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Digital Literacies Assessment

Theme 1 – Digital Divide and Digital Inclusion

Digital divide is a term that refers to the gap between those who can and cannot access technology as a result of which certain spheres of an individual or a community’s lifestyle get affected. The main stakeholders that have been found to be largely affected by this are lower socio-economic groups, people residing in remote or regional Australian locations, indigenous Australians, Australians with disabilities and elderly Australians (Randoll and Hunter, 2017). The access to internet is critical in terms of right to expression and in redressing structural limitations and has been argued at the international level on several platforms. The issue gains critical importance specially in the light of present circumstances when the current pandemic has led to physical restrictions and isolation and digital literacy and internet access is the only solution to stay connected and informed about the present issues or seek medical help (UNAA Victoria, 2020). It has been identified that large part of the indigenous Australian community’s access internet only through mobile phones and device sharing is the most commonly used model owing to limited income and infrastructure sources. It might be considered that this method of accessing technology might to some extent increase the usage (Roy Morgan, 2019). However, device sharing can invariably lead to concerns such as miscommunication, security issues while doing internet banking thereby causing tensions between families or social groups. As a consequence, many individuals completely refrain from accessing the internet for any possible reason. On the flip side, there has been a consistent increase in the use of social media by the Indigenous Australian communities due to access of technology through mobile which can be utilized in a constructive manner (Roy Morgan, 2019). Although there have been several studies that highlight the importance of digital literacy and inclusion and many stated initiatives taken by established regulatory bodies and independent entities to foster digital inclusion amongst the Indigenous Australians, a major factor is still being overlooked and needs pressing research. According to a study by CAEPR, retaining the use of technology amongst natives of Australia is as much difficult as arranging ways for access to technology. It has been found that besides literacy, income is the most prominent reason that affects both digital inclusion and retention among Aboriginal Australians with education being the most affected sector (Randoll and Hunter, 2017). As much as it is being tried to ensure that technology becomes easily accessible to remote parts of Australia, more emphasis needs to be laid on retaining the use of technology.

Theme 2 Visual Content on Social Media

The age-old proverb “a picture is worth a thousand words” has gained popular context in the modern-day world which is driven by ultra-fast technology, easy internet access to major part of world population and a penchant need to stay connected by means of social media. The radical transformation that social media platforms have taken in the last few years more so, with the advent of smartphones that let people access high quality cameras, have given rise to exceeding amount visual content that is used as a mode of expression in communication now a days. Terms such as ‘selfie’ which means taking a picture of oneself and ‘hashtags’ a common term that lets an online user get multitude visual results on a specific issue on a social media platform, have taken precedence in the lives of online users (Casaló, Flavián and Ibáñez-Sánchez, n.d.). The main reasons that people were initially posting visual content over social media has been linked to factors such as improving advertising and promotion prospects or sharing images of sceneries or some event and celebrations (Casaló, Flavián and Ibáñez-Sánchez, n.d.). However, the introduction of popular networking sites like Instagram have completely changed and immensely widened the scope of utilizing visual aspects of social media. Travel images of some of the most exotic locations to incredible photography of food to individual shots of people or ‘DIY’ (Do It Yourself) videos for assumingly complex tasks can be seen which impact the perceptions of people and have in reality made a positive impact on the mindsets (Turnbull-Dugarte, 2019). However, the insisted focus on visual content has also been utilized in showcasing people’s opinions and viewpoints on critical and sensitive issues of terrorism, racism, sexism etcetera and various social causes like animal and child exploitation, rape, domestic violence or depression lead to believe that people do not shy away from having a strong opinion and expressing it (Turnbull-Dugarte, 2019). Yet, the impact of using visuals on social media does get swayed sometimes. For instance, recently a trend picked up on social media where women were sharing ‘black and white images of themselves and tagging their female friends as an “apparent challenge” of uplifting women, however, many of them still did not have any idea as to what the real cause was and were anyways posting pictures just because “everyone else was doing it” (Lorenz, 2020).

Theme 3: Social Media Literacy of Care and Support

Social media has always been a popular topic of debate for many in terms of its benefits and possible negative impacts. One of the subjects where social media platforms have particularly contributed is the expression of pain. Pain is one such subject which everyone goes through but do not really tend to discuss much about. Many also feel that pain is an emotion hard to describe since it has different meaning and intensity for different people (BIM, 2018). However, platforms such as Tumblr, Flickr and YouTube have over the past few years excessively brought a reasonable change in the above notion. People have found their expression by articulating their feelings in the form of video through YouTube or Instagram or posting personal or created images that depict emotions such as pain, anxiety, illness and depression (Levin-Zamir and Bertschi, 2018). The consequence has been massive out-reach of such posts on global level, reception of responses in terms of opinions and suggestions leading to believe that the subject is now actively discussed and attended to by large audience (Levin-Zamir and Bertschi, 2018). This has seen to contribute in building stronger communities of people with related chronic-illness or pains and has a consequent impact on their mindsets in a rather positive manner (BIM, 2018). The social networking sites also take proper measures and controls to ensure that posts with sensitive content are well regulated and do not bear a negative impact on the user and its audience. It may be argued that this restricts the freedom to express on social media platforms but companies justify that it is done to safeguard user’s interests (Dudley et al., n.d.). The concept of social media literacy for care and support has also seemed to benefit the health community and clinicians who are able to reach out to a larger number of people, educate the audience and guide them for the recommended support (Barnhart, 2020). This has been proven in the current scenario as well where the COVID-19 pandemic essentially connected world on a digital platform and saw many doctors and health care physicians lending online support to those in need (Barnhart, 2020).

