Digital literacy: what is it, characteristics, and what is it for?
Let's look at what digital literacy is and how it affects the use of the Internet and online information.
Digital literacy is an important concept to understand the reality of how well all segments of society are able to cope with the use of electronic devices connected to the Internet.
In this article we will explore this concept of digital literacy and see what elements comprise it and how it relates to the detection of false information on the web.
What is digital literacy?
Digital literacy is defined as the ability to safely and appropriately access, manage, understand, integrate, communicate, evaluate and create information through digital technologies.. This means that it goes beyond the ability to use a cell phone or computer in a basic way.
To achieve reading and writing digital media from multiple media such as television, computers, tablets and smartphones and through different forms such as written texts, graphics, infographics, audios, videos, hypertexts or combination of these, it is necessary to take into account that people require different learning concepts such as technological literacy, media literacy, multimedia literacy or computer literacy.
This situation means that people who are not trained in Information and Communications Technology, in their work, educational, social and even personal world, become a marginalized class of citizens, and therefore have fewer possibilities to develop and develop at all social and labor levels. This gap is much greater in poor countries and in sectors where urban development is much more advanced than in towns and rural areas, where the technological infrastructure is not available.where neither the technological infrastructure nor the knowledge is available.
In the last two years, deficits in digital literacy have taken center stage due to the consequences of overcrowding due to the COVID19 pandemic, since many education and work activities have had to be transferred to the virtual modality or teleworking.The world is a place where it is impossible to travel to educational centers and workplaces in person. Although on the other hand it is undoubtedly that with the pandemic in full expansion it would have been impossible to think the world without information technology, without telework scenarios, without online schools or apps to reduce the impact of the lack of education or work for people who have access to digital technology.
Digital competence and computer competence
It is necessary to make a differentiation to achieve digital literacy and know the role of training in the functioning of society. On the one hand, it is necessary to have basic knowledge such as knowing how to use email, a spreadsheet or a text editor, which make up knowledge called "digital competence". (Digital Literacy) and are basic in the 21st century, but not sufficient for a competitive society like today's, particularly in certain professions.
On the other hand, in each profession a type of problem is solved, and most problems admit many ways to be solved, but not all solutions can be implemented on a computer. It is necessary to take into account that more emphasis should be placed on the computer knowledge (hardware, networks, databases, programming, applications) needed to develop these ideas.. This double vision (way of thinking and knowledge of the basics of computer science) is often referred to as "computer competence".
What is the importance of digital literacy today?
The lack of digital literacy has been described as an element that has affected communication in the context of recent phenomena such as the COVID 19 vaccine fake news and the 2020 U.S. presidential election. of the COVID 19 vaccines and the 2020 presidential election in the United States.
In fact, there are several studies that indicate the existence of factors that could indicate a relationship between digital illiteracy and the tendency to share unreliable information on social networks.
Based on the deficit theory, it is considered that people who are likely to fall for "hoaxes" and false information are those who do not have a sufficient level of knowledge to be able to distinguish between truthful information and false information.. In this dimension, it is also important to consider the possible absence of scientific literacy and media literacy.
One of the main reasons why older adults might believe fake news is that older adults may have lower levels of digital, scientific, and media literacy, which could make it difficult for people to identify content with false information, such as images that have been edited. It could be considered that an increase in digital literacy could aid in the reduction of fake news headlines.
Another theory posits that people may believe false information that is assimilated into their pre-existing beliefs or worldviews.. Similarly, an excessive belief in one's own knowledge (seeing it as superior to that of others) and a tendency to receptivity to pseudo-deep content (i.e., content that has a high number of words that might not have any concrete meaning in a sentence) may predispose people to believe in fake news.
In this way, these people may have difficulty in identifying inaccuracies in the content they find in social media information, which makes it "fit" all kinds of belief systems..
A lower predisposition to spread "hoaxes" online?
It has been thought for some time that social network users with a low level of digital literacy may be more likely to be misled by virtual disinformation. However, the fact of being digitally literate does not necessarily imply that this person is interested in sharing truthful information on social networks, revealing that there is a disconnect between truthful information and intentions to disseminate content on social networks. on social networks, revealing that there is a disconnect between truthful information and intentions to disseminate content on networks.
In the study conducted by Sirlin and his collaborators at MIT in 2020, two measures were used to measure the relationship between digital literacy and the tendency to share truthful information on networks.
The first measure of digital literacy is based on the traditional definition of this concept, which focuses on having basic digital skills required to successfully find information on the Internet.. To measure it, a questionnaire was used with questions referring to Internet terms and attitudes towards technology.
A second questionnaire focused directly on social network literacy, and measures this construct based on questions that ask users about the information they choose to share on social networks. This methodology would make it possible to identify people's susceptibility to fake news on social networksIf a person is not able to identify that there are no editorial standards for sharing information on social networks, there would be a lower level of skepticism towards the quality of the information shared on social networks.
The first conclusion of the study indicates that a higher level of digital literacy makes it possible for people to be more discerning about false and true information.. It could be found that there is a correlation between being familiar with the Internet and being able to understand the Facebook news feed algorithm. The size of this correlation is also comparable to the correlation found with procedural knowledge of news and analytical thinking.
A second finding allowed us to observe that the most digitally literate network users do not have greater discernment of true and fake news. Nor is there a significant correlation between familiarity and knowledge of the Internet with procedural knowledge of news or with analytical thinking, a situation that may be curious because a significant relationship has usually been found between analytical thinking and the discernment of fake news in the virtual world.
A third finding of this study focused on observing whether the political ideology of the participants (Republican or Democrat, in the case of this study) can determine the tendency to believe and share false information in the virtual world. It was possible to identify that there is no evidence to justify a relationship between affiliation to a particular political ideology and the discernment of truthful information or the ability to choose truthful information in social networks.
Although it was not observed that developing digital literacy guarantees greater discernment about what to share on social networks, this contrasts with the usefulness of procedural knowledge of news, which is acquired through practice, and which is positively related to the ability to identify false information in virtual media and to the ability to identify false information in virtual media. in virtual media and with intentions to share true information.
This fact would allow us to conclude that it is preferable to focus on educational interventions in which the development of procedural knowledge of news, which would be developed through practice and which is not necessarily acquired consciously, beyond digital literacy, takes precedence. to avoid the proliferation of false information on the networks.
This could imply that although the development of digital literacy is necessary in contexts in which the is necessary in contexts in which technology is needed to ensure better living conditions, it is not necessarily acquired consciously, beyond digital literacy. For people, it is also essential to complement this work with education to discern between true and false information in times in which the lack of information can end up affecting people to a greater extent, especially in contexts such as the coronavirus pandemic, in which people may be oriented to make decisions that directly affect their health due to the presence of an information bias.
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)