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Digital skills, unlocking the Information society

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Abstract

Please feel free to request a copy! Digital Skills systematically discusses the skills or literacies needed in the use of digital media, primarily computers and the Internet. Following the work of van Dijk's The Deepening Divide: Inequality in the Information Society, it uses conceptual analysis and empirical observations to show what digital skills are, how they are distributed, how skill inequalities develop, and how these inequalities can be remedied by designers, educators, policymakers, and different types of Internet users.
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... These are all, of course, commonly proposed as "digital media-literacy skills" we should all adopt while navigating the Internet. Various primers have been written about the skills necessary to search effectively online, and the strategies necessary to ensure that larger sections of society acquire these skills (see, e.g., Nentwich & Konig, 2012;van Deursen & van Dijk, 2014). Even so, we provide a fresh reason to pursue these skills-for the sake of reducing our epistemic dependence on the bent testimony of search engine algorithms. ...
... She discusses how, for instance, a search with the term "black girls" is more likely to return sexually explicit content as compared to a similar search for "white girls" (Noble, 2018). Other scholars have also provided evidence that search engines disproportionately promote paid content (and make it harder to distinguish sponsored listings from non-sponsored ones), limit our exposure to points of view that differ from our own, and promote sensationalizing content that is more likely to "generate clicks" (Diaz, 2008;Grimmelmann, 2011;Vaidhyanathan, 2012;Verma et al., 2020). Furthermore, we know that many contemporary organizations devote considerable time and resources to "search engine optimization"-to manipulate their website designs such that they might feature higher up on Google's search results. ...
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Search engines are important contemporary sources of information and contribute to shaping our beliefs about the world. Each time they are consulted, various algorithms filter and order content to show us relevant results for the inputted search query. Because these search engines are frequently and widely consulted, it is necessary to have a clear understanding of the distinctively epistemic role that these algorithms play in the background of our online experiences. To aid in such understanding, this paper argues that search engine algorithms are providers of “bent testimony”—that, within certain contexts of interactions, users act as if these algorithms provide us with testimony—and acquire or alter beliefs on that basis. Specifically, we treat search engine algorithms as if they were asserting as true the content ordered at the top of a search results page—which has interesting parallels with how we might treat an ordinary testifier. As such, existing discussions in the philosophy of testimony can help us better understand and, in turn, improve our interactions with search engines. By explicating the mechanisms by which we come to accept this “bent testimony,” our paper discusses methods to help us control our epistemic reliance on search engine algorithms and clarifies the normative expectations one ought to place on the search engines that deploy these algorithms.
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... The investigation of the main keywords associated with digital skills has revealed that information literacy, ICT, communication, collaboration, digital content creation, research and decision-making skill are the most representative. In a structured way, the existing literature groups these skills in technological, cognitive, and social (Ng, 2012) or, more extensively, into operational, formal, information Internet, strategic, communication and content creation (van Dijk & van Deursen, 2014). In time, the literature has become richer in frameworks, and prolific authors have improved their results. ...
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... Firstly, we always encounter the issue of delimiting which digital tasks or practices are considered essential at a given point of history and social context, which replicates a top-down paternalistic logic: institutions and bodies establish which skills are required (Sefton-Green, et al., 2009). Likewise, these competencies are everchanging and, therefore, it is very difficult to establish a consensus and a stable-in-time theoretical model: for example, van Dijk, van Deursen and others have changed their approach substantially over time (van Dijk and van Deursen, 2014;van Laar et al., 2020). Also, the stabilisation of certain means of measurement in order to provide for comparative preparation of time series makes digital skills indices obsolete very quickly, as there is no strong theoretical model to relate these competence sets or indices with socially relevant ways of social participation or inclusion: in fact, the connection between digital inclusion and social inclusion is a highly topical academic concern (Reisdorf and Rhinesmith, 2020). ...
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Chapter
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