Digital literacy

Digital literacy, interactive literacy, socio-technological literacy – many names for one of the bigger challenges of technological development. As the role of technology in society grows, the ability of the layman to understand the implications of its use becomes a significant social variable.

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DuckDuckGo, the provider of a search engine that doesn’t track its users (see my earlier blog post), did a study about how users believe the “Private browsing” feature of their browser works:

Despite Private Browsing being one of the most commonly known and used privacy features, we find that most people misunderstand the privacy protections it provides.

Once again a reminder* how the digital literacy of the average user may be at a far lower level than commonly anticipated in design processes.

(*even when taken with the proverbial grain of salt, given the marketing-related motivation and methodological limitations mentioned in the PDF)

via WDRL

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There is a lot of interesting analysis and recommendation in the “Growing up digital” report from the UK’s Children’s Commissioner referenced in this article – and the simplified terms and conditions (that nobody ever reads) are only the most obvious of its gems – , but the truly interesting aspect is that it is not only children that lack the digital literacy required to understand what using “free services” on the web implies:

according to the report, only people with postgraduate levels of education could properly understand Instagram’s terms and conditions.

Similarly, the Commission’s policy recommendations could easily be extended to literacy work for the general (adult) public.

In particular, the second recommendation (write terms and conditions that children understand) would be of great benefit: just as accessibility features in a website improve usability for everybody regardless of their abilities, making terms and conditions simple to understand would improve their understandability for everybody regardless of age.

Seriously: how many of grown up Instagram users are aware of the few examples bolded by the Quartz editors here? These are (a small excerpt from) the rules under which millions of people upload their private pictures to the internet every day.

via The Engine Room

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