Digital Illiteracy: A Global Issue (Part 4)

Changing Expectations of Digital Literacy

There are some prevalent designs of digital literacies; Steve Wheeler’s mind map (2011); Doug Belshaw’s 8 elements (2011); and as a combination of multiple information-technology (IT) literacies. This blog does not attempt to redefine or evaluate these designs, but rather, explore digital literacy as a Web evolution.

The Evolution of Digital (il)Literacy

As both an economical (work) and a social (play) endeavour, our interaction with the Web has changed as it has evolved, also changing what would be the expectations of digital literacy. Eshet (2002, in Bawden 2008) promotes Gilster’s concept of digital literacy as a mindset; a way of thinking about new technologies and their applications (1997, in Bawden 2008). This pushed the idea that the digital space was not just about finding things, but also required ‘the ability to use these things in your life’ (1997 p.1-2, in Bawden 2008).

Web 1.0

Paul Gilster is attributed with introducing the concept of digital literacy in 1997 (Bawden 2008) and it was intended to recognise the general practice of understanding and using information from a variety of digital resources. Bawden (2001, in Bawden 2008) lists the associated skills as knowledge assembly, retrieval skills, making informed judgements about validity and completeness, reading non-sequential and dynamic media, awareness of source networks, and using filters and agents.

As digital literacy, this requires competence in;


These skills are relevant for Web 1.0 activity in contemporary digital spaces. What Bawden (2008) emphasises is, that the attributes outlast the technologies and the applications.

Web 2.0

The social Web is attributed with an organisation around people rather than the Web 1.0 organisation around topics (Boyd and Ellison 2007, in Knobel and Lankshear 2008).

Bawden adds a Web 2.0 attribute to his ‘skill’ list of “being comfortable with publishing and communicating information” (2001, in Bawden 2008 p.20), along with reference to attributes listed by Shapiro and Hughes (1996, in Bawden 2008) including ‘understanding the production and social significance of (digital media, the) ability to (digitally publish, and the) understanding of new (technologies and their) benefits’ (p.23).

Web 2.0 created a paradigm requiring users to participate in digital spaces in ‘socially recognized ways of generating, communicating and negotiating meaningful content as members of discourses’ (Knobel and Lankshear 2008 p.249). This evolution includes concepts of the digital self, networking and privacy issues. DiSessa (2001, in Knobel and Lankshear 2008) also identifies an emergence of a social Web practice of re-use; an increased replicability of media in digital spaces.

Web 2.0 builds on Web 1.0 in demanding attributes of generating, communicating and negotiating meaning in socially recognisable methods. As digital literacy, this requires competence in;


Web 2.0 modality has been enhanced with the development of mobile technology. More than five billion people, over 60% of the world population, use a mobile phone (Statista, 2018). This mobility creates Web affordances that increase its integration into everyday social life.

Web 3.0

The increased usability outcomes of the semantic Web should help reduce social digital illiteracy. However, as Web 2.0 and 3.0 create new paradigms of job creation, demand on digital literacy as a work attribute increases. The development of artificial intelligence and other emergent computer-to-computer technologies changes the expectations of work roles as well as evolving day-to-day activities through an integration of Internet-of-things (IoT). The speed and capacity of data exchange between almost any digital entity with an unique identifier (UID) (Rouse 2015) underpins the digital literacy demands of this Web evolution;


Web 4.0

The next evolution of Web is a cooperative paradigm between humans and technology. This will involve a concurrency of activity by both participants and development includes a focus on neurotechnology (Flat World Business c.2011). As a symbiosis, interaction will also involve human emotion, with AI interpretation of human feeling and non-verbal communications (Flat World Business c.2011). Web 4.0 goals of personalised agents and increased accessibility would hopefully eliminate some existing elements of digital illiteracy. Increased efficiency would also affect semantic Web literacies. Berners-Lee (2009) also describes Web 4.0 evolution as a linked-Web;

Unlike the search paradigm of Web 1.0, information in the symbiotic Web will find you (Nath and Iswary 2015). Evolution of digital literacy will see it evolve from a survival skill (Bawden 2008) to an integrated element of everyday lifestyle. I would perceive then, that the current challenge of 4.0, as a digital literacy frame, is;


How we as humans choose to utilise new technologies will become the prevalent form of digital literacy.



Bawden, D 2008, ‘Origins and concepts of digital literacy’, in C Lankshear & M Knobel (eds), Digital literacies: concepts, policies and practices, Peter Lang Publishing, New York, pp. 17–32.

Berners-Lee, T 2009, The next Web of open, linked data, YouTube, retrieved 18 September 2018, <>

Chamero-Premuzic, T 2015, How different are your online and offline personalities?, retrieved 11 September 2018,

Flat World Business c.2011, Web 1.0 vs Web 2.0 vs Web 3.0 vs Web 4.0 vs Web 5.0 – A bird’s eye on the evolution and definition, retrieved 18 September 2018,

Knobel, M and Lankshear C 2008, Digital literacies: concepts, policies and practices, Peter Lang Publishing, New York.

Nath, K and Iswary, R 2015, ‘What Comes after Web 3.0? Web 4.0 and the Future’, International Conference on Computing and Communication Systems, retrieved 18 September 2018,

Rouse, M 2015, Web 2.0, retrieved 18 September 2018,

Statista 2018, Mobile phone users worldwide 2015-2020, retrieved 20 September 2018,

UNESCO 2018, A global framework of reference on digital literacy skills for indicator 4.4.2: Percentage of youth/adults who have achieved at least a minimum level of proficiency in digital literacy skills, retrieved 11 September 2018,

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization 2018, Building tomorrow’s digital skills – what conclusions can we draw from international comparative indicators? retrieved 18 September 2018,


Title image: A Daughter Divided by Alyssa L. Miller (CC BY 2.0); binary-code-woman-face-view-1327492 by Geralt (CC0)

Man in despair gif: man-despair-problem-null-one-65049 by Geralt (CC0); wait-what-does-that-mean, image, retrieved 19 September 20,; Spike_”That’s_crazy_talk!”_S6E8, image, retrieved 19 September 2018,

Dial-up: dial-up connection by Christiaan Colen (CC BY 2.0)

Social: mobile-phone-smartphone-keyboard-1917737 by Geralt (CC0)

Binary: binary-code-binary-binary-system-475664 by Geralt (CC0)

Robot learning: Artificial Intelligence & AI & Machine Learning by Mike MacKenzie (CC BY 2.0)


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