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What makes an effective media literacy intervention?


Ari Soonawalla

What should be considered in scoping, designing, implementing and iterating a media literacy intervention?

Media literacy has been defined as ‘the ability to access, analyse, evaluate and create communications in any form of one’s choosing’. As the nature of communications and the information environment changes with emerging technologies and , the scope and content of media literacy interventions needs to change with it to reflect the increasingly complex and connected digital infrastructure. Within such a broad lens, context is king, different groups have different vulnerabilities, needs and information environments, so media literacy may need to look very different across groups.

When designing and implementing a media literacy intervention, it is important to start with a clear definition of media literacy in the context of the intervention, in order to guide design decisions. This is especially important when considering the role of AI in disinformation.

When setting the objectives of the intervention, key considerations include the effect type (this may be knowledge based or behavioral for a media literacy intervention, and it is often most useful to focus on one), effect timing (to ensure measurement techniques capture the effect appropriately), change vs reinforcement effects, direction and degree of the change, and the scope of change across the target group. There is also a need for interventions to shift from simply making targets better technology users, as many emergent technologies and applications of AI are ‘used on’ rather than ‘used by’ people, it is critical to ensure that interventions also help users navigate these technologies, for example, helping users understanding data-driven automated systems and identifying when they are being used.

The effectiveness of an intervention can depend on the level of personalisation to the target group, it is important to gather and analyze target information to improve intervention design. As the information environment is so rapidly changing, it is important to understand the information seeking behaviors and habits of the target group. This also helps to determine the key needs of the target group to be met through the intervention and select the stimulus material accordingly.

Once the intervention is implemented, measurement and analysis is crucial to determine success. Measurement design should be guided by the intervention objectives, and measurement at multiple points in time is critical to understand the immediacy and the longevity of the effects.

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