Digital literacy: presence literacy and ethics literacy?

CSM learning spaces

Insights emerging from the current exploration of ways in which students at CSM use personal digital devices as part of their daily ‘living and learning’ are already challenging prevailing assumptions, as well as informing discussions around what digital literacy means within an arts and design institution.

First of all it is important to note that not all students are hyper-connected and tech-mobile, there are significant variations in device ownership and use across course groups. However, for the majority of students participating in this research study, their mobile phones and laptops are a constant presence from the moment they wake (mobile phone alarm) to the time they fall asleep (listening to music on smartphone). Hence, we should consider the incredibly rich interwoven relationships and interactions between students, mobile phones and laptops, when defining digital literacy.

7am: dial in by Skype to group meditation

Set iPhone to 8am for chime for end of one hour meditation

8:30am: use PC to check gmail for emails, Facebook 3 accounts, Google calendar for my events and appointments for the day.

Excerpt from student diary

The rise of information communication technologies (ICTs) has changed the creative environment in which our students are operating. The new landscape is one where any networked person in the world can make and publish creative work through the internet; a difference being that arts and design students are participating as a form of  ‘accredited’ creative group. As such, the composition of their digital literacy may need to be nuanced towards the area of design-specific capital. For instance, an awareness of intellectual property rights, copyright rules, and identity in relation to online publication may be considered an imperative element of digital literacy for artists and designers. Might we therefore look at a form of values literacy or ethics literacy?

Informal learning in open space

Data collected from students closely detailing when and where they use their personal devices reveals an imbricated structural relationship between people and mobile technologies that is rarely acknowledged by the individuals themselves. The perpetual presence and availability of these devices means that the students’ habitual behaviours with their mobiles and laptops goes largely unnoticed. A familiar rhythm of check emails-check facebook-check emails-text-check emails plays out across their day; almost always either side of a learning event such as a seminar or lecture, and often during the formal lesson itself.

13:34 – 15:45: The language support lecture starts and I turn on the Mac Book again. I try to work a little bit on our group presentation for next Wednesday while listening to the lecture. I search some pictures on google images for our slides. And I discover how to use keynotes a little bit better.

Excerpt from student diary

The notion of multiple presences has been noted in a previous post; asking what it means to be present in space. When learning we often need to focus and concentrate for a significant amount of time in order to master a process, and develop our disciplinary understanding. The students’ tendency to multi-task across real and virtual space and have multiple attentions suggests that some form of ‘presence literacy’ needs to be discussed as a form of digital literacy within arts and design education.

How young artists and designers are using their personal devices to support learning is an aspect of digital literacy that the University is keen to keep exploring as part of the Digital Life programme. Colleagues and students who wish to help shape the understanding of 21c digital literacy within arts higher education, should get involved with the UAL DIAL project. A group get-together is planned for January 2013, and your insights would be much welcomed.


Other posts that relate to this article:

BA Textile Design

Smartphone: seducer, slave or spy?

Personal digital devices: researching learning