Looking Behind the Curtain

Before Christmas by lovely former colleague R. John Robertson invited me to answer some questions about digital literacy for a course on Digital Literacy and Life that he’s teaching with Cindy Strong at Seattle Pacific University.  I’m late with these responses as usual, but it was a really interesting and thought provoking exercise because I’ve never taken the time to sit down and really reflect on how I understand digital literacy and what it means to me.

What is digital literacy?

I’ve never attempted to define digital literacy before, but now I think about it, I realise that I tend to conflate information literacy and digital literacy, primarily because so much of the information we now create, consume and interact with is mediated by digital technologies.   Certainly, there is a digital skills aspect to digital literacy, having the requisite skills to be able to use the tools that enable us to create and access information, but developing digital literacies is arguably more important as it enables us to ask critical questions of this information regarding authorship, authenticity, ownership and perspective.

What impact does digital literacy have on your personal, professional, and spiritual life?

Digital literacy has a huge impact on both my personal and professional life.  I work for the OER Service, within Information Services at the University of Edinburgh, and helping colleagues to develop critical digital literacy skills is a large part of my job;  whether its running workshops on developing blogging skills to build your professional online profile, contributing to training sessions on understanding copyright and open licensing, or helping to run Wikipedia and Wikidata editathons.  Digital literacy is at the heart of what I do.

It’s not just about teaching people how to use digital tools, it’s about empowering them with the knowledge and confidence to have some degree of control over their digital presence and interactions.  Having the ability to curate and control our personal digital identities and online personas is a key aspect of digital literacy for me. It’s not all one way though, I’m constantly developing my own understanding of digital literacy and learning new digital skills through my professional practice and interactions with my peers.

I don’t regard myself as a spiritual person, but on a personal level, I believe that one of the most important aspects of digital literacy is that it gives us the ability to understand and to question how information is created, by whom, and for what purpose.  Digital literacy allows us to look behind the curtain to see the man (and it is invariably a man) who is pulling the levers and pushing the buttons.  Digital literacy helps to reveal how orthodoxies and narratives are created, and enables us to understand whose voices are included and whose are excluded.  Digital literacy helps to make structural inequality visible and if we choose to, it give us the tools to challenge these inequalities.

Who are you? (context matters)

I’m Lorna M. Campbell and I’m an open education practitioner.  I work in Edinburgh, live in Glasgow and come from the Outer Hebrides.  I’m a trustee of the Association for Learning Technology, Wikimedia UK and the Society for Nautical Research.  I was an archaeologist in a previous life, and I’m sometimes a naval historian.  I’m interested in fan culture and issues relating to gender and sexuality, particularly from a queer and historical perspective.  And I’m the mother of an almost-teenage daughter who understands the importance of citations on Wikipedia, because digital literacy begins at home ♡