Digitalization has led to a rapid transformation of the media ecology which is characterized by the buzzwords of multimedia, multiplatform, multiformat, multilingual and multichannel. Digital convergence has changed the traditional modus operandi in our personal, professional and socio-economic and cultural life. It is generally believed that computer-mediated communication heralds ‘a future that is both utopian and dystopian, in that the human experience will change dramatically.
The consequent ineluctable topography, enabled by digitally-networked wireless and wired technology, provides ubiquitous, interactive and engaging media experience. It has accelerated the generation of massive streams of user-generated content (UGC), particularly by the younger generation. The incessant avalanche of content in the form of discourses, news, information, images, audio and videos from consumers-turned -producers, juxtaposed alongside the content of journalistic, educational, commercial, organizational, institutional and government websites, has overwhelmed the citizenry.
It is unrealistic and impossible to regulate the big data which has inundated our society which is described as the information society, creative economy and knowledge society. ‘Self-regulation is flawed, but statutory regulation or even co-regulation of “the press” is unrealistic in the digital age when it is no longer clear what is journalism. Self-regulation of the press is flawed, but reform is no easy matter’. European and national legislation suffers a similar fate as it is beset with the ‘difficulty and inefficiency of passing and enforcing regulation relating to the media by reason of its size, transnationality and mutating nature’ (EC – Final Report, 2009)
In such a regulatory vacuum deconstructing and decoding media, representation is problematic even for the discerning educated. Lasswell’s classic questions: ‘What is what? What comes from where? Who produces what? Who is who?’ are relevant. (Lasswell, Harold Dwight,1948) How can content be checked for accuracy or comments for fairness or objectivity? Is media literacy a substitute for media regulation or simply a shift from protectionism to empowerment? A probable solution is media education.
How conducive are UK’s political environment for media literacy and digital literacy? Buckingham identifies two roadblocks, both related to policy; first, the marginalization of media literacy resulting from the preference for digital literacy as opposed to media literacy for the primary school curriculum and second, the option for cultural policy, rather than educational policy as stated by ‘Digital Britain’ report.
However, the UK government actively promotes the digital economy and stresses the importance of a corresponding education system. The mantra for this was formulated in the government’s technocratic report entitled ‘The Digital Britain Final Report, 2009’. In its 2015 UK ‘Digital Strategy – the next frontier in our digital revolution’ the UK government has claimed that ‘digital is in everything, digital skills are increasingly vital for everyone’s lives where most jobs over the next 20 years will involve some level of digital skills but has failed to make any reference to higher order thinking skills when suggesting to make digital skills our education system, and that people can keep their skills updated throughout their lives.’
It stresses on the importance of digital skills to meet the demands of industrial society as the government’s National Report aims to achieve four objectives: (a) to inspire and enable individuals to develop their capabilities to the highest potential levels and to contribute effectively to society and achieve personal fulfillment; (b) to increase knowledge and understanding and to foster their application to the benefit of the economy and society; (c) to serve the needs of an adaptable, sustainable, knowledge-based economy at local, regional and national levels; and (d) to play a major role in shaping a democratic, civilized, inclusive society. The economy currently has a mismatch of employment skills to requirements.
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