Last night, the first of (too) many GOP "debates" took place. I had an interesting experience while trying to watch the event that highlighted the importance of digital literacy skills.
In the last few days, we've fielded questions at the library about the time of the debate and where it could be watched. I helped one of our regulars find a schedule of all the debates between now and the election - but didn't look closely at the details for this first debate.
I guess I should have - it turned out that only cable subscribers could watch the debate live streaming on the internet. That ruled me out, and probably some of the people calling the library for information about the debate too!
But not all was lost - for those with a bit of tech savvy. After determining we would be skunked through normal streaming sources, my husband searched around and found a YouTube channel that was showing the debate.
Marcus Harun, a young journalist based in Connecticut, was literally filming his television screen and broadcasting via YouTube so those of us without the precious cable subscription could still see the debate and learn about the "top tier" of GOP candidates. This worked great, until about halfway through the debate when YouTube pulled his stream for copyright violation.
Not to worry though! Marcus had a backup broadcast going, using Periscope. We were able to watch the rest of the debate this way. What was most interesting though, was the things Marcus had to do to ensure this stream wasn't pulled down too. We think he must have been getting warning messages from Periscope, because he started to make sure that he was visible in the broadcast at all times, and he occasionally turned it off for discussion.
This is a great example of digital literacy in action, on both ends of the experience.
From our end, we started with the desire to watch the debate on our computers (as we do not own a television). Once we determined it wasn't a straightforward (free) endeavor, we used our skills to find an alternative viewing option. Our determination to watch the debate gave us the motivation to persevere.
On the broadcaster's end, he made the decision to circumvent traditional viewing methods based on the belief that information should be freely available, especially for the sake of an open democracy. He used his technical skills with recording equipment and several websites to provide the opportunity for more people to be involved and engaged in the democratic process.
Both of the people I know of that called the library for information about the debate would not have been able to take advantage of these alternative viewing methods, due to lack of access. I'll not get into the political ramifications of locking down a portion of the democratic process to only those that pay for access. That's a different (but very important) issue.