Digital Media Literacy and Good Online Research Practices

The Cambridge Analytica Files

In March 2018, the Observer published the first in a series of stories, known as the Cambridge Analytica Files, containing an account of a whistleblower from inside the data analytics firm that had worked in different capacities on the two 2016 political campaigns resulting in the election of President Trump and Brexit. 

Cambridge Analytica is a British political consulting firm that profiled millions of people on Facebook to better target them with fake ad hoc content that would make them more susceptible to topics such as immigration and terrorism. When questions were asked in the UK Parliament, Facebook admitted that, in the case of the Brexit referendum, 87 million users had had their profiles hacked. A year later,  the UK parliament published an official report that called Facebook “digital gangsters” and said that Britain’s electoral laws no longer worked. 

After the former director of research at Cambridge Analytica, said that his work also allowed Donald Trump’s presidential campaign to garner unprecedented insight into voters’ habits ahead of the 2016 vote, three U.S. congressional committees called Zuckerberg to testify on Facebook’s involvement in the ongoing data scandal.

Evidently, the widespread online presence of “fake news” can greatly influence our judgment and can have far-reaching impacts on the whole society. Unfortunately, one of the most dangerous features of “fake news” is that they can be hard to distinguish from “real news” due to the lack of transparency embedded in social media algorithms, but also due to the fact they easily and efficiently hide in the storm of information we are inundated with every day. 

It is exactly in this scenario that Digital Media Literacy becomes an essential resource to safely and consciously navigate in an online world where everyone has their own saying. 

Definition
Digital Media Literacy refers to the ability to find, write or evaluate information on various digital platforms. Digital literacy is measured by individual skills in composition, grammar, typing, or storytelling and including images or designs for an appealing result.

In order to be digital media literate, one must be able to critically consume and creatively produce multimedia content using digital technologies. Nowadays, the focus has expanded from desktop-only to mobile devices.

Digital literacy does not replace traditional forms of literacy. Instead, it builds on and expands the traditional forms. The term has grown in popularity in education and higher education settings and is used in both international and national standards.

The interpretation of online information can be summed up in the following eight best practices:

  1.   Judge online information
  2. Practice evaluating webpage
  3. Read webpage contents
  4. Beware of clickbait and fake news 
  5. Understand targeted advertising and sponsored content
  6. Identify echo chambers, Influencers, and photo manipulation
  7. Recognize persuasive language
  8. Separate facts from opinions.

 

Good Online Research Practices
How to evaluate and interpreting online information has become a vital skill. Familiarizing young people in particular with DML so they can better tell fake news has become a necessity, whether you’re reading an article, watching a video, or using social media. On the basis of the eight fields from the definition, here are some recommendations.

1.   Judge Online Information

You cannot trust every website. Think about the purpose of each site and the relevance of the information, be critical with the search results. Do they match your purpose?

  1.   Practice Evaluating Websites

Who wrote or published the contents? What are they claiming? Does the site show bias?

  1.   Read Webpage Contents

Locate the main content, don’t read every word just skim to find what you are looking for, ignore ads, don’t open attachments or third-party links.

  1.   Beware of Clickbait and Fake News

Clickbait is a sensationalized headline that encourages you to click a link to an article, image, or video. Clickbait headlines often appeal to your emotions and curiosity, but the actual content is usually of questionable quality and accuracy. Once you click the link, however, the website hosting the link earns revenue from advertisers regardless of the content.

“Fake news” is an article or video containing untrue information disguised as a credible news source. While fake news is not unique to the Internet era, it has become a major problem in recent years because of how easy it is to publish online in today’s digital world.

  1.   Understand Targeted Advertising and Sponsored Content

Targeted advertising is a form of online advertising that focuses on the specific traits, interests, and preferences of a consumer. Advertisers discover this information by tracking your activity on the Internet.

Sponsored content is an advertisement for a product, service, or brand that is often presented as organic opinions or recommendations by influencers. Only recently have social media platforms enforced labeling such content appropriately so as not to mislead users entirely. Sponsored content can also take the form of seemingly impartial news articles or videos.

