The need for a greater digital understanding

by | Jan 31, 2021 | Computing & IT | 0 comments

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In her speech, Martha Lane Fox (2017, cited in Paul Piwek, 2018, p. 5) distinguishes between the everyday use of digital technologies and the deeper understanding of the computational mechanisms behind these technologies. It is one thing to know how to use online banking and to perform a Google search, but another to understand how the underlying algorithms of digital banking, search engines and social media platforms work and how they can influence our everyday lives and the decision we make.

Studying computer science has given me a greater and more in-depth understanding of information technologies and has encouraged me to explore further beneath the surface of everyday technical knowledge.  

We all have come across the term ‘encryption’, merely by reading novels such as ‘Eight hundred leagues on the Amazon’ by Jules Verne in which an innocent man gets forced into decoding an encrypted letter to prove his innocence. However, there is more to it. In part 3 of this module, I found myself indulging in a whole new world of hashing and encrypting technologies and how both techniques used together can secure a safe exchange of messages and information. The activities in this part show how the fictional characters of Alice and Bob use asymmetric cryptography, an encrypting technology by which two keys act as a keypair to secure the safe exchange of communication (Richards, 2018).

The need for a greater digital understanding prevails in climate modelling and GIS. Global warming is a real and serious issue we are all aware of, and that will change all our lives over the next few decades. Scientists no longer believe that climate change is caused by variations in the earth’s orbit. Instead, they believe that the greenhouse gas emissions produced by human activities in the industrialised world have caused the abrupt increase in temperature (GISGeography, 2019). NASA, the Met Office, computer and physics departments in universities use a Geographic Information System (GIS), a set of computer-based tools that collects, analyses, and maps geographic data. The visualisation of spatial and temporal dimensions of human interferences in complex ecosystems reveals the vulnerable areas on our planet. As such, GIS applications are becoming fundamental to plotting weather conditions globally so that we can better predict how they are going to affect these vulnerable areas (Encyclopedia.com, 2008).

We live in a digital world; whether visible or not, computers are ubiquitous, and computer technologies have a pervasive impact on our society. The digital revolution is also referred to as the beginning of the information era in which all aspects of society are mostly based on information technology. Throughout my studies of TMA111 and TMA112, I have learned that this fast-growing technology opens many doors in science, medicine, education and entertainment, but consequently, can bring harm to innocent users who are unaware of the manipulating algorithms used by social media and search engines.  Greater digital understanding will lead to the safer and more responsible use of technology.

References:

Encyclopedia.com (2008) GIS and Climate Change Mapping [Online]. Available at https://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/energy-government-and-defense-magazines/gis-and-climate-change-mapping (Accessed 28 August 2019)

GISGeography (2019) Climate Change Effects Explained in Maps [Online]. Available at https://gisgeography.com/climate-change-effects-maps (Accessed 28 August 2019)

Piwek, P. (2018) ‘Introduction’, in Williams, J. (eds) TM112 Introduction to computing and information technology 2, Oxford, Oxford University Press/Milton Keynes, The Open University, p. 5

Richards, M. (2018) ‘Part 3: The secret of keeping secrets’, TM112 Block 3 Introduction to computing and information technology 2, Oxford, Oxford University Press/Milton Keynes, The Open University

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