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Network Literacy

Network Literacy is a term that has evolved over the course of the last century. In 1948, Claude Shannon’s developed the ‘Information Theory’ that explored how the transmission of information could be quantified using logarithmic mathematics to measure the degree of entropy. The Information Theory has been influential in the development of digital systems over the course of the 20th century, more specifically systems that encode and decode information over a network. In 1994, academic researcher Charles McClure articulated the need for individuals to become network literate as a means to benefit the personal and professional lives of individuals and ensure social equity with regards to information access – as digital technologies continue to evolve. There were clear economic impacts in the late 20th century as the nodes within digital networks grew exponentially, however, as these networks continued to grow and evolve the social impacts become apparent. It became clear that utilising networks to source digital information is only one element of what makes a network literate individual. Reed’s Law states that the value of a social network grows exponentially when scaled, meaning the concepts of a network have clearly shifted from the binary/transmission origins of the mid 20th century to the social implications of the 21st century. Howard Rheingold stated that “What you know or don’t know about how networks work can influence how much freedom, wealth and participation you and your children have in the rest of this century.” (Howard Rheingold, 2011). Network Literacy now affords individuals the ability to connect with and benefit from the experiences and expertise of individuals around the world – the value derived from a network is now creating a landscape of ideas agile enough to impact the lives of people today and create ripples within the networks of individuals tomorrow. Network Literacy is the ability to navigate, access, critically analyse and form knowledge in an information-rich economy. 



Image Credit: ElisaRiva, Network, Pixabay, Creative Commons CC0.

Network Literacy Part Two. (2018). YouTube. Retrieved 30 July 2018, from



2 comments on “Network LiteracyAdd yours →

    1. Thanks Claire,

      Shannon’s theory is really interesting and the link with Allen Turing in creating analogue computers. Such amazing minds also watched the Imitation Game after reading about the Scientific Revolutions in one of our earlier readings.
      I listened to:
      – a short podcast with George Siemens unpacking Connectivism
      – and also watch an ’80s as!’ clip with Albert Bandura on Social Cognitive Theory (mentioned in an Alec Couros reading)

      Thanks for sharing Claire have already started listening to the podcast.


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