Terms of the Digital Age: Realities and Cultural Paradigms

Terms of the Digital Age: Realities and Cultural Paradigms

Kimberly N. Rosenfeld (Cerritos College, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3822-6.ch001
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This chapter defines terms of the digital age as they relate to digital media literacy. The changing landscape of society is demonstrated through the recalibration occurring in media processes and the cultural forms they generate. These conditions have fostered cultural paradigms unique to the digital age: paradigms aligned with either humanistic or capitalist perspectives, and marketing playing a role with respect to this tension. An analysis of two policies in the form of new curricula reveals that more must be done to prepare, protect, and empower a digitally literate citizenry. The chapter closes with an argument that the first step in this direction must involve both establishing digital media literacy as a discipline as well as deepening and extending current media literacy frameworks.
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Digital Media Definitions

Before defining digital media literacy, the notions of a term and of digital media require clarification. At the most fundamental level, a term is a word or phrase used to describe a thing or express a concept. The word term will be used here more broadly to refer to various phenomena of the digital age such as changes to culture, identity, and ontology. In The Medium is the Massage (1967/2005), McLuhan and Fiore define a medium as an extension of some human faculty, either psychic or physical. Their definition recognizes that media extend beyond physical artifacts and products to the less tangible realm of the mind and culture, areas that are examined in this chapter. The definition of digital media must begin with an understanding of the unique advantages of their digital nature. One advantage of digital media is their flexibility in communication due to their scalability: For example, digital media can be accessed with ease across devices and contexts through video streaming. Another advantage is the manner in which they are stored, either as encoded files (MP3 for sound or MP4 for multimedia), on servers (in the cloud), or streamed directly over the Web. Each of these methods provides for a more enduring medium and also makes the portable device a more entrenched actor in virtual life.

Digital environments, however, cannot be accurately characterized without paying careful attention to the multiple, overlapping realities in which the denizens of high-tech societies reside. Real-life reality is the world we live in when we are not logged in to cyberspace, while virtual reality is the reality associated with interacting in and through cyberspace. In its original conception, virtual reality referred to a virtual experience requiring the donning of equipment for moving within 3D virtual environments. This use of the term has largely evolved into references to cyberspace experiences. The idea of reality is further complicated by various interpretations of reality emerging from experiences in the virtual. Such interpretations are different in nature, as illustrated by augmented reality and hyperreality. Augmented reality is a composite presentation of real life augmented by virtual overlays, usually through a smartphone or tablet. Whereas, hyperreality is a psychological state involving virtual experiences that are perceived to be better than real life (Rosenfeld, 2015).

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