Monday, July 13, 2020

Applying Rheingold’s literacies in a newer digital age

Howard Rheingold, a well-known critic and speaker of modern technology, is very notable on his ideas behind 21st century literacies.  His ideas behind essential bases of social media and the web fall into five literacy categories:

  • Attention
  • Participation
  • Collaboration
  • Network awareness
  • Critical consumption (crap detection)

Each of these categories, according to Rheingold, help us to understand the importance of how we react online in the ever-changing realm of technology that we are in today, and while these ideas were established by Rheingold back in 2010, there is definitely a great amount of relevance with them today.

The importance behind the theory:

After reading Rheingold’s article explaining and describing his ideas, I definitely feel that his points are extremely valid.  Not only does he explain that each part of the theory are separate entities, but he also states that each of them flow into the other.  The idea of showcasing each area of exploration when it comes to technology and that each category is essential to understand due to our constant technological advancements shows just how brilliant Rheingold is.  With this being said, I feel that educating oneself on what each area is and how it applies to social media and the web today is essential to fully grasp his concept and consume media to its full potential.


This area, according to Rheingold himself, is the most important area of interest in his theory.  His claims on how technology can interrupt real-life circumstances or one’s attention slew and exposed to a multi-tasking culture can both hinder and cause one to not fully be in one thing or another.  By only giving a part of oneself to a certain conversation or interest, it causes harm due to that person not fully grasping what they are wanting to grasp and simply only consuming what they are intending to at a fraction.  Because of this, Rheingold suggests being fully in or out of whatever it is being consumed in order to make the most of it.


This literacy directly correlates with attention in the sense that interaction is a key component of consuming media (or anything, for that matter).  By ensuing that creators know how to create or individuals know how to use media and interact with it, participation is made easier and others can now understand it better, which is the basis of using social media and technology.


This 21st literacy is one that I feel has never been more relevant than today.  By creators and users coming together all over different parts of the world, it allows for new ideas and new content to be created that we may have never seen.  The diversity of collaboration and what it brings to the table is something that Rheingold emphasizes and is extremely important.  Whether it be a collaboration of people or platforms, the possibilities of what there is to create or consume is endless and has the potential to help and reach multiple audiences.

Network Awareness:

This point, though a little more difficult to understand, is one that is still very relevant in every sense today.  Rheingold essentially states that in order for us to fully be able to use a platform in the way that it is intended to be used, we must first understand how it works in all senses.  Whether that simply be in a social aspect or a more in-depth technological aspect, network awareness is one that needs to be achieved for users to experience it fully.

Critical Consumption (Crap Detection):

Out of all of the literacies that Rheingold mentioned, this is the one that I feel best encapsulates when an individual can fully declare themselves as knowing how to understand media.  While all of the previous points are essential to interacting with social media and technology platforms, I feel as if using this one to understand what is true and relevant online is a quick identifier as to if someone knows how to navigate and use the web.

Relevance of Rheingold’s literacies:

Though his theory of the social media/web literacies that Rheingold created were established almost a decade ago, I feel as if they have never been more relevant.  Each literacy is one that is equally as important as the next, and all are essential to understand the other.  Though there are only five, I feel like they are the essentials and would almost go as far as to call them the “Big Five” of media.  The broad spectrum of the literacies and the fact that each of them both stand alone and work simultaneously is what makes me enjoy and agree with them so much, and I definitely feel as if Rheingold explained these literacies in a way that will make them relevant for a long time.

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