Media Literacy in the age of Information Overload

Dr.Dharini Mishra

Media Literacy in the age of Information Overload – Dr.Dharini Mishra

We live in the most interesting times as far as media is concerned. In fact, as I approach the topic. These lines from Charles Dickens signifying the scenario of the French revolution came instantly to my mind – yes there is an upheaval going on in the media too..and it is marked with opposing views on the continuum- depending upon our own belief systems education culture and openness to learn.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…
it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair
we had everything before us, we had nothing before us

  1. Books are being scanned , newspapers are being offered in e format , expensively produced television programs are being cut down into appropriate slices and offered on new media . There is a huge scramble to to make media searchable on the Internet. Radio shows, too, are getting their digital conversion — to Podcasts

Technology is Driving Media
Traditional Media is converging on Digital Space
Divisions getting blurred
Boundaries are disappearing
It’s the age of Convergence

  1. Interestingly the time barriers are also on the same platform something which has never happened earlier. So you could actually watch an Old movie of the 1930s and the latest release almost simultaneously . Everything is Instant /Time gap is non linear/New production competes with the old at the same platform.
  2. Whether we benefit from it or lose out depends on how well we understand and utilise the medium. We’re actually back to basics following Mcluhans adage that the Message is the medium. The medium is digital media ..
  3. Friends, It is very easy to be critical of modern day media ..yes they bombard us with advertising, yes they manipulate the message to suit their personal or organisational interests , and yes they use our data to their advantage . Yes Undoubtedly in the very near future we need checks and balances , as New Media is yet in its infancy..but the fact is that Digital Media or New media or Social media ..whatever you call the latest disruptive technology – it is here to stay …and play an important role in our lives… so the faster we get literate about the environment and context in which it operates, the easier it will be on us.
  4. Media literacy to my understanding is different from media education which can be taught as a generic topic in a school level classroom with some discussion. Media literacy is an subtle understanding of the world of media it operates, what are the ownership patterns, how many cameras would be needed to capture mundane everyday life scenes etc. To gauge or assess media there is only one way out – to use it more and is only then we can understand that the google algorithm is controlling search results.. what shows up at the top is not most certainly the best result . Friends, Unless we allow ourselves and our children to use and explore media ( within limits of course) , and explore its various ramifications, we will not be able to be media literate in the true sense.
  5. Media literacy gives us the answer for why a particular news story is appearing at a particular time- are elections on the anvil? Why a particular website or newspaper is covering a particular item in such detail – let’s see the connection between the ownership of the newspaper and the news item ..etcetc
  6. Is all this instantly accessible information making us smarter, or simply more stressed? Research tells us that easy access could make people smarter: Instead of wasting time finding information, they can focus more on assessing its worth. Psychologists say that most People are already struggling and feeling like they need to keep up with the variety of information sources they already have. There are upper limits to how much we can manage. And I quote David Greenfield book Virtual Addiction

“Our culture is about distraction, numbing oneself. There is no self-reflection, no sitting still. It’s absolutely exhausting”.

  1. Now the most interesting thing about Information On digital format is that when you want to be entertained or listen to news and views in a perfunctory manner – there is no overload…the more the better . Watching 5 minutes of this and 10 minutes of that is fine. But when a serious decision has to be taken – options have to be weighed – it is then that IO kicks in .
  2. Too much Information Impedes our decision making ability because we get overwhelmed and we become victims of not knowing technology well enough . For example there is danger of just believing what comes up first in the search . Or just tuning out because there is so much on offer
  3. More serious are problems of detecting fake posts, and understanding that even seemingly personal posts such as family pics etc are posed. Since everything is accessible so easily online – and so believable and real. These are not actors but real people. Instances of depression are rising because people are taking Facebook photos as their yardstick. This is not paid advertising
  4. It may take even better technology to cope with the problems technology use has created. Of course that will have its own problem- something known as a information architecture
  5. But Of course, if used properly, these new resources have vast potential to shape how we live, study and think So how do we overcome IO.. these are some tips for everyone – lay persons

Explore the digital spaces
Search and read up – deeper and wider
Correlate and cross reference with real situations
Take many viewpoints

And lastly, one of the best way out is to consult a digital “native “- that is, a child someone brought up in an environment of technology – unafraid to explore and analyse the digital world

The Role of Media Professionals in exploring digital spaces has been pretty much limited up to now..that’s my personal opinion. We have been trying to fit in our old content into present technology- and have not yet mastered the digital space as yet. Although there are a variety of innovative ideas and startups – these are not on the scale seen in the Technology sector. Beginning with understanding IT rules laws and regulations. We need to go back to basics and make people rely upon us not only for news but for a correct and valued opinion on the net. Media professionals need to widely participate and contribute in digital spaces, not just report .. they need to drive the innovations and adaptations to the technology platforms they are using. One of the best techniques to promote digital literacy is to Set up Virtual communities And Set up online support platforms which are professionally and ethically handled.

I just think digital media gives the younger professionals who are definitely a vibrant part of the community here a voice on a lot of the decision-making processes on a variety of boards that are out there.

Efforts to address the chronic challenge of information overload in the digital world have focused on content filtering facilitated by information architecture (IA). Information professionals traditionally served as gatekeepers using formal information organization structures, systems and tools. The exploding quantity of contributed content on social media has magnified information overload and left content control and management largely up to users, who need to be educated in digital literacy in order to assume this role. By default, information architects that is media professionals should be digitally literate themselves. Secondly, the users of information have to be aware of the importance of structures and architecture. This awareness can be achieved by educating them about IA as part of Digital literacy and education. The proper balance between formal and informal approaches to organizing information in the new media environment is not yet clear.

What is clear is that media must now drive technological innovations and digital rules to its advantage and not just helplessly watch and follow technological explosion and therein try to fit in.

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