July 18, 2009

Howard Rheingold on essential media literacies

21st century media literacies from JD Lasica on Vimeo.

JD LasicaA week ago, as we were wrapping up the Traveling Geeks‘ two-day visit to Cambridge, I was walking down the main drag with author Howard Rheingold when we stopped for a moment in front of King’s College. I took out my loaner Flip Ultra and shot this 6-minute interview of Howard, colorfully garbed as always, in front of the 500-year-old King’s College, talking about 21st century literacies.

Howard hit on one major takeaway that I had from our week in the UK. “Increasingly I think the digital divide is less about access to technology and more about the difference between those who know how and those who don’t know how,” he said. He’s convinced that what’s most important is not access to the Internet — we have more than a billion people on the Internet now and there are 4 billion phones out there — but access to knowledge and literacies for the digital age. “The ability to know has suddenly become the ability to search and the ability to sift” and discern. “Skill plus social” is the key.

Earlier in the week Howard gave the keynote address at Reboot Britain, and he recounts some of the highlights here. Among the Essential Literacies he cites are:

• Attention
• Participation
• Collaboration
• Critical consumption (which includes “crap detection” — we live in an age when you can get the answer to anything out of the air, but how do you know what and whom to trust?)

He also talks about focused attention vs. multitasking and the importance of being able to handle an array of tasks simultaneously.

We had a great dinner (at an Italian restaurant), and it was a bonus to get to know Howard a bit better during our trip.

JD Lasica, founder of Socialmedia.biz, is now co-founder of the cruise discovery engine Cruiseable. See his About page, contact JD or follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.

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6 thoughts on “Howard Rheingold on essential media literacies

  1. Wow– I was at first thrown by Howard's purple flowery suit, only to be amazed at his insight into how the Digital Divide is about people who know how to consume information and those who don't. The "critical consumption" and "attention" literacies I find most fascinating, since it requires you to selectively pay attention to information streaming by, yet not get caught up in ADD such that you lose track of your goals and what is misinformation.

    JD– keep posting great stuff like this!

  2. I caught some of Rheingolds presentation at Reboot Britain and it was a true eye-opener. His ideas about circular room layouts were insightful but maybe a bit too radical or unworkable for most people. I will be watching out for his future publications though. Behind his colourful attire is a sharp mind willing to experiment with radical ideas and anyone in the field of education would do well to listen to what he has to say.

  3. Perhaps there are even more powerful, subtle issues. In order to become a competent information consumer, first you have to think of yourself in those terms. There are many people whose personal identity or sense of self are not consistent with such a role: "I'm too old for that", "I'm just a girl", "I don't speak English and everything's in English". It doesn't matter if any of these are true, it's that the person in question thinks they're true. Remember, not everyone is the rational, empowered early adopter you are, Dear Reader. Things that one hasn't done can only be understood as part of a mysterious narrative; one's own self rarely stars in those, and may be entirely absent.

  4. Great video. The notion of what is it to be 'literate' in the developing cloud poses some interesting questions. The potential advantages could pay off significantly. This video from TED's worth a watch that extends this idea far into the unknown around the subject of genomics: http://bit.ly/nsrxY. The idea of 'crap detection' online will also advance and much like food foraging, those who innately sense crap (through page presentation, writing, popularity, user bio info, perhaps even URL's) will refine their efficiency to information foraging to and become very good at it. Poses some interesting questions in relation to education – beyond a certain age, do you teach kids specific subjects, or give them the tools to optimally teach themselves? Much like the 'catch the fish / teach to fish' analogy.

  5. Thank you Mr. Reingold – I have some new material for my class – “Technology in the Classroom.” I am officially adding you to my list of pedagogy heros:)