The information age and proliferation of new media pose new questions and dilemmas. Research indicates that the proliferation of social media has widened a participation gap, also known as the digital divide, which affects mainly the low skilled and the low educated, because they are not media literate enough, to use digital information in an effective, helpful and strategic way (Van Dijk, 2009). The risk of labor market exclusion has been worsened by employment flexibilization and deregulation of employment and spread systematically in specific, already disadvantaged labor market groups like young adults and labor market entrants. The risk of social exclusion is in turn highly dependent on their success in the labor market and on their access to stable long-term employment . Evidence-based initiatives have demonstrated that there are major potential benefits to equip low social-background students and low-skilled workers, to acquire better skills and compete for better-paying jobs . We therefore narrow our study to the categories of low educated and low skilled.
In our study, we are especially interested in the role media literacy can play in in coping with flexibilization and deregulation of employment and competing for jobs. In order to determine the empowering role of media literacy, a number of problems have to be addressed that relate to the concept of media literacy, the literacy practices that may influence social and economic participation and the question how the literacy concept and practices may inform educational policies and contribute to learning opportunities devised to close this gap.
We assume that social media use contributes to employability and sociality and media literacy complements a basic set of skills. Especially the low skilled and low educated lack media literacy, which contributes to their precarious situation and increases a participation gap. A database search for peer reviewed articles covering effective elements of media literacy did not return any useful results. The retrieved literature was scarce and media literacy concepts were inconclusive, conflated or ambivalent. We then broadened our scope, using a snow ball technique and Harzing’s Publish and Perish for control purposes. This approach lead to literature indicating that self-presentation and self-profiling are important literacy practices, involving knowledge and skills related to participation in social and economic contexts and understanding of the relations between sociality, employability and networks. Media literacy is best approached as hands-on, situated and experiential, taught in a democratic and critical fashion and related to the attitudes and perspective of the low educated and the low skilled. There is however no clear answer what the complementary role of informal learning is and how literacy related skills and knowledge demanded for lifelong learning may change during the life course. It is also important that policies focussing on inclusion and participation broaden their perspective beyond individualistic notions and , consider the influence of structuralizing mechanisms that create inequality and extend their explanations beyond those framed by economic theories, models and categories.
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