Network literacy

3.1 McClure’s and Rheingold’s views

The internet is a massive network of networks. It connects millions of computers from all over the world, so that they are able to communicate. To be network literate you need to have developed the skills to not only use the network, but to also have the skills necessary to interpret the information the network, or this case the internet, is communicating for you. McClure (1997) described network literacy as ‘the ability to identify, access and use electronic information from the network’ and he argues that an elite few are typically network literate. The implications of the later, he states, will be a gulf between these network literate and those who are not and the level of empowerment network literacy can bring.

Howard Rhiengold on the other hand, states in his ‘Network Literacy video series‘ that network literacy encompasses so much more. To be network literate, a person needs to have knowledge of the technical aspects of the internet. He argues that we should know how the internet works, how networks can grow and how information flows to take advantage of technological innovations the internet can provide. He also goes on to states that ‘understanding the technical underpinning of communication is not just a matter of engineering, but also a question of freedom. Not strictly technical, but also social. When it comes to the underlying code that moves the bits around, the structure of the net is not just about programming, but about the location of control’

The internet is certainly growing at an extraordinary rate. The two way traffic of information it once afforded on inception is definitely an antiquated view of its potential. The internet is able to connect groups of users on a global field and those who are able to access this field, and take advantage of the wealth of information it serves, have an amazing asset in their grasp. Network literacy is not just the ability to access the information. To gain meaning from the internet, through the development of skills that enable a deep understanding of how to use the network to its full potential, must be what a fully network literate user is today.  To gain that meaning there should be an ability to understand what the internet is able to do with the information passed through it. With that comes innovative thoughts, developments and growth.

McClure, Charles R. (1997) Media literacy in the information age: ‘Network literacy in an Electronic Society’  New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers. 403-410

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