Contact FutureLearn for Support
Skip main navigation
We use cookies to give you a better experience, if that’s ok you can close this message and carry on browsing. For more info read our cookies policy.
We use cookies to give you a better experience. Carry on browsing if you're happy with this, or read our cookies policy for more information.

Skip to 0 minutes and 7 secondsMy name is Darren Reed. I'm a lecturer in the Sociology department at the University of York. My interests are in technology, people, and interaction; particularly in relation to how technology can benefit people in their everyday lives.

Skip to 0 minutes and 27 secondsSo I'm very interested in what's called digital literacies. Digital literacies is a plural form of digital literacy and that's deliberate. So the idea of the concept of digital literacy is that we think about not only one kind of literacy, that's expected of people, but also that we embrace a number of alternative literacies that perhaps are not born of schooling, perhaps they are disruptive to society. So typically when we think about literacy we think about reading and writing; and when we think about digital literacy maybe we think about the use of word processors, using word to write a letter or a report, or or a student essay or something like that.

Skip to 1 minute and 19 secondsSo digital literacies is a concept which introduces and accepts those other literacies and if you like says they are as good. They are as important in contemporary society.

Skip to 1 minute and 36 secondsSo one idea with this notion of literacies is that there are disruptive literacies. That is, skills and competencies that we wouldn't necessarily want to foster in people. And the clearest example is the hacker. So the hacker has particular skills in terms of computer programming that traditionally have been used to undermine information systems and extract information or attack a big business.

Skip to 2 minutes and 19 secondsHowever, there are advantages: so the hacker for example is very often employed by security firms now. That competency -- that skill in attacking a computer system and extracting information -- becomes positive and it becomes a career. So people with those skills are now being employed for those skills. They've become positive. But it also might be seen as part of what might be called creative digital practices. And that's one thing that digital technologies

Skip to 2 minutes and 53 secondsallow us to do: to be creative. And increasingly these other competencies -- these other skills -- are being incorporated into our everyday lives as an expectation. For example, if we wanted to make a video of ourselves commenting on a computer game, we could do that and have people follow us; we could become internet stars overnight. The skills involved in creating a video and uploading it are not those that are taught in schools. They're not those traditional literacies. But they are extremely productive.

What do we mean by digital literacies?

O.o? cn u undrst& w@ dis paragraph sEz? dz it mke Ny senZ 2 u? f it dz, thN uv got d hng of txt spk, n dats actuly a 4m of literacy :D

Typically when we think about literacy we think about reading and writing; but we can also think about digital literacy: we might think about the use of a word processor to write a letter or a report or an essay. This notion of digital literacy isn’t about undermining the traditional idea of literacy; rather it expands upon it. Indeed, we can conceive of multiple, parallel literacies, and those could include writing or reading in a word processor, they could include numerical literacy, and they could also include information literacies that we use when searching for and evaluating information (like the ones we were looking at last week). But increasingly, with the development of the internet, there are other kinds of literacies too: literacies regarding how to use technology or social media.

For example, when Short Message Service (SMS) made it possible to send text messages on mobile phones, it soon became clear that the size limit for a single message restricted meaningful conversation, while the costs involved discouraged multiple messages. So it was that people created between themselves a new form of language, largely as a means to circumvent the limited number of characters available, and to convey as much content as succinctly as possible. People would create abbreviations, or they would find ways to express their emotions in just a few characters. This was a linguistic development based around the technology itself, and it was a necessary development.

This text language is distinct to the normal language that we use. It doesn’t respect things like punctuation and grammar. And early on in the life of this text speak, its users were criticised in certain areas for undermining people’s ability to write a ‘proper sentence’. A generation later, most of us are skilled in reading those kinds of text, at least to some extent. And in some senses, if we can’t communicate in this way, we are disadvantaged. It’s a non-traditional literacy, and while it was initially looked upon as negative and even ‘illiterate’, it has become valued by people, and is now an accepted skill and competency of some practical value. In this video, Dr Darren Reed will take a look at some other digital literacies and see how what may at first seem disruptive behaviour can prove to be a valuable talent.

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

Becoming a Digital Citizen: an Introduction to the Digital Society

University of York