Seminar: Developing digital literacy by mapping controversies: Revealing echo chambers and the machinery of the internet

Academic IT has links with the  Learning and New Technologies Research Group in the Department of Education. The group organises a programme of research seminars with invited speakers; the next one is on Tuesday 9th May:

Developing digital literacy by mapping controversies: Revealing echo chambers and the machinery of the internet

Dr Thomas Hillman,
Learning and IT Group, Department of Education, Communication and Learning, University of Gothenburg

May 9th: 16:00-17:30
Seminar Room D, Department of Education, 15 Norham Gardens

This talk will discuss ways that engaging students in a process of systematic mapping of online socio-scientific controversies, such as fracking and vaccines, can help to reveal the actors, structures and machinery at play as controversial issues are performed on the Internet. It will be based on work from a classroom intervention project that aims to investigate what it means to learn about science and engage with issues of technoscientific innovation in a world that relies heavily on digitized information. Scientific findings, arguments and claims from different fields are available through digital media raising issues of concern and controversy that are not only part of science-in-the-making but also generative of new dilemmas in the lives of citizens. The project introduces to classrooms and investigates a digital method where rather than browsing the web in an unstructured fashion to gain information about a particular controversial issue, students use tools to track their online movements as they search for information and then graph or map the resulting network of interacting actors. This invites students to engage with the complexity of issues as they are performed online, to investigate the relationships between actors of differing viewpoints, and to reflect on the technologies of the internet and their role in how controversies are performed.

Thomas Hillman is Associate Professor of Information Technology and Learning at the University of Gothenburg. With a background in the design of products and environments for learning, his research investigates the ongoing reconfiguration of technology for learning in both formal and informal settings with a focus on the mutually constitutive relationship between the development of technologies and the transformation of epistemic practices. Thomas’ work to understand the role of tools in learning processes draws on sociocultural perspectives on learning, interaction and development, and on socio-material ways of conceptualizing the relationship between technology and use.

In recent years, Thomas’ work has focused on the blurring boundaries between online and offline activities in many aspects of contemporary life. Much of his research relies on extensive use of video-recordings and digital records of the ways people interact with technologies and Thomas works to adapt and develop methods and tools for gaining access to and making sense of these activities.

He is currently a visiting fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute where he is investigating ways to identify and unpack trajectories of epistemic development in online activities over time through the combination of micro level interaction analysis and ethnographic approaches with computational approaches.

Image credit: The Echo Chamber by Hugh Macleod. Photo CC BY-SA 2.0 Tara Hunt via Flickr

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