Software Literacy as a Vital Digital Literacy in a Software-Saturated World

Software Literacy as a Vital Digital Literacy in a Software-Saturated World

Craig Hight (University of Newcastle, Australia) and Elaine Khoo (The University of Waikato, New Zealand)
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 14
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3479-3.ch113

Abstract

Software mediates almost every aspect of everyday life. None of these tools are ‘neutral'. They embody social and cultural assumptions about their use and all have particular values embedded in their interfaces and affordances. This article proposes the notion of ‘software literacy' to highlight a neglected aspect of digital literacies, and a key means of conceptualising the skills and understandings needed for people to be critical and creative users of software in today's software saturated culture. This contribution argues for the relevancy of software literacy as deeply intertwined with people's engagement with software and how it influences the way people come to understand, represent, generate, and critique knowledge.
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Background

The proliferation of digital and networked technologies is an expanding and accelerating feature of modern societies and can be predicted to continue to rise and impact on almost every sphere of human living. This trend is reiterated in UNESCO’s latest policy document calling for all countries to mobilize the potential of digital including mobile technologies “to strengthen education systems, knowledge dissemination, information access, quality and effective learning, and more effective service provision” if they are to achieve the aspirational goal of inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning by 2030 (UNESCO, 2015, p.37). Embedded within any digital device, software operates at multiple levels in contemporary life; as applications and platforms which we engage to facilitate and augment a host of social, economic and political practices, and less obviously as part of the taken for granted infrastructure of globalized cultural and economic exchange. We argue that software remains a conceptually neglected component of digital literacies, an often taken for granted aspect of the digital world which needs to be recognized as a distinctive part of contemporary literacies with its own dynamics and qualities which enable and constrain other literacies. Many practices within contemporary life, including those aggregated under the umbrella of digital, media and information practices are now ‘coded’ in the sense that they only exist and are constituted through programming code (Kitchin & Dodge, 2011).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Software Platform: A coherent programming environment or system which supports applications. Examples include operating systems such as iOS or Android, or social media platforms such as Facebook.

Software Literacy: A person’s expertise in understanding, applying, problem solving and critiquing software in pursuit of particular learning and professional goals.

Software Application: A computer program designed to perform a set of tasks or functions. Common everyday examples range from an ‘app’ on a smartphone, to desktop computer programs such as a web browser.

Digital Literacy: An umbrella term for a number of competencies, skills and understandings associated with digital infrastructural technologies (we argue software literacy falls within this same umbrella).

Software: Machine readable instructions which directs a computer's processor to perform specific operations. For everyday software applications, these instructions are put into operation as users run an application on any digital, networked, or mobile device.

Affordance: A person’s perceived opportunity to utilise a particular tool for action, for example, a doorknob is for turning. Within software, these are typically organised through user interfaces.

Pedagogy: Study and practice of teaching.

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