  1.   Identify Echo Chambers, Influencers, and Photo Manipulation

Content or products endorsed by social media stars (“influencers”) may or may not match your needs (see sponsored content above), be guarded and cautious. Using photo editing software, almost anyone can make big changes to an image, from adjusting colors and lighting to adding and removing content. That’s why you should always keep a critical eye on images in the media.


An echo chamber in digital media is a consequence of the algorithms and activity tracking that govern what content a person sees on any platform. This results in that person only encountering information or opinions that reflect and reinforce their own. Echo chambers can create misinformation and distort a person’s perspective.

  1.   Recognize Persuasive Language

Persuasive language can make any type of media more engaging and convincing. However, its ultimate purpose is to win your trust and influence how you think even if the facts do not support the arguments. Curiosity-picking language is typical of clickbait. Be careful, see behind the rhetoric, and think for yourself.

  1.   Separate Facts from Opinions

Newspapers, radio, and TV usually made a clear distinction between the objective facts that can be proven, and opinion crafted by their writers and producers. They used terms like editorial, op-ed, and commentary to distinguish opinionated content from more objective reporting. In digital media, watch out for facts that actually just favor a certain perspective.

Best practices

Digital media is replacing traditional media and is the most accessible form of information for most 21st century audiences and learners. Many countries are conducting research or introducing various educational measures to counter digital illiteracy. Implementing DML into school curricula as well as offering vocational training on DML is becoming more important with the changes in the communication and publication industry. More jobs these days require high-level skills such as accessing information, solving problems, and working collaboratively.

Singapore
The Singaporean government launched The Digital Media and Information Literacy Framework that guides digital literacy program owners and public agencies in planning media literacy and information literacy programs.

The Framework establishes a set of common objectives for program owners and public agencies and focuses on developing awareness in Singaporeans in the following ways:

  • A fundamental appreciation of the benefits, risks, and possibilities that technology can bring and how online platforms and digital technologies work.
  • A basic understanding of how to use information responsibly.
  • The know-how for safe and responsible use of digital technologies.

The framework addresses both program owners and agencies as well as individuals.

USA

National Technology Education Plan
Schools in the US have started to offer courses in DML following a paper commissioned by The Aspen Institute outlining the need to move the digital and media literacy recommendations of the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy from a plan into action. These steps need the support of educational leaders and a new curriculum was developed in the context of K-12 education.


Steps to strengthen Digital and Media Literacy:

  1. Support community-level DML activities.
  2. Develop partnerships for teacher education.
  3. Engage parents and other stakeholders.
  4. Find inexpensive technology tools (social media is one of them, everybody has access).
  5. Accept and overcome challenges.
  6. Develop online measures of DML to assess learning progression.

Canada

British Council cooperates with Hands-on Media Education – a Canadian organization using stop-motion animation to introduce these concepts to people of all ages – as a way to teach digital media literacy through creative play. The iPad Stop Motion Animation workshop encourages these skills with youth, adults and older people alike. It enables them to understand the power of digital media and how it can be manipulated.

China (Beijing)

A perceived digital media literacy of primary student scale was developed with the aim of examining DML in primary school students. The participants (from the 5th and 6th grades) reported rather a high level of critical understanding and technical skills. The study identifies four dimensions of digital literacy that all relate to each other: technical skills, critical understanding, creation and communication, and citizenship participation.

Many terms, such as new media literacy, ICT literacy, ICT competence, digital literacy, and digital competence have emerged over the last few decades in the process of theoretical reflections on new media and technologies. These concepts are aimed at helping students develop a critical understanding of digital media and technologies, and the nature of various digital information.

Europe

The European Commission has launched a Digital Education Action Plan outlining how the EU can help people, educational institutions and educational systems better adapt to life and work in an age of rapid digital change. 

The action plan has three top priorities: 

  1. Make better use of digital technology for teaching and learning.
  2. Develop the digital competencies and skills needed for living and working in an age of digital transformation.
  3. Improve education through better data analysis and foresight.