Theme 4: Participatory Media

Digital Inclusion has increasingly gained impetus in the last few years than compared to earlier decade. Much of it has to do with the ever-increased usage of social media platforms which has broadened the scope of global connectivity in a much bigger way (Goggin, Hollier and Hawkins, 2017). The introduction of smartphones and easy access of fast internet across major parts of the globe have in actual sense made people better connected and informed. Yet when discussing and developing mechanisms for digital inclusion, the interest of people with some or the other form of disability are somehow ignored in many areas (Goggin, Hollier and Hawkins, 2017). It is critically important to take into account the needs of such users and develop platforms in multi-variate ways which enable a seamless access for such people. It is however not a very pleasing thought to learn that such people have to go through a lot of discrimination and challenges to gain equal respect and recognition for a “normal” access at these platforms (Ellis and Goggin, 2015). Many organizations have stepped up to facilitate the differently abled category of people by making their websites realistically user-friendly for all types of users (Ellis et al., 2018). For instance, companies like Google, Apple Inc and Netflix have specifically incorporated mechanisms that greatly facilitate the usage of their mobile phones (incase of Apple) and contribute in ease of access (in case of Netflix or Google) (Ellis et al., 2018). Concerned entities need to focus on specific features such as enhancing the visual quality (for those with varied visual impairment) or audio quality (for people with hearing disabilities) or overall accessibility of their interface for better participation from all types of users. The benefit of doing this can result in a comprehensive inclusion of all categories of people which can lead to productivity for both the entities.

Reference List for Disability Media Participation

Barnhart, B. (2020). Social media and healthcare: how to prioritize what patients need. [online] Sprout Social. Available at: https://sproutsocial.com/insights/social-media-in-healthcare/.

BIM (2018). Visual Expressions of Chronic Pain on Social Media. [online] RELIEF: PAIN RESEARCH NEWS, INSIGHTS AND IDEAS. Available at: https://relief.news/2018/11/20/visual-expressions-pain-social-media/.

Casaló, L.V., Flavián, C. and Ibáñez-Sánchez, S. (n.d.). Be creative, my friend! Engaging users on Instagram by promoting positive emotions. Journal of Business Research. [online] Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0148296320301089.

Dudley, D., Van Bergen, P., Mcmaugh, A. and Mackenzie, E. (n.d.). 3 The role of social media in developing young people’s health literacy Chapter overview. [online] Available at: https://research-management.mq.edu.au/ws/portalfiles/portal/94776636/94755502.pdf [Accessed 6 Sep. 2020].

Ellis, K. and Goggin, G. (2015). Disability Media Participation: Opportunities, Obstacles and Politics. Media International Australia, [online] 154(1), pp.78–88. Available at: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1329878X1515400111.

Ellis, K., Kent, M., Hollier, S., Burns, S. and Goggin, G. (2018). Reimagining Australia via disability and media: Representation, access and digital integration. Coolabah, [online] 24 & 25, pp.94–111. Available at: https://revistes.ub.edu/index.php/coolabah/article/view/22075/23610.

Goggin, G., Hollier, S. and Hawkins, W. (2017). Internet accessibility and disability policy: lessons for digital inclusion and equality from Australia. Internet Policy Review, [online] 6(1). Available at: https://policyreview.info/articles/analysis/internet-accessibility-and-disability-policy-lessons-digital-inclusion-and [Accessed 8 Jun. 2020].

Levin-Zamir, D. and Bertschi, I. (2018). Media Health Literacy, eHealth Literacy, and the Role of the Social Environment in Context. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, [online] 15(8), p.1643. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6121358/.

Lorenz, T. (2020). ‘Challenge Accepted’: Why Women Are Posting Black-and-White Selfies. The New York Times. [online] 27 Jul. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/27/style/challenge-accepted-instagram.html.

Randoll, P. and Hunter, B. (2017). Dynamics of the digital divide. [online] Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research. Available at: https://caepr.cass.anu.edu.au/research/publications/dynamics-digital-divide.

Roy Morgan (2019). Measuring Australia’s Digital Divide Foreword. [online] Available at: https://digitalinclusionindex.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/TLS_ADII_Report-2019_Final_web_.pdf.

Turnbull-Dugarte, S.J. (2019). Selfies, Policies, or Votes? Political Party Use of Instagram in the 2015 and 2016 Spanish General Elections. Social Media + Society, [online] 5(2), p.205630511982612. Available at: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2056305119826129.

UNAA Victoria (2020). The digital divide: lessons COVID-19 taught us about the digital exclusion of students from low socio-economic backgrounds. [online] UNAA Victoria. Available at: https://unaavictoria.org.au/2020/06/19/the-digital-divide-lessons-covid-19-taught-us-about-the-digital-exclusion-of-students-from-low-socio-economic-backgrounds/.

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