UOSM2008: Digital literacy and self-evaluation

This is the first in a series of posts to be published over the coming months as part of the University of Southampton’s Living and Working on the Web module. To find out more, including links to all of this year’s student blogs, check out the UOSM2008 website.

I have long regarded my digital literacy as strong, having used computers regularly from a young age and gone on to study for a Web Science degree. With sites like WordPress and Twitter, I have maintained online profiles and networks for many years both for personal use and institutionally, including this site, which is mainly used as a writing portfolio. This is reflected in the scores for my initial self-test, where the key elements I hope to improve upon are participation and collaboration.

Criterion Level (1-5)
Accessing, managing and evaluating online information 4
Participating in online communities 3
Building online networks around an area of interest 3
Collaborating with others on shared projects 3
Creating online materials (text, audio, images, video) 4
Managing your online identity 4
Managing your online privacy and security 3

My personal experiences of digital literacy and skill divides would previously have aligned my thinking with Marc Prensky’s concepts of digital immigrants and natives, whereby younger generations are immersed into digital concepts from birth, rather than adapting experiences to them. However, as I discovered in researching this topic, David White’s conceptualisation of a spectrum between using digital platforms for active creation (residency) as opposed to passive consumption or utility (visiting) offers a more nuanced approach to assorted use cases.

Applying White’s mapping approach to my own Web usage made me closely analyse how and why I use what I use. For instance, for work I administer a number of Facebook groups and monitor incoming email closely, however my outgoing email is comparably infrequent and my personal use of Facebook is based around consumption rather than creation. Spotify and YouTube are services I use almost strictly in personal capacities, unlike SoundCloud, where I upload podcasts for work purposes.

Digital Identity Graph
10 of my most frequently-used online services, mapped on White’s grid structure

Historically, however, this picture would look very different. Today, most of my public posts on Twitter relate to work, however my account was far more active in previous years when used more for personal reasons. Nevertheless, I visit the service multiple times every day, keeping up with my curated feed of friends, journalists, artists, and so forth.


Word count: 299

Author: Xavier Voigt-Hill

I write words. Sometimes say them on the radio too.

12 thoughts on “UOSM2008: Digital literacy and self-evaluation”

  1. Hi Xav! Firstly, great blog post – I enjoyed reading. I particularly like your mapping using the tool and your 10 most common web uses. It was really interesting to see! Using this, I am intrigued to see you find yourself as a “Visitor” on Spotify – why do you think this is? Is there anything you could do, or indeed want to do, to improve this? In a similar vein, you highlight “collaboration” in the self-test as in area you want to improve in. How do you think you can do that?

    1. Thanks Tom!

      The reasoning behind the Spotify assessment was twofold: compared to previous years, my use of it is solely personal rather than for any work purposes, and I didn’t particularly feel that my music consumption through it is part of any sort of community or leaving a social footprint. However, you’ve prompted me to think more about its playlisting and sharing mechanics. One of my favourite features is the ability to follow friends and see their listening habits, and I do regularly create playlists for friends and the public as well as myself, so perhaps this does make me a bit more of a resident here!

      On the collaboration note, I feel most of my Web usage in these situations is to facilitate offline collaboration – it often seems far more effective to meet up in person to organise stuff rather than have an asynchronous text or email conversation, for example. Certainly, tools like Google Docs are integral to how I do any work at all – as in the map you featured in your blog, it really should have made it onto mine – but I hope the collaborative learning atmosphere we’ll be fostering together throughout this module introduces me to new ways of working efficiently with others in the online space.

      1. Hi Xav – thanks for the reply! I understand where you are coming from regarding your personal assessment of Spotify, but I did feel you were being a bit harsh on yourself! So I think it’s good you can consider the playlist curation as furthering your residency. This conversation fed in to my reflection about how ambiguity in defining the two terms is clear.

        On the second point, I too find myself using the Web to help offline collaboration as well as on, so I am looking forward to this module in that respect.


  2. Hi Xav, a great post!
    After using the self-test, I also found that I consume Facebook much more than I create content for it therefore, participation and collaboration are both areas I would like to improve too. What activities would you like to participate and collaborate more in on the web? I think I also put ‘4’ down for managing privacy online, but privacy I have found is the one thing people who I would consider ‘visitors’, advocate so much about; perhaps ‘visitors’ can see the real-life consequences of wrong-doing in the resident’s online world.
    A common theme across these blog posts is that there’s some apps used only for work purposes. Would you say you are a visitor to Spotify, YouTube & Facebook because you spend so much of your time doing work – essentially opposite to ‘commuting’ to work?

    1. Thanks Adam!

      I’d definitely like to become a more active contributor to online communities once again – as mentioned in the post in the context of Twitter usage, over the last few years I’ve certainly gone from perhaps posting for the sake of posting (very residential, you could say) to using a number of online services like forums and social networks primarily to consume content and gather information. Trying to give back to these communities and work with others to further collective understanding seems like the right thing to do, so hopefully this module will foster some good habits.

      On that work/personal divide, I would be inclined to agree. When counting the Groups product separately, I feel my usage of Facebook is more like my usage of YouTube and Spotify in that it’s for leisurely consumption and not particularly where I create or contribute content or do work, unlike Groups, Google Docs, and the like. That said, Tom’s comment above has me thinking about Spotify usage more as a resident, and in previous years I have used it for institutional creation purposes which just goes to show how time-dependent and flexible these depictions can be.

  3. Hi Xavier,

    I enjoyed reading your first post and I liked the clear way you presented the results of your self-test and the mapping diagram from Jisc.

    I think it’s interesting that in your self-test you don’t have much experience practicing managing online privacy and security and that you have said that the areas you want to focus on are collaboration and participation. Do you believe that in the array of digital literacy skills that managing privacy is one of the least important? Or do you think that its difficult to get experience managing privacy?

    Your diagram was interesting as you have placed twitter in between the resident and visitor mark and say that throughout the years you used to be active but now you post less. It’s interesting to see that you have done your diagram in the context of the last few years. Whereas a lot of people (me included) have done it within the last 3 months. Do you think the mapping process is too time/context dependent?


    1. Thanks Luke!

      On the privacy/security note, I’d probably go as far as saying the opposite as it’s absolutely vital to be clued up regarding these matters. The score from this aspect of the self-test is largely a reflection on how I deal with this in practice rather than in theory. I use a password manager and consider myself to have a good grasp on what to be wary of online (and, touch wood, this has served me well so far), however I know I let myself down on silly little details like forgetting to log out of Facebook on shared computers, not always turning on two-factor authentication, and not properly paying attention to the privacy options when posting on social media.

      My diagram is really just a reflection of how I was feeling with my Web usage last Monday! If I’d done it four years ago, perhaps, Twitter would probably have occupied the entire thing, but I’ve really shifted my usage since by just posting less and paying far more attention to curating a useful feed. In the last few months alone I’ve unfollowed hundreds of accounts to make my feed more pertinent, and this has made using it seem less like a time-consuming hassle and more of something that yields useful information whenever I use it. So, to return from that tangent, I certainly do think the process heavily depends on context! I like how White’s approach affords a fluidity to use cases and knowledge without just relying on age-based stereotypes, and I’ll certainly be looking to keep track of how my mapping evolves over the coming months as the module progresses and my time at university comes to an end.

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