Howard Rheingold on Attention, and Other 21st-Century Social Media Literacies

There is a great article  by Howard Rheingold up at EDUCAUSE focusing on 21s Century Literacies.

If you were the only person on earth who knew how to use a fishing rod, you would be tremendously empowered. If you were the only person on earth who knew how to read and write, you would be frustrated and empowered only in tiny ways, like writing notes to yourself. When it comes to social media, knowing how to post a video or download a podcast—technology-centric encoding and decoding skills—is not enough. Access to many media empowers only those who know how to use them. We need to go beyond skills and technologies. We need to think in terms of literacies. And we need to expand our thinking of digital skills or information literacies to include social media literacies.

Social media—networked digital media such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and wikis—enable people to socialize, organize, learn, play, and engage in commerce. The part that makes social media social is that technical skills need to be exercised in concert with others: encoding, decoding, and community.

I focus on five social media literacies:

  • Attention
  • Participation
  • Collaboration
  • Network awareness
  • Critical consumption

Although I consider attention to be fundamental to all the other literacies, the one that links together all the others, and although it is the one I will spend the most time discussing in this article, none of these literacies live in isolation.1 They are interconnected. You need to learn how to exercise mindful deployment of your attention online if you are going to become a critical consumer of digital media; productive use of Twitter or YouTube requires knowledge of who your public is, how your participation meets their needs (and what you get in return), and how memes flow through networked publics. Ultimately, the most important fluency is not in mastering a particular literacy but in being able to put all five of these literacies together into a way of being in digital culture.

Introduction to Multimedia Scholarship: Student Handbook

The University of Southern California has available online “Introduction to Multimedia Scholarship”. It is

the Companion Handbook for MDA 140, offered in conjunction with the Multimedia in the Core and Multimedia Across the College Programs

The handbook explains the rational behind the course

The Multimedia in the Core program was formally established in April 2006 after a mandate from the University’s Provost Max Nikias in which he announced his desire to offer every student at USC the opportunity to gain skills in multimedia production. The reason behind this mandate is the idea that to be literate in the 21st century requires not only effective skills in reading and writing, but also the ability to use and interpret media effectively. The Multimedia Across the College program expands the opportunities for USC students to gain exposure to multimedia, offering labs in conjunction of a full array of College courses.

It includes five foundational literacies

  1. Digital literacy refers to the ability to understand the basic aspects of multimedia tools and software, and covers everything from the protocols for compression, back-up and file naming to definitions of terms (frame rate, dpi, etc.) and basic equipment usage.
  2. Network literacy refers to the ability to use networked software for intelligent participation in online communities.
  3. Design literacy refers to the ability to use appropriate design principles for multimedia authoring in a specific context, and the ability to control the relationship between form and content.
  4. Argumentation focuses on the ability to develop, express and defend a persuasive thesis using media, as well as the ability to use evidence and complex thinking in constructing an argument.
  5. Research literacy refers to the ability to perform effective, critical online research; knowledge of academically appropriate protocols for selection, citation and attribution of source materials; and knowledge of fair use and copyright issues.

and ten supplemental literacies

  1. Presentation: The ability to understand and articulate basic strategies for effective presentation using multimedia, as well as how to disseminate these materials to a wide audience.
  2. Visual literacy: The abilities to convey information visually and to understand and control systems of visual signification.
  3. Sonic literacy: The ability to communicate effectively with sound.
  4. Interpretation: The ability to use multimedia to enhance a critical interpretation, and the ability to identify and articulate the cultural, historical and ideological contexts of a media object.
  5. Annotation: Understanding strategies for critical annotation of text, images and media.
  6. Collaboration: The ability to work effectively in a group authoring environment, as well as the ability to lead a team project.
  7. Narrative literacy: Knowledge of basic components and genres of narrative, and the ability to deploy elements of narrative in a critical context.
  8. Pedagogical literacy: Understanding strategies for creating an effective tool for teaching.
  9. Interactivity: The ability to communicate effectively in a non-linear, interactive context, and the ability to design an effective interface or navigational structure.
  10. Code literacy: The ability to understand the basics of how code operates, and the ability to write or use basic code.

21st Century Workers Require New Skills.

The constantly changing environment of information consumption, interpretation, and sharing is far more reaching into our lives than most think. It is no longer enough to master the basic skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic (the three Rs) in order to advance in your education and career. We are moving into what some are calling the four Cs to become equipped for the workplace. Critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, and creativity and innovation are becoming even more important to organizations in the future according to a new survey conducted by American Management Association (AMA).

CC image used courtesy of wallyg

According to the AMA 2010 Critical Skills Survey, these skills and competencies are already priorities within their organizations for employee development. In all actuality, they said that employees are measured on these skills within their annual performance evaluations and are factored in during the hiring process. To help raise these levels companies are relying on one-on-one coaching and mentoring as ways to help advance employees’ skill sets, followed by professional development and training, in-house training, and job rotation.

Although at the moment management believe it is easier to develop these skills in students than it is to develop them in experienced workers , the report suggests that students and recent graduates are more open to new ideas, versus experienced workers with formed work patterns and habits.

This is why it is more important than ever to identify, acquire, and cultivate these abilities into your skill set. Not only to understand how to advance within work and education, but communicate in the rapidly evolving climate of information and understanding.

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