Media literacy, digital literacy, digital skills or competences (or even AI-literacy) – whatever you wish to call them, seems to be everyone’s favorite solution.
But what is the problem these skills are a solution to?
Maybe you have heard the PISA study – that is the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment. Every three years it tests 15-year-old students from all over the world in reading, mathematics and science. Well, there is a corresponding study that measures adult skills in the OECD countries. The Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), also known as the Survey of Adult Skills. The Survey measures adults’ proficiency in literacy, numeracy and digital competences. Here is how the importance of digital skills is described in the introductory video from the OECD PIAAC Research Conference.
Here technological skills are as such depicted as a solution to unemployment, poverty and loneliness. So, how can we understand these discourses?
Well, digital technology also is a question of how to organize, control and govern citizens in a desired future society. In many ways, education is about preparing for the future. As such, the connection between educational and sociotechnical anticipation is one where education is always looking to, adapting to, future technologies and future technological society and as such shaping people to fit in a desired future world. Therefore, the notion of skills holds (often hidden) imaginaries of desired future and is also a construction of this particular future.
To contrast the video from PIAAC – this is how the Swedish Trade Union Confederation thought that society would be affected by digitization as early as 1956 (I’m sorry that it’s in Swedish)
Computers have always been seen as much too powerful to be allowed entrance into society without considering their consequences. Thus, the anticipated effects of computerization have been problematized and governed thru educational efforts, in changing ways, throughout modern history—a pedagogical regime that takes life-long learning as a governing ideal. This regime of ubiquitous learning targets everyone, but in different ways.