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Strengthening the bonds of digital and media literacy

Posted by openkent on July 20, 2011

In the busy and rapidly changing modern world that we live in, we are often confronted with stacks of information that seem difficult to manage or process. From an open data perspective, it would be far more beneficial to find a way to pick out the most relevant content about how people are using open data. This in turn would help to understand the communication skills and the ingredients used such as language, graphic design, sound and images.

Scam or Evidence?

High standard messages that educate, inform or persuade allow us to make more informed decisions and access better information, through social responsibility and analysis of the author, purpose for the message, point-of-view and credibility of its content. As a result, whether at home, in the office, or within the community, problems that arise would be tackled even to the point of spotting a cleverly disguised marketing scam amongst evidence-based information.

Digital and media literacy is seen by some to encourage a greater interaction with information, ideas and decisions; however, it could also be argued that it can be used to empower individuals or groups as a form of expression and communication, with the example of online forums.


To enhance workplace digital and media literacy understanding for open data, you could recommend the following:

  1. Support workplace-level and publicly accessible initiatives or training via small grants and learning programs, both formal and informal, online and offline.
  2. Develop partnerships for work-place education through various sectors. Media and technology companies could help with the promotion of this, whilst non-governmental and non-profit organisations, community or adult education centres, libraries and charities can help set it in motion, for greater participation.
  3. Research and assessment facilities, so that people can access the information via online tutorials and video instruction.
  4. Stakeholder engagement including with those at the top or who can offer specific areas of expertise, in order to create a new ways of thinking. It would be worth hosting speeches, conferences, or events to achieve this.

How do you judge the quality of the information?

Far too commonly it seems that when conducting specific searches most people do not understand the importance for being able to judge the quality of the information, whilst at least a quarter of people either do not find what they request, or they become frustrated, overwhelmed or confused.

Some steps that employees can take themselves include reading or watching the news, talking with family, co-workers and friends on current events, contributing to an online community network, researching diverse topics and issues of interest, evaluating the information found, and collaborating with others.

In addition, personal reflection and record-keeping can achieve deeper understanding of media literacy and of the search strategies most suited to the individual, decoding two similar texts encourages critical thinking, and certain engaging activities enhance creativity, public speaking, motivation, engagement and initiative, which relate to people’s choices, consequences and online confidence.

If it looks right, it must be true

In effect, open data should be looking at the web from a neutral perspective and questioning items, information and the intent of its creator, as well as how it is represented or placed in context generally.

Especially since, when using search engines people will often blindly click through the list of options, or trust items based on likeability or attractive layouts, whilst paying little regard for suggestive clues as to the relevance of the webpage. Judgements can also be altered by co-workers, friends, participation in online community web pages, reviews, rating systems, or graphic design, since the internet merges professional and amateur, marketing and entertainment, and information and persuasion.

All this relates to the old adage ‘if it looks right, it must be true’ or even the more modern ‘if digital media says it is true, it must be’. What digital media actually does is ungroup credibility and authority, which means that information, should be evaluated before it is fully trusted, and people in Open Kent could identify the author, purpose of the message and how it is constructed, its quality and point-of-view, the intended target audience, and any potential effects or consequences.

Having said that, naturally we tend to believe things that reinforce or relate to existing ideas or opinions and so caution is needed. Additional, open data would do well to avoid source stripping, since it encourages the detachment of information from the source of where it was found. The higher the standard of information that people expect will lead to higher quality information being produced. If all actions are incorporated and each tip considered, then the complete spectrum of media and technology involvement will improve and office workflow can develop at a faster rate.

What does this mean for Open Kent?

We are developing a competition which will launch in September asking you what ideas you have to make your local area a better place to live, work or play using technology. You can help us shape the process here.

As part of this, there will be a competition for developers and designers to look at what they can build or visualise to use open data and council CMS interfaces (more on that soon) to turn the best of those ideas into reality. You can see more on this here.

We’ll be involving people online and at workshops for both of these processes, to discuss and develop ideas, to build and visualise them and to test out the winning prototypes and visualisations. However, this approach (which we’re open to being adapted) separates out where people can put forward ideas and where people use their skills to develop them. Other approaches, as highlighted here actually train people to build the skills so that they can actually turn their ideas into reality themselves (similar to process we used ourselves before).

So given all of this, how do you think we should approach the competition?

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