Major Project – Social Media

What is Social Media?
Andreas Kaplan and Michael Haenlein (2010) define social media as a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content. Social media take on many different forms including: magazines, Internet forums, weblogs, social blogs, micro-blogging, wikis, podcasts, photographs or pictures, video, rating and social bookmarking. Social Media is used by individual, businesses, educators, institutions, journalist, special interest groups; essentially anyone on the internet that has information to share and has internet access available to them. With Hypertext being the “remediation of print” (Bolter, 2001, p.42) and the notion that readers fashion their knowledge, from information supplied by the makers of the site (Kress, 2004), social media sites plays a role in the information creation moving from website hosts to the web users. This empowers the reader like never before in the history of text; readers can create, modify and reply to text on a social media site. To use social media sites, users must be digitally literate to fully appreciate and participate in the vast information sharing/creating sessions that social media offers.

Social Media and Digital Literacy
Digital Literacy is the awareness, attitude and ability of individuals to appropriately use digital tools. It is the ability to understand and use information in multiple formats from a wide range of sources when it is presented via computers. The concept of literacy goes beyond simply being able to read; it has always meant the ability to read with meaning. Digital literacy requires the ability to read images or image symbols. The ability to read images is one example of multi-literacy. Images may include and are not limited to:

  • Pictures
  • Photographs
  • Illustrations
  • Charts
  • Icons
  • Graphs
  • Logos
  • Digital art
  • Digital icons
  • Music and Sound
  • Emoticons
  • Pictorial symbols
  • Video images, still or moving

Digital literacy also assumes visual literacy and entails the user have both the ability to comprehend what is represented and the ability to comprehend the internal logics and encoding schemes of that representation” (Dobson & Willinsky, 2009, p. 16).

  • dynamic and evolving
  • communal and social
  • to have access to vast amounts of knowledge
  • user as both consumers and (co)-creators of content and knowledge
  • facilitate global interconnections and inter-cultural exchange
  • assumes cultural access to the conventions of digital literacy – languages and visual conventions, traditionally Western, predominantly

Therefore, social media plays a pivotal role in enabling users to become digitally multi-literate. Most sites feature a combination of the above mentioned features on their sites and users have to know how to navigate through different forms of hypertext and images to fully appreciate the social media sites. Social software constitutes a fairly substantial answer to the question of how digital literacy differs from and extends the work of print literacy. It speaks to how people’s literacy combines the taking in and giving back of words (Dobson and Willinsky, 2009, p. 21).

In striving for to become multi-literate, individuals are provided access to the evolving language of work, power, and community, thus facilitating their critical engagement necessary to design their social futures and achieve success through fulfilling employment” (New London Group, 1996,p. 1). It should be understood that these representations of language & communication are increasingly digital and of varying degrees of formality. The ability to examine and functionally process information derived across various modes of representation, including:

  • text (traditional literary forms)
  • the visual (graphics, images)
  • the auditory (sounds, including music)
  • the gestural (ie. body language)
  • the spatial (layouts, graphic orientations)
  • multi-modal (interactions between these)

Thus, enabling us to make meaning at work, in public, and at home.

Social media has changed literacy and the way that information is created, shared and displayed forever. Where it leads us from here is anyone’s guess? The one thing we can be pretty sure of at this point is that social media is not just a phase, and likely won’t go away any time soon…………………at least until something better comes along.

History of Social Media


Bolter, Jay David. (2001). Writing space: Computers, hypertext, and the remediation of print [2nd edition]. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Dobson, T. & Willinsky, J. (2009). Digital Literacy. In Cambridge Handbook on Literacy. Cambridge, Retrieved from

Kaplan, Andreas M.; Michael Haenlein (2010). “Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of Social Media”. Business Horizons 53 (1): 59–68.doi:10.1016/j.bushor.2009.09.003. ISSN 0007-6813. Retrieved 2011-11-22.

Kress, G., Van Leeuwen, T. (2001). Multimodal Discourse: The modes and media of contemporary communication. New York: Oxford University Press.

New London Group (1996). A pedagogy of multiliteracies: Designing social futures. Harvard Educational Review, 66(1).

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