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Daniela G. Camhy, Robert Gutounig (Graz/Austria)#

Digital Enlightenment? Critical Thinking & Media Literacy#

The rapid change of our present ways of life is mostly related to the fast changes in the scientific and technological world and its frequent innovations. Especially the digital media revolution has evoked positive as well as negative expectations. Lately the web & social media have come under criticism for emergent phenomena like hate speech, post-truth & fake news, criminal activities and so forth. We are overwhelmed with a flood of information and our minds are often filled with irrelevancies. There has been concern, that modern media are endangering our capacity to think. Are we losing our capacity to sift, discard and judge? On the other hand ideas such as equal access to information and open participation in social processes were linked to the concept of interconnected digital networks at quite early stages. Given these seemingly opposing views of online media we try to critically assess some of the positions on the topic of enlightenment in digital network structures in the first part of this paper. We analyze if ideas of enlightenment can been traced in the digital transformation making a recourse to some of its major philosophical concepts as well as to more recent contributions. The high dynamics of the related media forms require an interdisciplinary analysis of these phenomena, in order to better distinguish between their positive and negative implications. This will help us to understand where aspects of enlightenment are immanent in the digital revolution and where more engagement is needed. We see this as a foundation for establishing a link between media education and critical thinking.

In the second part of our paper we propose critical thinking as a framework which promotes a self-determined and rational way of dealing with online media, an idea very much connected with enlightenment. Especially in the era of the web critical thinking becomes more and more important. The development of a democratic society is connected with the idea of community and collaborative participation, shared responsibility, rational dialogue and deliberative judgement. We live during a period in which the demands of knowledge and responsibility are tightly interwoven. Inaccessible, or poorly accessed, knowledge can quickly lead to disorientation, lack of interest and eventually to a problem of responsibility in society. This means that there is an increasing need for people to assume both individual and collective responsibility in relation to building knowledge. In this sense we see critical thinking as prerequisite for media literacy which constitutes a more elaborated form of media competence. This could lead to a better understanding of problems, to a better ability of judgement and after all to more individual autonomy.