Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Data Literacy: part of media literacy or a new form of literacy #REDMIL2018

The second keynote that I'm liveblogging at REDMIL2018 is from Leo Van Audenhove (Free University of Brussels) on Data Literacy: part of media literacy or a new form of literacy. Looking at the field, he highlighted the terminology and concepts about the types of literacy (e.g. data lteracy, numeracy, statistical literacy) and the individual's role (e.g. the call for new data professionals). He also noted that the field is very skill and competence oriented and is instrumental (with data literacy being seen as useful for being an empowered citizen etc., see photo).
Van Audenhove presented a couple of data literacy definitions, which he pointed out were similar to media literacy definitions, and I would add they also have similarity with information literacy definitions. He quoted Data Pop Alliance who put data literacy at the centre of literacies (there is one of those familiar daisy diagrams, with data literacy in the middle, and information literacy as one of the outer petals). Van Audenhove referred to Castells who pointed out that information had always been around, so that it wasn't the information society that was new, but rather the networks which extend and augment "the body nd mind of human subjects in networks of interaction". Van Audenhove gave the example of Netflix, where you created your own profile, so it tailored itself to you (unlike traditional TV). Going back to Castells, he noted how Castells had identified that what is valued has not changed (so, in a capitalist society this means what major institutions think is valuable).
In analogy with all this, "increase in the amount of data does not define a new society" so the increasing amount of data produced is emerging in a biased world, with its existing structures, regulations, values etc. Van Audenhove talked about the "automated decision processes", including the obvious ways in which search engines, social media are filtered, but also the algorithms affecting all sorts of decision making processes (to do with health, everyday life) made by governments as well as companies and individuals. This can lead to social sorting - putting people into boxes - and data misuse.
He gave an example of "being of interest in the network" (or not) he gave screenshots from Google Streetview - or rather, he pointed out how there was streetview of a South African university campus, but there was no streetview of a township only about 10 miles away.There were issues there of whose lives and voices were and were not valued.
Van Audenhove presented a media literacy competence model from, and related data literacy to this. However, he emphasised that having the competences (being able to identify, use etc. data) didn't automatically enable you to understand the role of data and the automated decision processes in society. The outcomes of people/machines using data (e.g. outcomes of algorithms) are not always visible, and people may not be aware of them.
To answer the question in the title of his talk, yes, he felt that data literacy needed to be brought into media literacy, in order to integrate this critical, questioning aspect. There was also a need to develop educational material fostering this critical approach with the operational skills. For people's empowerment, he set out 3 preconditions: that a person has knowledge and capabilities to engage with media critically; that the "individual has the choice to act on the acquired knowledge", and that people can trust the systems that they live with and use (this includes policy and regulations).
Van Audenhove finished by talking about a project he has embarked on now, where they have got money for a big "data bus" - a real bus kitted out with tech, sensors and so forth, which will travel round to schools in Brussels, "showcasing the role of data". Students will be able to play with things (the bus can hold about 40 people when it is static), it can be integrated into their curriculum, and they will develop educational packages. They are still developing the apps, and are starting out in the next half year. It will be an interesting project to follow. The public broadcasters in Flanders has a remit for media literacy, which makes it fruitful to work with, for example they are creating special episodes for a popular TV series, focusing on media literacy, which can be used when working with children. There is a week when the broadercaster focuses on media literacy, and this media literacy week again provides opportunities for working in schools. An issue is teacher training: teachers may be very motivated, but media literacy may not have been a feature of their education.
Issues that came up in the question session afterwards included the right to be invisible, and the problem of token official commissions etc. to do with issues such as fake news (determining who got included in the group examining the issue, and the boundaries of the issues).

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