Initiatives entail supporting schools with high-speed Internet connections, scaling up a new self-reflection tool and mentoring scheme for schools (SELFIE), and a public awareness campaign on online safety, media literacy, and cyber hygiene.

Top Seven Killer Tips for Job-Seekers and Solopreneurs

In 2020, it is basically impossible for job-seekers and solopreneurs to thrive professionally without a digital presence. Unfortunately, in our times, professionals who don’t expose themselves via Digital Media are likely to send the wrong message. For example, people might think you are not self-confident and that your professional experience is not valuable, or that you believe you are so popular that others will anyway look for you, or that you don’t need more work because you are already going to become the next millionaire. 

Instead of creating this impression, here are seven killer tips to implement to develop a Digital Media presence: 

  • Focus on the right platform 

The right platform is where potential hiring managers and clients hang out. In most cases, this would be LinkedIn, but depending on your professional profile, you could focus on Twitter or Goodreads (for writers) or Instagram (for photographers).

  • Develop your own blog 

If you want colleagues and potential new clients to look at the content you produce you should have your own digital home base. But don’t expect people to find you right away. 

  • Build trust

Selling online will take longer than face-to-face because before anyone wants to give you their email ID and bank details you will need to have their trust. You can develop trust by being a helpful source of information and by solving people’s problems. You can also build trust by being personal and by avoiding any sales touch.

  • Promote other people’s work

Instead of promoting yourself, you should promote other people’s work. If you help others you will not come across as a big-headed egomaniac but someone who cares about people.

  • Vet and check the information you share

Verify that the information you retweet is genuine, up-to-date and that links are actually working. Look for trusted sources and know where to be skeptical.

  • Encourage others to develop content and endorse your colleagues

Tell others when their work is helpful and that you are actually reading their updates or their input.

  • People will like you even more in Real Life

Digital Presence is great and if people then deal with you in real life (RL) they will still be positively surprised. One of the reasons for lack of trust nowadays is that everyone is putting their own interest in front. Many people are used to being cheated and have a hard time to accept support because they are not used to genuine help.

 

Resources

Hit post No. 1 

Read more about Angie Weinberger’s tips for job-seekers and solopreneurs.

Hit post No. 2 

Read more on where to begin your digital strategy as a solopreneur.

References

British Council. ‘A way to teach digital media literacy through creative play’. In British Council. Retrieved April 20, 2020, from https://www.britishcouncil.org/programmes/creative-play/digital-media-literacy

European Commission. ‘Digital Education Action Plan’. In Education and Training. Retrieved April 20, 2020, from https://ec.europa.eu/education/education-in-the-eu/digital-education-action-plan_en

European Commission. ‘Digital Education Action Plan: Action 2 SELFIE’. In Education and Training. Retrieved April 20, 2020 from https://ec.europa.eu/education/education-in-the-eu/european-education-area/digital-education-action-plan-action-2-selfie-self-reflection-tool-mentoring-scheme-for-schools_en

GCF Global. ‘Digital media literacy’. In GFC Global. Retrieved April 20, 2020 from https://edu.gcfglobal.org/en/digital-media-literacy/

Government of Singapore. (2019, July 9). ‘Digital Media and Information Literacy Framework’. In Ministry of Communications and Information. Retrieved April 20, 2020, from https://www.mci.gov.sg/literacy

Roscorla, T. (2020, April 14). ‘10 steps to strengthen digital and media literacy’. In Center for Digital Education. Retrieved April 20, 2020, from https://www.govtech.com/education/news/10-Steps-to-Strengthen-Digital-and-Media-Literacy.html

Wikipedia contributors. (2020, April 17). ‘Digital literacy’. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved April 20, 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Digital_literacy&oldid=951430878 

Zhang, H., & Zhu, C. (2016). ‘A Study of Digital Media Literacy of the 5th and 6th Grade Primary Students in Beijing’. In The Asia-Pacific Education Researcher, 25. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40299-016-0285-2

Join our Global People Club

I'm on a Mission to Bring the Human Touch Back into Global Mobility.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Some HTML is allowed

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.