At last week's excellent NetHui, run by Internet NZ, I was asked to plug in 5 minutes worth on Digital Literacy. As usual, I tried to give it a bit of a spin. (starts at 41.12 and runs 6 minutes - the cut [poor sync] is Download Nethui_digital-literacy)
Here's the full version that probably takes a bit more than 5 minutes.
As one of the other presenters suggested, Digital Literacy means different things to different people and I want to pick up on some points raised by Mike Dickison and maybe be push them out a little, perhaps just shove them off the cliff.
The reason for this is simple; in Miami Beach on Memorial Day this year, a bunch of out-of-control cops pumped over 100 shots into a private car in a public place, killing an unarmed black man inside (now there's a surprise) and wounded some bystanders.
A young man called Narces Benoit saw what was happening and whipped out his cellphone to record the scene. One of the cops noticed what he was doing, broke off his shooting gallery duties and came charging at Benoit, waving his gun and screaming at him to get out of his car and hand over the cellphone, which he did.
The cop them smashed the cellphone under his boot and arrested Benoit. Nevertheless, within a few hours, the video of the event was going viral on Youtube because, when he saw the cop rushing at him, Benoit had the presence of mind to take out of the phone his digital media storage card and put it in his mouth.
The difference between Benoit and the cop is what I call Digital Literacy.
A few months ago in the Australian Navy, a female recruit was having a sexual relationship with another recruit. The guy in question thought it would be terribly cool to capture the "action" with his webcam and broadcast it to his mates. She was not happy and complained to her commander about the breach of trust and privacy. He essentially told her not to be a spoilsport and swept the matter under the rug.
The young woman became even less happy and shared her experience on facebook. Within days her commander and his boss and his boss and HIS boss were all publicly on the mat, caps in hand, staring at their shoes and explaining HOW they were going to solve the problem of their appalling leadership.
The difference between the young woman and the Australian Navy is what I call Digital Literacy.
About the same time, footballer Ryan Giggs was having an affair with model Imogen Thomas and when it was discovered he sought the help of the UK Supreme Court which obligingly issued a "super injunction" forbidding the publication of the facts.
Within hours, over 70,000 Twitter users had turned the super injunction into a legal fiction.
The difference between the Supreme Court and Ryan Giggs fan base is what I call Digital Literacy.
And all over the Middle east and North Africa this year, people have risen up, trying to throw off a generation of oppression, corruption and violence against them. Now we have had revolutions for a long time, but in the past they have needed a core of intellectual, philosophical and operational leadership, surrounded by a cadre of activists willing to take the message into the community.
Those roles are now being taken over by the whole community using social media tools. It is that takeover and the loss of the privileged position of leadership that I call Digital Literacy.
In Christchurch's major earthquakes, at risk of their lives and while their buildings and their city crumbled around them people grabbed their cellphones and videoed the event as a way to record their own experience to share with others and possibly to provide evidence of what happened to them if they didn't make it out.
That too I call Digital Literacy.
Literacy of any kind is not just being able to read and write the words, it is understanding the meaning, the significance and the context of the communication, then knowing how to manipulate them.
The best example I can think of is the advent of film to entertainment. The first films were little more than stage plays with a camera placed in front of them to record the action. But it wasn't long before we saw the appearance of film literacy, using the unique language of the cinema to tell the story in its own way. The language includes backgorund music, closeups, tracking and pan shots, framing and the million other ways to use a camera that are not available to stage plays.
So we cannot expect that Digital Literacy will look in any but the most superficial ways, like hard copy literacy. In fact, by my definition Digital Literacy is happening all around us, all the time, with increasing frequency.
For 20 years we have talked about the ICT Revolution, blithely ignoring the fact that all revolutions break stuff, and the thing they break first and most irreparably, is the status quo, to expect the revolutionaries to restore the powers of the old guard is nonsense.
Digital Literacy does not consist in being able to write a CV in a word processor nor manage our accounts with a spreadsheet, they are far too often, a way for the old guard to try and force the revolution into a mould with which they feel comfortable.
Our problem is that digital illiteracy is rife in Government, business, education, health, justice and the NFP sectior, very often among those who are pushing hardest for solutions.
The real digital literacy challenge that we have is to shift the old guard into actual digital literacy so that our organisations, which have real, and vital, work to do, can engage with, communicate with, work with an increasingly digitally literate community; so that they can swim in that literacy instead of drowning in it as they are doing right now.
MY problem is that I have no idea how the hell we are going to do that.