, skimming through a book is different from actively reading it (processing the information, being engaged with the text, perhaps writing comments or questioning a passage or idea).
Media literacy would be more akin to the latter.
Managing the complexities is a nice way to frame what media literacy is all about. In the course, we plan to cover a lot of ground in just two short weeks. The objective of the course is for students to gain the ability to access, analyze and engage in critical thinking about the array of messages they receive and send, while developing core competencies in digital and social media.
Students will analyze, evaluate, create and critically assess messages in a wide variety of digital and social media modes, genres and forms, develop a basic understanding of emerging digital technologies and explore the effects these technologies have on users, organizations, business and society.
So, why digital and social media literacy?
For starters, I agree with Howard Rheingold’s assessment that “it’s time for social media literacy to enter mainstream education.” This course and blog aim to contribute a small part toward that objective. Rheingold argues that “if you want to keep up, don’t try to keep up with the technologies, [instead] keep up with the literacies that the technologies make possible.”
To that end, JD Lasica of socialmedia.biz has an excellent list of 7 tips for online media literacy.
One book author makes the argument for “conscious consumption” to maintain a “healthy information diet,” as chronicled in an article in The Atlantic.
Meanwhile, in a TED talk, Pew Internet & American Life Project director Lee Rainie talks about how what he calls “networked individuals” are using social networks to make sense of the world around them (I’m not going to provide a link- “google it” and find yourself- a very digital and social media literacy mission).
With news that social media is more addictive than cigarettes or alcohol, it’s not hard to see why social media literacy may be needed. Plenty of bright people have written and spoken about what digital and social media literacy is and made the case for why it is needed.
What do you think? What does digital and social media literacy mean to you?