Focused attention, participation, collaboration and critical consumption (which includes "crap detection") are the core 21st century new media literacy skills needed to become a fully enabled and active citizen of this ongoing digital communication revolution.
Photo credit: JD Lasica
"Increasingly... the digital divide is less about access to technology and more about the difference between those who know how and those who do not know how..."
What is most important is not having access to the Internet but having awareness, know-how, skills and access to the basic literacies for the digital age.
"The ability to know has suddenly become the ability to search and the ability to sift" and discern.
"Skill plus social" is the key.
Here's Howard Rheingold in a live video take recently recorded by JD Lasica, illustrating why 21st century new media literacies are so important for us and what are the critical skills you need to master to become a fully literate 21st century citizen:
by JD Lasica
A week ago, as we were wrapping up the Traveling Geeks' two-day visit to Cambridge, I was walking down the main drag with author Howard Rheingold when we stopped for a moment in front of King's College.
I took out my loaner Flip Ultra and shot this six-minute interview of Howard, colorfully garbed as always, in front of the 500-year-old King's College, talking about 21st century literacies.
Howard hit on one major takeaway that I had from our week in the UK.
"Increasingly I think the digital divide is less about access to technology and more about the difference between those who know how and those who do not know how," he said.
He is convinced that what is most important is not access to the Internet - we have more than a billion people on the Internet now and there are four billion phones out there - but access to knowledge and literacies for the digital age. "The ability to know has suddenly become the ability to search and the ability to sift" and discern.
"Skill plus social" is the key.
Earlier in the week Howard gave the keynote address at Reboot Britain, and he recounts some of the highlights here.
Among the essential literacies he cites are:
He also talks about focused attention vs. multitasking and the importance of being able to handle an array of tasks simultaneously.
We had a great dinner (at an Italian restaurant), and it was a bonus to get to know Howard a bit better during our trip.
Duration: 6' 09''
Full English Text Transcription
JD Lasica: Hi. Can you introduce yourself?
Howard Rheingold: I am Howard Rheingold, @hrheingold on Twitter which I guess is the way everybody identifies these days, and that is King's College, Cambridge, behind me. Lots of famous people went there. I think, Alan Turing went there.
If you are in the computer business in the Valley or a social media analyst and you do not know who Alan Turing is - go look it up.
JD Lasica: OK, so Howard, you have done a lot of thinking about what it is coming down the pie in terms of technology in the future, so what is on your mind these days?
Howard Rheingold: Well, I am cursed and blessed to be someone living in the future.
In 1985 I published Tools for Thought about where might these personal computer go in the year 2000.
in 2002, Smart Mobs about what might people do with mobile telephones and collective action.
And now I am convinced more than I was before that what is important now is not access to hardware, access to the Internet - we have a billion people on the Internet now and more coming, have four billion phones and more coming - but access to knowledge, 21st century literacies, and I am not talking just about India and Africa, I am talking about my students at Stanford and Berkeley. That is where I started thinking about this was when I first started teaching.
That started me thinking about what is that we assume that people know these days when everyone is carrying a laptop and a phone that is connected to the net. But the digital natives and others really are not fully literate in the use of the technologies they use and I mean by literacy a skill which is of course an individual thing - learning to ride a bicycle is not very social. But the literacy I refer to involves individual skills plus social skills.
If you are the only person in the world who knows how to ride a bicycle, that is very empowering. If you are the only person who knows how to read and write or post to the web, who cares?
I think that there are at least four central 21st century literacies:
We live in an age where you can get the answer to anything out of the air. You do not have to go to a college library, but in a college library you can be pretty much sure that someone checked the truth claims in the books.
You get your answers these days out of the air from the Internet by way of search engines - it is up to you to determine whether what you find is accurate information, misinformation, disinformation, urban legend, hoaxes, spam, porn, porn spam.
The ability to know has suddenly become the ability to search and the ability to sift.
Back to attention for a moment. Again, this came to me when I was in the classroom, but of course you think about it when you are driving on the freeway and you are seeing people texting, when you are on Twitter and you are seeing things go by.
You are making decisions very quickly about:
I think there is a skill-variance of people who do this decision-making better than the others and those who have developed this ability to make rapid decisions about how to deploy their attention are going to have a competitive advantage over others.
But in the in the classroom of course - it is a problem for those teachers who have been saying the same old thing for 30 years because their students are now on the Internet, they are checking what they are saying by looking it up on Google or Wikipedia, they are twittering or messaging each other in real time, and if the teacher is too boring - there are on Facebook - they are on World of Warcraft. I am not sure whether that is the best way for them to spend their attention.
I think it is not a matter that focused attention is privileged over multitasking. If you were not able to multitask, what are you going to do if an infant is crawling towards the electrical socket, the tea-kettle is boiling over, and the phone is ringing? How you were going to drive your car?
Multi-tasking, really rapid task-switching, is a useful skill in some circumstances and an obstacle to concentration and understanding in other circumstances.
Focused attention is like a spotlight and you need that kind of light if you are going to do surgery, but you need to kind of turn off that light to see everything if you are in that kind of a multitasking situation.
Nobody teaches us these skills, of course you need to learn them cross the street, there are a lot of attentional skills we pick up, but the attentional skills that come from being always on, always connected, have getting your answers from Google and Wikipedia - that is new and you are not learning it in the high school, you are not learning it in college - so I am becoming interested in how do we learn and teach these skills these days.
Increasingly I do not think the digital divide is more about people who have access to technology, I think it is more about the divide but between those who know how and those who do not know how.
JD Lasica: ...how to use the technology.
Howard Rheingold: ...to use the technology and how to use your mind with the technology.
JD Lasica: Yes. OK, Howard, that is a good thing to think about. Thank you so much.
Howard Rheingold: Thank you, JD.
About Howard Rheingold
Howard Rheingold is a critic, writer, and teacher; his specialties are on the cultural, social and political implications of modern communication media such as the Internet, mobile telephony and virtual communities (a term he is credited with inventing). Howard Rheingold is a visiting lecturer in Stanford University's Department of Communication where he teaches courses on Digital Journalism and Virtual Communities and Social Media. He is also a lecturer in U.C. Berkeley's School of Information where he teaches Virtual Communities and Social Media. Among his most influential books are Tools for Thought (1985), The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier (1993), Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution (2002).
About JD Lasica
JD Lasica is a strategist, tech entrepreneur, writer, blogger, trainer and consultant, JD is the co-founder and editorial director of Ourmedia.org, president of the Social Media Group and a partner in Outhink Media, a company that enables social media and distributed video production. He is currently helping to architect MediaMobz, a new marketplace for getting videos produced. His book Darknet: Hollywood's War Against the Digital Generation (Wiley & Sons, 2005) explores the personal media revolution and the emerging media landscape.