Technology, it seems, is finally being democratised in the digital age.
A new book has been published detailing the ways that people are using technology to read news and explore the world.
And the book, The News Literacy Revolution, is the first of its kind in the field of technology literacy, which is a term coined by sociologist Professor Richard Wiseman to describe the widespread and growing use of technology in newsreading.
‘The idea of news literacy is one that is still very much in its infancy and has not been fully addressed in the wider scientific literature,’ says Professor Wiseman, who is the director of the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Science Literacy.
‘I have been looking at it as an area where there is a lot of potential to see how we can apply some of the best approaches we have in the scientific literature to help understand the role of technology on the way that newsreading is being made, the way news literacy relates to literacy, and the role technology plays in the literacy of people who consume news.’
The News Libracy Revolution uses some of Wiseman’s own research to analyse how technology is changing how people read the news and how it relates to people’s literacy levels.
It focuses on the digital world, from newsreading apps to social media, and on how these technologies are impacting on the news.
‘As technology becomes increasingly important for people to do what they do, it is becoming more of a source of information to them, which brings us to the question of how news literacy might change,’ says Prof Wiseman.
‘We see that people who are not good readers are reading news at much higher rates than those who are.
And so, when you have an app like Feedly, you can see that even those who aren’t good readers, or don’t know how to read or do maths, are reading very often.’
The result is that news literacy, at least for the most part, is becoming a thing of the past.’
People who are already good readers of news are now reading at much lower rates, and so they are less likely to read all the news they might normally read.
‘In some sense, that means that news that they might otherwise have missed, like the latest health news, is now being read by them.
And news that is not a good fit for their interests is also being read.’
What makes a good reader?
‘A reader can read information without having to memorise it or do a lot more than reading a few words, which could be helpful for people who don’t read very much.’
‘A writer can read content without memorising it or doing a lot less than writing a few lines of text.
‘What makes a great reader is the ability to read information in a way that people will be interested in reading more and more.’
Prof Wisman says that technology literacy is becoming an increasingly important area of study for scientists studying the effects of technology, especially as technology continues to evolve in the world around us.
‘Science literacy is something that has been a challenge for the scientific community for quite a long time,’ he says.
‘It’s a big challenge in itself because the knowledge of how technology affects the world is so vast and complex, it’s hard to know what to look for.
‘So a lot has been made of this notion that we know that when people are exposed to information, they learn, but the question is, is it learning or is it becoming more relevant to their lives?’
This is where technology literacy comes in, to understand how people are learning about information.
‘If we can look at how technology interacts with the human brain, we can see how that can be useful in helping us understand how information works, and how that might change how we read and how we think about the world.’
In the book The News Learning Revolution, Professor Wisemen outlines some of his research and what he sees as the potential of technology to shape the way we understand the world, and what might happen as the world becomes increasingly connected.
‘A lot of the research in this area has been focused on the role that information technology plays with our everyday lives, in the form of news, sports, and entertainment,’ he explains.
‘But we know from studies that technology can also have a profound impact on our everyday experience of the world and on our relationships with others.
‘Technology has also been shown to have a very strong influence on our emotional states.
We have seen a number of studies that show that the more people use technology, the more they tend to become emotional and to react to their environment in a more negative way, and vice versa.
‘This can be seen as a positive effect because technology is a tool that can help us change the way people react to our world and to the world we live in.’
There is also research that suggests that the use of technologies, even if it is only for short periods of time, can have a significant impact on how we