It Matters Most To You: On Digital Literacy and Data Production


There are three things that happened to me over the last two weeks that are entirely responsible for this entry:

ONE: I attended Quartz’s The Next Billion conference, an event about the one billion new internet users expected to come online by 2017. At the conference, Mark Surman, an Executive Director at Mozilla gave a talk that addressed in part the topic of digital literacy. Digital literacy is usually defined as access to the practices, skills, and cultural resources that can be applied to using and understanding digital tools. Surman described it more concisely: people knowing what choices they can make in regards to their devices. According to Surman, this skill is a hallmark of the 21st century, and is only becoming more important.

TWO: I re-read a Guardian article from October 2014 which was essentially a rumination on data ownership from Sir Tim Berners-Lee. In the article, Berners-Lee makes the point that while firms have a financial investment in collecting data, it is individual users who should be most deeply invested in their data. “[My] information is more valuable to me than it is to the cloud,” he quips in the article. Translation: you’re the person who cares the most about your own data—after all, it’s about you.

And THREE: My mom inadvertently dropped some wisdom on me (as she is wont to do) . During a recent phone call, she asked how my Fulbright-National Geographic project was going. I immediately launched into a long description about everything I’ve been doing: meeting with participants, figuring out how to present people’s data, working out the kinks of the final product, and so on. When I finished my monologue, I heard silence on the other end.

“Are you going to figure out how to explain all of that in a way that —> Read More