What does it mean to be digital today? For many it means they are connected to a much larger community of colleagues, friends and family than I would have been without digital. Without digital connection I am peripheral at best, isolated at worst. Being digital today means that bits are the currency in which I trade. Some still buy a newspaper every morning. Photographs may still be stored in an old shoe box. Artefacts do not lose their charm or value for many, but secure storage is now the Cloud, and it is synonymous with rapid access to information. The idea of content has shifted to one that is now malleable, negotiable, quickly revised, open to change and repurpose.
The bit of being digital that is set in stone from age three is the absolute awareness that being connected aids their learning, and that connectedness is highly visual and aural, as well as being textual, and includes connection with people as well as information. They have probably also internalised that they can interact creatively with the digital environment and everything in it, to aid their learning. Hence the comparison with learning to speak, in that it is messy, diverse, involves a lot of trial and error and has concepts built and rebuilt from a multitude of influences.
At my institution, the University of the Arts London, we see the value in uncertainty. In many of our courses it is important that our students are in a liminal state for much of the time within which they are not quite sure of what they know. This is a key aspect of the process of creativity and it’s also central to my reframing, or extension of, information literacy. Questioning our self, our motivations and methods, for seeking and validating information is our only chance of maintaining our agency within complexity. Not being afraid of being immersed in complexity requires understanding the value of uncertainty. This is all the more important where we receive information as an effect of our interactions. To ask how what we engage with has arrived in front of us and why we are comfortable with it (in the context of our identity and position) has to be central to what it means to critically evaluate.
To maintain the agency of our students (and ourselves) and not fall into the trap of assuming a ‘natural order’ which just so happens to be our current worldview we must reveal, not simplify, complexity. In tandem with this we must provide the critical tools to navigate complexity without denying it.