Digital Competences (II). José Manuel Pérez Tornero: Criteria for Media Literacy Levels

Notes from the course Competencias digitales: conocimientos, habilidades y actitudes para la Sociedad Red (Digital competences: Knowledge, skills and attitudes for the Network Society), organized by the CUIMPB, and held in Barcelona, Spain, on July 16th and 17h, 2009. More notes on this event: competencias_digitales_cuimpb_2009.

Criteria for Media Literacy Levels
José Manuel Pérez Tornero

How do we face investing in digital competences when we are not even investing in education at large?

In general, we practice a contextual hypocrisy, where, depending on the topic or the context, we ask for more and more transparent information, or we just forget about the piece of news. Same happens quite often at the educational level: we ask for more implication of politicians on Education, on ICTs and Education, etc. but we forget, for instance, what happens at the reading (as in reading books) level. And the impact is a chain of events: reading is related with the content industry, and the content industry with the e-content industry. We need a broader and, specially, much deeper scope and vision of things.

Though there actually is a social media production, the entertainment industry is still very powerful as is the gaming industry. In Spain, notwithstanding, both industries are quite small. This has to be taken into account when designing e.g. policies for e-content: is there content? is it produced in the local economy? how important is the content local industry?

This is not (only) a technological change, but a cultural, a linguistic, a social one.

Forecast: DTT as a gate towards the convergence of platforms, ending up with the Internet diffusing all content and thus requiring special digital competences.

In the last 30 years there has been an evolution towards introducing media literacy — or media education — in the syllabuses of formal education. That was a need so that youngsters could understand the culture they are living in.

Many things we’re seeing on the Internet is a replication of the informal education we’ve given our kids, based on the lack of privacy that (a) the consumption society and (b) the surveillance-based political system

One of the main goals of Media Literacy should be encouraging a critical, participatory attitude toward the media. And also try and bridge the divide between the educational system and the labour market, the productive economy, the industry, as increasingly it is culture and society that are shaped by Economics and not the other way round.

There is an urgent need to find media literacy indicators. And these indicators should be used to measure media literacy projects that should be based on some strategies and action lines: definition and context of actions, public awareness, cultural change, etc.

New paradigms, like media literacy, have to be accompanied by technical changes, semiotic changes, new ideologies and an organized socialization.

Components of media literacy:

  • Media education
  • Participation and active citizenship
  • Critical and creative abilities and skills

As important as having good language skills, it is important to have a critical attitude towards that language, to know grammar, to reflect about it, as it is the only way that this language could be used strategically.

Strategic goals

  • Develop a media literacy policy
  • Link media literacy with technological and economic innovation
  • Boost creativity as an essential part of media literacy
  • Promote media literacy as an instrument of active citizenship
  • Reinforce research and education in media literacy

These strategies have to be accompanied by innovation at all levels.

Expected results:

  • feel comfortable with existing media
  • active use of media
  • use media creatively
  • have a critical approach to media
  • understand the economy of media
  • be aware of copyright

Two dimensions of Media Literacy:

  • Skills: use, understanding, communicate
  • Environment: availability, media education


Emilio Quintana: is there a different degree of competitiveness in Italy than in Spain? A: In terms of property of media, the sector is more concentrated in Italy than in Spain. Emilio Quinana: yes, but the debate about this concentration is higher in Italy than in Spain.

Q: How will the European Commission regulate the media market? Based on protection? based on freedom? A: It is usual to see artificial dychotomies in the debate about media: freedom vs. censorship, protection vs. closure, free software vs. patents, etc. The EU tries to regulate on a self-regulation basis (which does not work) and co-regulation basis: self-regulation enforced ex-post. A better way to regulate, nevertheless, is raising awareness amongst the population of how media works, so that people can understand what they’re seeing.

Q: how do we invest in human capital in media literacy issues? can we trigger change? A: The only possibility to trigger change is to be analytical and critical about the state of the question.

More information


Course on Digital Competences (2009)

If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2009) “Digital Competences (II). José Manuel Pérez Tornero: Criteria for Media Literacy Levels” In ICTlogy, #70, July 2009. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
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3 Comments to “Digital Competences (II). José Manuel Pérez Tornero: Criteria for Media Literacy Levels” »

  1. What an excellent summary of major issues in the current need and evolution of media literacy…

    From the piece, a key in my opinion, “to develop a critical, participatory attitude toward media”. It is essential that folks find ways to balance or comfortably bounce between critical reflection/distance/action and participatory immersion/flow. I’ve met few educators who do it well, but know most advanced media users/producers I know do it constantly and have strong knowledge/skill sets to support each end of the media relationship spectrum and to synthesize them–critical/participatory.

    Perhaps more qualitative research describing such users would help, as well as more profiles of successful ML practices that address these issues (or at least, are analyzed & discussed in terms of the wide range) .

    The differences between regions in political control of media regulation and education development are intriguing to consider in how the movement to integrate and develop media literacy in childhood and adult education. Here in the U.S., we advocates of media literacy education face the challenge of nearly completely de-centralized, local control and a research sector that has not emerged as a leader. Developing indicators for media literacy has been hampered by divisions among researchers and educators over purposes of ML. This vital task of establishing benchmarks and indicators have received less attention than efforts to advocate and establish ML in the trenches to serve our many diverse local educational settings.

    Temple University, Philadelphia, U.S.

  2. Pingback: martin j. ponce (kenami) 's status on Thursday, 16-Jul-09 23:07:57 UTC -

  3. Hi Mike, what a comment! :)

    I would like to add to it that it should be possible – though I find it difficult to make it happen – that measuring media literacy levels could be detached from control and regulation, and be seen, instead, from the development/progress point of view.

    In my latest research on Information Society indicators, I found out that all of its aspects are covered (some of them better than others) except digital literacy (of which I understand media literacy being a part of).

    It’s astonishing that digital skills and digital competences are not measured at all, while we measure broadband coverage or intensity of use of online public services as a way to proxy the stage of digital development in a specific economy.

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