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Chapter 4-2

CMNS 221 Chapter Notes - Chapter 4-2: Digital Rights Management, Digital Literacy, Cyberculture

Course Code
CMNS 221
Martin Laba

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Digital Divides and the Emerging Digital Literacy
Digital culture consists of a set of intertwined technologies that have produced and
continue to produce social practices that, for the time being at least, either challenge
or question the viability or even the legitimacy of some well-established social and
cultural norms and their associated legal frameworks
Digital culture is made up of communication and information exchange modes that
displace, redefine, and reshape knowledge into new forms, formats, and the methods
for acquiring and transmitting such knowledge
Digital literacy has given rise to an initial reaction to its necessity or need and to what
has been termed the “digital divide”, echoing the differences between those who can
read and those who cannot
Between Print and Digital: A conflict of Literacies?
The divide between the rapid technological growth and the associated cultural norms
they produce and the legal framework meant to govern and regulate them
Legislative bodies are formulating laws and policies that are based on either
uniformed or outdated key concepts that are being radically redefined by the practical
uses of today’s technologies
Digital culture is an environment: it functions within a set of associated tools, modes
of access, and the transferability between them
Digital environment means the set of digital technologies and tools and the uses and
practices they make possible along with the legal framework that is meant to manage
The newer generation of publishing tools like blogs and especially Wiki, collapses the
crucial distinction between author and reader in ways that are different from those
possible within print culture, thus rendering the materiality of the page suspect at best
and ultimately fragile if not irrelevant
The digital page is both virtual and dynamic, and while it is often the work of an
author, it is more easily assimilated by a reader who can modify it, reproduce it in
another context, and transmit it in a variety of formats and versions
The digital page puts into place a different if not more complex and open-ended form
of reading: it displays a virtuality that echoes that of the printed page, but it is only a
virtuality, for the digital page is more spatial and access oriented
Digital page takes on different appearances or personalities, depending on how it is
read, or more precisely, in terms of what tools are used to read it
The digital page appears to be a page, but in reality it is not, and this reality makes
possible and actually calls for nonlinear forms of reading
The digital page is a digital object that is characterized by its position within the digital
environment and is not like either a manuscript or a printed page
The digital page forces the publisher to rethink both its editorial model and to
reassess the design and presentation of its online paper, due to the pressures arising
from the digital tools available to a significant number of users
Aggregators enforce the difference between print and digital versions of the same
text because they highlight the literacies they represent
The reader is more of a secret voyeur, a hidden observer of the inner workings of the
publishing production, for he has gained access to what used to be privileged
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Aggregators are not restricted to desktop applications: they have become an integral
part of most browsers and as such they also have begun to reshape the browsing
For the majority of users, Aggregators and the integration of RSS into browsers have
the potential of increasing the autonomy of users and introducing an alienation into
the online experience and presence
Increased autonomy and the powers to control and manipulate the look and feel of
information go hand in hand with a potentially significant form of withdrawal, of the
institution of new forms of solitary experiences in the emerging virtuality of the
network and its ever-larger expanse
Aggregators can also be powerful research tools in the case of electronic
“manuscripts” that can be thus studied genetically
Reading is part and parcel of a “commercial” activity shaped by the nature of targeted
advertisement and of the hyperlink structure of the network
While digital culture presents a different format for readers, the practices of reading
are not necessarily totally shaped by the technology
We are witnessing the emergence of a hybrid literacy, one that brings together the
history of print culture and its reading activity and the new digital tools and their
potential for transforming literacy altogether
Digital Rights or Digital Rights Management?
Fragilization of the distinction between author and reader is also an integral part of
the emerging digital identity
It destabilizes copyright law and will play an important role in reshaping universities
and research institutions or at least their management
The problem of intellectual property brings forth a conflict between the administration
and the faculty and student body because it introduces a divided interest between the
traditional university constituencies
Learned communities with disciplinary rules and customs are now being challenged
because of emerging technologies and the way in which they destabilize some of the
basic tenets of the older rules and procedures
Credibility and paradigms of legitimacy are at stake, paradigms of sharing and
making information and cultural products accessible are the key
The discrepancy between the print and digital environments is one of the most
important manifestations of the digital divide, because it designates the growing
distance separating the more conventional ways of producing and sharing knowledge
from the emerging paradigms of networked societies and the practices underlying
Digital Rights Management (DRM) identifies intellectual property and provides a
framework for the enforcement of usage restrictions or the exploitation of protected
There is need for the standardization of the technical systems of identification of
works and protected digital material
The robustness of the print model derives to a large measure from the nature of its
format and its materiality, whereas the digital environment presents us with a
diversity of formats that can, to the naked eye and ear, appear to be the same, and
yet they are different objects
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